ESSAY Jim Pratt

NWR Issue 99

The Nightingale Silenced

The author Margiad Evans had her first epileptic fit in May 1950, alone, in an isolated cottage in the Cotswolds, only a few months before the birth of her only child. Her experiences stimulated her to write one of the few non-medical accounts of the affliction by a patient, namely A Ray of Darkness, which was published in 1952. Treatment provided a period of remission, and she hoped she had shaken off the disease. However, with little warning, further attacks occurred a few years later. This is her account of the first of them.

Margiad Evans (Peggy Eileen Whistler, 1909–1958) was an illustrator, novelist, memoirist and poet. This account, as recorded in a hand-written manuscript she names The Nightingale Silenced, is dated 1955. It describes an illness in the summer of 1954 which would end with her death in 1958.

One month ago the major epilepsy which follows me and which I tried to describe in A Ray of Darkness, deepened. It became acute. I am now going to begin the attempt to describe what happened not from any morbidity but from the only desire that seems to be left to me in my apathetic weakness – the desire to put into physicians’ hands a poke of clues to the feelings of such a sufferer as myself.

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