The Patients of Job
by Martin Walker
Monday 14th to Friday 18th of April.
While Kieran Coonan had a route map with which he led Dr Wakefield through his evidence in chief, Miss Smith, in her cross examination seems to cover vast areas of desert in a vehicle with a disconnected Sat. Nav. Although she moved from one set of questions to another in a more or less linear manner, she bogged herself down frequently, and laboured so many points that one quickly forgot not only where one was in the evidence, but who and where one was in life itself.
As everyone who reads crime fiction will know, motive plays a considerable part in the detection process. In fact it is one of the corner-stones of classic detection, the others being forensic and witness evidence followed by evidence of alibi. It is interesting to look at Miss Smith's case in light of these factors. When it comes to alibi evidence, Dr Wakefield always appears to be somewhere other than the place where Miss Smith's faux crimes are committed. The important witnesses are either on his side or charged alongside of him and if we consider the mountain of paper work that insulates the hearing room as forensic evidence, quite unlike other kinds of forensic evidence, it is all vulnerable to textual misinterpretation. However, it is in the area of motive that Ms Smith's case falls down so absolutely.
As Miss Smith increasingly adopted a moral-high-ground whine throughout the week, manically repeating charges, and as a superhuman effort was needed on behalf of observers to stop the slide into coma, a question rose to the surface of one's mind. After so far honourable careers in medicine and medical research why would Dr Wakefield and his co-accused suddenly begin to experiment on children, without research ethics committee approval or parental consent? Why would a research worker of Dr Wakefield's calibre, with a grant funding history involving some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the country, suddenly wantonly disguise a conflict of interest?
There is, inevitably, room for sympathy for Miss Smith. Like an East End market trader she has been sold a Dear Brian pup by the GMC and in order to stay alive she has to sell it on. This process involves what might rightly be called a confidence trick. Miss Smith has to turn a well run-down car into a limousine in front of a sceptical audience. Consequently, big issues like motive have from the beginning of the hearing, like the children themselves, and their parents, been ignored.
In some circumstances, the question of motive cannot even be framed because Miss Smith only hints at what Dr Wakefield might have been guilty of. Take the case of the £55,000 funding that the legal aid board paid to the Royal Free Hospital so that work might continue into possible links between measles virus and inflammatory bowel disease. It has always been implied by the prosecution that somehow even the idea of this is completely unacceptable and there has been not a murmur from Miss Smith about the comparable situation that occupies the time and the intelligence of the whole herd of academics who have dedicated their lives to being expert witnesses for the pharmaceutical industry.
In relation to this money, Miss Smith claims that Dr Wakefield didn't spend the second £25,000 tranche of it on his research. However, she failed to tell the panel what he did spend it on, so leaving a great yawning criminal chasm for the panel to ponder. The mind's eye sees Dr Wakefield dressed like a spiv, fanning out notes in his hand at the dog track, leering like a young George Cole in a St Trinian's film.
Prior to this accusation that Dr Wakefield had spent the money on himself, she had ranted on for hours about him trying to defraud the legal aid board, by billing bogus claims for clinical procedures which were not actually carried out. In this scenario, he was a simple fraudster; profit, apparently, his sole motive. This later example is perhaps a good one to expand in order to explain the difference in the two stories narrated by Dr Wakefield and Miss Smith. Which story would you believe?
Having accepted the offer of research funding from the legal aid board (via Dawbarns solicitors) to continue work on the relationship between measles virus and regressive autism/disintegrative disorder, Dr Wakefield is guided in making out the application for funding by Richard Barr, the solicitor handling parent's claims for MMR vaccine damage. Barr asks him if there are any areas, adjunct to the straightforward microscope research, which he might usefully ask to be funded. Dr Wakefield puts to the lawyer, the rare but possible situation of a child who might reach the Royal Free but is not covered by the NHS because their GP does not agree with the child's transfer to a London hospital. So the lawyer enters a section in the LAB funding claim for funds to cover this contingency. In the final analysis, no such children end up undergoing diagnostic and treatment tests at the Royal Free, the LAB is not billed for any such coverage and neither Dr Wakefield nor Richard Barr receive any money in respect of such a claim.
Having pocketed the offer of research funding from the legal aid board, via bent solicitor Richard Barr, a man who has pledged his life to the destruction of all pharmaceutical companies, Dr Wakefield prepares to continue work on the relationship between measles virus and some disease or other that he doesn't really understand. Off in a corner, on his own he formulates a master plan. Between them, Barr and Wakefield, should conspire to claim money to cover a contingency that they know will never occur, so perpetrating a fraud on the LAB.
The prosecutor offers no motive for this, other than insipient criminality; she refuses to recognise and utterly ignores the fact that no money was ever claimed by either the solicitor or the doctor under this head.
Of course, Miss Smith's fantastic plots are labyrinthine and there is much more to Dr Wakefield's criminality than just this one instance. Being an experienced solicitor and realising that it will be difficult to ask the LAB retrospectively for money, Richard Barr discusses with Wakefield the possibility of him needing other members of the Royal Free ‘team', to write reports on specific children and give separate evidence. Dr Wakefield is led by Barr's experience and agrees that this circumstance may occur, so they apply for legal aid under this head as well. Richard Barr of course knows that if the reports are not needed no claim will be made on the LAB. What Miss Smith avoids throughout the whole of her cross-examination, is to agree with the defendant that this is a perfectly legitimate practice.
In fact, having spent years in the Kafkaesque lawyers warren in which she practices, Miss Smith knows this. She also knows that because legal aid can, in some cases, be ephemeral it is best to apply under as many heads as possible. She deliberately confuses the practice, again claiming that Wakefield is a criminal and his sole motive is the illegitimate or fraudulent obtaining of money from the legal aid board.
And then there is the matter of the declaration of conflict of interest. Dr Wakefield filled in two forms prior to the publication of the Lancet paper. One was created for the purpose of recording, for the Lancet editorial board, instances of conflict of interest. The second was for ethics committee approval, for a different study as it happens, but stay with it. No conflict of interest was declared on either. Primarily because acting as an expert witness and receiving money for research from uninvolved parties did not, at that time, or more recently, anywhere in Europe or America, constitute a conflict of interest.
Miss Smith embarks upon a cross examination on this subject. Almost immediately, Dr Wakefield acknowledges that he made an error in not reading the ethical approval form with sufficient care (i.e. the one for the different study, not the Lancet study). One line, tucked away amongst several unrelated issues, asks for declaration of source of funding. However, he does note that receipt of money from the legal aid board is not cited, amongst the list of examples, as a conflict that must be declared. Miss Smith gets very angry and school ma'am- ish . ‘I'm not asking you about the form', she says, as she stamps her feet, ‘forget about the form, if the matter was not on the form, should you not have contacted Dr Clegg and asked whether this was a conflict of interest'. Wakefield describes the nature of the form and how it was created, making clear that if a matter is not on the form then the best ethical minds have decided that it doesn't need to be declared.
Miss Smith becomes irate, ‘Stop talking about the form' she says, echoing John Cleese as Basil Fawlty insisting that no one should mention the war in front of the German guests. ‘Just forget the form', she says, now almost shouting. And then descends into name calling. You don't take this seriously do you? This is a reflection of your absolute arrogance. Couldn't you act on your own initiative?
Miss Smith's aggressive and slightly demented accusations against Dr Wakefield in relation to the LAB money, do not stop there. Before one can draw breath she is accusing him of writing a letter, on receipt of the money, on Royal Free headed notepaper, to the legal aid board. At this point we have to bear in mind the evidence of Mr Tarhan , the accountant at the Royal Free, who gave his evidence for the prosecution with enormous integrity. According to Mr Tarhan , Dr Wakefield, who he believed to be a good doctor, also behaved with integrity and the only thing he might have done wrong was to fail to send a note with the funding, informing the accountants of its source. However if my memory serves me correctly Dr Wakefield did send a letter to one of the accountants, suggesting that if anyone had any questions about the money, they had only to ask.
Miss Smith of course will have none of this. She appears to infer that when Dr Wakefield wrote to the legal aid board, after receiving the money, he was involved again in some furtive act. Who was he to use RFH headed notepaper? ‘Well', Dr Wakefield answers, ‘I was an employee of the Royal Free Hospital'. Miss Smith drives on into the darkness, her wheels getting bogged down in the desert sands. ‘I put it to you Dr Wakefield that this was an act of sheer arrogance'.
The idea that not only was Wakefield a criminal but the most arrogant of medical men has become a leit-motif of the prosecution, upon which Miss Smith is now relying heavily. Everything that Dr Wakefield does is now shaped by arrogance. In fact, Miss Smith was forced to adopt this style of personal insult following one of her previous own goals.
Endlessly questioning Dr Wakefield, to no purpose at all, over his administrative management of the incoming children to the hospital, Smith tried to show that Dr Wakefield was clinically involved. She displayed astonishment that a research doctor of his calibre would have volunteered to perform the low duties of a clerk in telling child patients when to go to other departments for procedures. After she had droned on and on asking about this, Dr Wakefield without a hint of sarcasm or any desire to ‘get back' at Miss Smith, answered; ‘There is a great deal of room for humility in the medical profession and I have no problem at all in carrying out lowly tasks'.
I wondered after this, how Miss Smith was going to recover from this spectacular own goal. In effect she had so goaded Wakefield with constantly repeated questions, that a well focused and articulate riposte was bound to come out eventually. Smith had to rub out this comment by portraying Wakefield as arrogant from that time forth.
This was the first of two own goals over the two weeks of Miss Smith's cross examination. The other came when she described Dr Wakefield as ‘anti-vaccine'. All he needed to do in order to rebuff this notion was point to the fact that his own children had been vaccinated.
When observing this charade of injustice, it is important to bear in mind that the major substance of the charges was originally created by Dear Brian and he, being neither a police officer, a lawyer nor a crown prosecutor, was guided neither by training, regulatory discipline, nor any account of due process. However much the GMC claim that they have added to and rebuilt the superstructure of Brian's original case, the basic assertions of the case belong to Brian and those with whom he might be working. It is abundantly clear, as time goes on, that the GMC fell lock stock and smoking-barrel for Brian's narrative and while they did take some of the more ridiculous passages out of it, they added little of substance to it.
It is for this reason that Miss Smith's whole case and her cross-examination, is built on sand. If, in your mind's eye, you strip away all the irrelevant persona involved in this trial, you are left with Dear Brian standing ghost-like behind Miss Smith manipulating her presentation, egging her on and whispering directions to her, while at the other end of the room sit three reputable doctors who have had, all their working lives, only their patients interests at heart.
Another completely surreal critique of social and medical manners occurred this Friday, when Miss Smith offered a letter to Dr Wakefield. The letter had been written by him to a mother whose son had just seen Dr Berelovitz , Dr Wakefield signed off the letter with the words, ‘If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to contact me'.
The way that Miss Smith questioned Wakefield over this matter, you might have thought it was secret code to convey the message, ‘Tomorrow, brothers we blow up the Houses of Parliament'. Miss Smith questioned Dr Wakefield mercilessly about his method of signing off. ‘What did you mean by this?' ‘What advice could you offer this person?' ‘Why were you so keen that she communicated with you?' ‘Why should she contact you?' ‘Why would you want her to contact you?' Miss Smith ranted like a jealous lover. She finally intimated that she suspected Wakefield of, either, being covertly involved in clinically testing the child, or, the opposite, trying to siphon the patient off from the clinical side of the work and assuming control of him as a research subject.
In fact the picture of medical culture Miss Smith would like to see operating in Britain's health service and hospitals filled me with anxiety. In this world clinicians are barred from talking to researchers, everyone is barred from talking to GP's. Hospital doctors are barred from talking to parents or patients beyond the hospital. No one could communicate by telephone. No terms of endearment or salutation or casual reassuring remarks are allowed. It is a jobsworth world, where doctors do only what is described in their job description and where no one volunteers for extra work - lowly or otherwise.
At more than one point over the last week, it has crossed my mind that Miss Smith was clearly confusing the profession of medicine with the legal profession. Most of you will know that barristers are not allowed to talk to defendants in private without the presence of a solicitor. This rule was brought in to legal practice to stop criminals suborning barristers who, throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were amongst the most easily bribed professionals. While today they think of themselves as blue-chip practitioners carrying great weight and some power, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries they were more likely to be down at heel, seedy characters. These characteristics are of course, still recognisable in legally trained members of the political caste such as the Blairs .
Between Fridays, Miss Smith moved through all the areas of contention, beginning with the apparent lack of Research Ethics Committee approval for the first children involved in the Lancet paper, until on Thursday she embarked upon her accusations relating to the children themselves. Below in bullet points I have charted the areas that Miss Smith cross examined Dr Wakefield upon.
• The different studies that had sought ethical approval. The LAB study that was to look at 5 children with Crohns disease and 5 children with autism. The Lancet case series and a bigger research study that would look at the same areas as reported in the Lancet case series on a larger group of children. Miss Smith hopelessly confuses the ethical approval for these studies, and, in one of those amazing coincidences that restore the will to live, she gets it wrong in exactly the same way as Dear Brian did four years earlier.
• The LAB money was paid to the Royal Free in two parts, Miss Smith claims that Dr Wakefield used the second part, some £25,000 on himself.
• Research work done on children without ethical approval. According to Miss Smith this applies mainly to the first few cases cited in the Lancet review. However, the defence claims that an earlier ethical approval held by Professor Walker-Smith was in place to cover work on the first children. Rather than approach this head on as she will have to do when Walker-Smith takes the stand, Miss Smith has made considerable mileage out of this unfounded accusation against Dr Wakefield.
• Following Dear Brian's somewhat tardy and implosive ‘expose' in the Sunday Times, Richard Horton asked the three defendants to write up reports on different areas of controversy. Professor Murch was allotted a report on ethical approval. Like everyone else at the time Murch had only Dear Brian's partial information to work on. Consequently he submitted a report to the Lancet that in retrospect appears to have been inaccurate. Clearly this matter will be clarified when Professor Murch gives evidence. For the moment however, Miss Smith has made the most of his report that appears on the face of it to leave Dr Wakefield without ethical approval for some of his early research.
• On the children, broadly, Miss Smith claims that none of them had disintegrative disorder. In fact this is one step up from the original prosecution case that had denied the very existence of any disintegrative autistic disorder that occurred after the child had begun to develop well. This condition, along with IBD, were conditions that Dr Wakefield insisted on pinning on the children so that he could get them to the Royal Free in order to experiment on them.
• The prosecution claims that Dr Wakefield ran the whole gastrointestinal department himself, that he got the children referred to the Royal Free, that he clerked them in, that he gave them preliminary examinations, that he organised all their procedures and tests and that he then ‘caused these procedures to happen'. According to Miss Smith there was no one else at the Royal Free making any decisions at all about any of the patients there, just Dr Wakefield; he was a kind of Super-Doc, constantly changing costumes and giving diagnostic advice over his shoulder, while he performed invasive procedures and stalked the country looking for new subjects for his experiments.
• Finally Miss Smith claims that none of the children included in the Lancet paper were seen by anyone at the Royal Free for their clinical well being, they were all subjects of experimentation.
I am not going to address the cross-examination in relation to each of the children included in the Lancet case review. Because it has been accepted by the GMC that sitting through this information for the fourth or fifth time might trigger serious mental collapse in observers, anyone wanting to observe this session had to hand in certification and proof of a recent lobotomy, which put them out of danger. Although I am willing to do many things in the search for Justice I can't do this. I did notice however that Dear Brian was there first and last thing on those days.
Hopefully, anyone who reads this account regularly will, by now, be familiar with the repeated position of the prosecution. Hopefully, anyone who reads this account regularly will, by now, be familiar with the repeated position of the prosecution. Hopefully, anyone who reads this account regularly will, by now, be familiar with the repeated position of the prosecution. Hopefully, anyone who reads this account regularly will, by now, be familiar with ... For those who are not, here is a very quick, one time summary.
• Children's parents contacted Dr Wakefield after hearing erroneous reports of his work, thinking he was a clinician. Dr Wakefield did nothing to abuse them of this notion.
• Dr Wakefield manipulated the referral of these children into the Royal Free.
• Dr Wakefield somehow took charge of their clinical appraisals and prescribed procedures.
• Dr Wakefield personally managed each case.
• Although Dr Wakefield maintained that some of the children had disintegrative disorder, countless GP's and Consultants, who were experts in autism spectrum disorders failed to diagnose such a condition.
• Although Dr Wakefield maintained that many of the children had inflammatory bowel disease, countless experts had prior to their admission to the Royal Free, failed to diagnose this.
Although this process of cross-examination is soul-destroying and very stressful for Dr Wakefield, he does appear to be learning all the time. Near to lunch time on Tuesday, harangued by Miss Smith to agree that Professor Murch's report of Ethics Committee approval was obviously the last word on the subject, Dr Wakefield lapsed into post-modern philosophy; he had, he said, realised that ‘nothing can be resolved without documentation'.
Two interesting aspects of law have emerged during these days of cross examination. I, and others were surprised to see Miss Smith introduce new documents in evidence during her cross-examination, I didn't know that this was allowed at such a late stage in a ‘trial'.
Second, Miss Smith has made substantial ground for much of her cross-examination by putting to Dr Wakefield documents written by others. She has then embarked upon long interrogations, asking ‘Is this what you think', or ‘Do you think this person was correct in this statement'. Not too long ago I attended a trial during which the prosecution presented third party internet documents as evidence against the defendant. The defendants council argued, quite reasonably, that these documents were not the work of his client and his client actually had no control over their creation or dissemination.
Further, he suggested there was no knowing when these statements were first issued and how long they had been on the internet. Especially, it could be the case that the attention of his client had been drawn to them and he might have changed his practice in response to the statements, or even made an attempt to deny them or get them taken down. It might even have occurred to those with a conspiratorial turn of mind that the State or some other party might have placed these statements on the internet with the intention of damaging others.
I thought that the barrister presented a good case for the unreliability of unattributed statements on the internet. In fact it seemed to me to be ridiculous that the judge ruled that this information trawled from the internet had exactly the same value in law as a signed statement with a presented witness to speak to it. Any fair assessment of this ‘evidence', I would suggest, would determine it at best, as circumstantial.
Miss Smith has based a large part of her case on witness evidence from third parties; I remember her outrageous questions addressed to GP witnesses, such as, ‘Where do you think that this parent got the information about Dr Wakefield?' Of course this is all very interesting but it seems to me to have next to nothing to do with what previous generations of legal commentators have called ‘evidence'. It has struck me during the hearing that Miss Smith, is happily presiding over a hearing that is in large part adding to the corruption of legal ethics and due process. This insidious deterioration is like the gradual deterioration of the English language. I don't know whether it should have been the responsibility of defence council or the legal assessor on the panel to rein in Miss Smith, when she rode rough shod over the rules of evidence, but I think someone might have done it, simply to maintain standards.
One wonders on occasions at Miss Smith's attention span. She must, I would imagine, rise from her bed and complete the journey into work with a clear mind. However, after a short time on her feet in the GMC, her attention seems to wander. On Tuesday, for instance Miss Smith began well and I wrote in my notes: ‘Miss Smith is a lot more articulate, the tone and audibility of her voice is much better and she seems to follow the direction of her case with greater ease'. By 10.30, however, she has gone into a tail spin, her arguments have become muddled and her tone recriminatory. I wondered then whether she has a Kamikaze gene or was perhaps affected by some environmental insult inside the GMC building.
While Miss Smith's cross examination has been pursued erratically, and apparently with no clear objective in mind, Dr Wakefield's response to her has been exemplary and although Miss Smith attempts to maintain the idea that he is failing to answer her questions, dodging the issues and generally acting in a shady way, he answers every question in the manner of an innocent man. He has taken the occasional personal insult incredibly well, refusing to rise to it or be drawn into an argument.
Dr Wakefield is also always willing to argue in defence of Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Simon Murch . At one point, in referring to Professor Walker-Smith, and as if ridiculing Miss Smith he said , ‘The idea that one of the world's greatest paediatric gastroenterologists would experiment on children is ….. I leave you to fill in the rest of this sentence.
At the end of the hearing last week, I found when I returned to the boarding house in which I have been staying, a letter had been delivered by hand. It waited for me on the highly polished hall table, next to the ridiculous brass bell with which the landlady summons everyone to meals. The envelope was of fine thin paper lined with a silk textured crimson tissue paper. Unusually, my name was written on the front in black ink with a broad- nibbed fountain pen. On the most superficial perusal the letter seemed to have come from another era.
Getting back to my room I sat in the arm chair by the window and slit open the envelope with my pen knife. A card fell to the carpet as I pulled out what appeared to be two sheets of seemingly heavily perfumed white stationary. I picked up the card and found that on the reverse, in a small but flowing looped hand was written the following.
Dear Mr Walker, I hope that I do not trespass upon your time too greatly when I ask if you might do me the favour of handing Miss Smith the enclosed letter when you next attend the GMC.
I rested back in the chair and opened the pages that the gentleman, for gentleman his card suggested he was, had sent to me to be passed on to Miss Smith. The pages were headed, Notes on Style and this heading was followed by the letter that I reproduce in full below.
My Dear Miss Smith,
I hope that you will not think the worst of me for sending you this missive. The truth is I could no longer contain myself. I have followed your appearances now for a number of years – no, it will do you no good to try and place me – and I have been present for the last weeks of your cross-examination of Dr Wakefield.
Despite the fact that I am considerably younger than you and of another though allied profession, I know deep in my heart that you will not be hurt were I to offer you my advice and my deeply held beliefs about your style of presentation, both constructive and ever so slightly critical.
When I was in my teens, I went through a period of reading modern European literature. I can now, only vaguely remember one book, I think by a Czech writer, about a man who boards a train that, out of control, goes faster and deeper into the heart of the earth.
I have been wondering recently whether you read this same book. I have pondered over the matter for hours, feeling that if you had, this would bring us closer; I contemplate our fingers turning the same pages. There is without a doubt a beautiful surreal and modernist feel about your cross examination, a relentless kind of alienation, such as might be found in the work of the German Expressionists. Your questions reach deep into the human psyche, where they descend into a kind of plastic negativity. I remember your questions in my dreams, such sweet incantations; the most profound poetry.
You have developed your craft to perfection, introducing novel and original elements that are too numerous to mention. If cross-examination were chess, then so many of these gambits would carry your name. I find your reversal of the traditional objective of cross-examination, exquisite and stimulating. One hangs on your every word, in the sequence of your questions, waiting for a dénouement; waiting for you to pull something from your sleeve with a flourish. Then the breath escapes audibly on finding that you have nothing up your sleeve at all, and your cross examination is anti- climactical . How stimulating I find this; how perfectly post-modern; to lull the defendant into believing that you are going somewhere and then to finish only with a slightest of enigmatic smiles; such economy of feeling.
During the late morning of Tuesday while I watched you, I spent my time trying to think of a suitable metaphor that expressed your style. I came up with the following, that I should perhaps apologise for before you read it. I hope that I do not offend with my search for a popular manner of expression. The crudity of my description probably owes much to the fact that English is not my first language. I wrote:
‘Your cross-examination is like a person on all-fours looking for a sandwich dropped on a crowded ballroom floor after the lights have failed.'
I know that this does not express succinctly the whole of what I feel for your craft but it hints at the intellectual gravitas that comes into play when you probe so deeply in search of the truth.
I find it fascinating that you use that rare combination of the personal with the coded language of the law. It is arousing and beyond beauty, when on failing to get the answer you need, rather than slightly change tack to wrong-foot the defendant – a crude and well publicised strategy - you ask the question again and again and again more strongly and with a slightly raised voice.
I also admire the perfect and symmetrical construct by which you bring a set of questions to an end. On the frequent occasions that the defendant answers with a rebuttal and there appears to be nowhere for you to go, you turn gently and Houdini-like glide into the next set with the awesomely simple , ‘Well lets move on to the next point'.
How few are the counsel who are able to use controlled personal rudeness and feigned exasperation. With none of your ten repeated questions having been answered adequately, you chose simply to mime sarcasm and rudeness. Again such a marvellous economy of sinewy strength, as you turn your profile to the defendant and speak with a powerful and imperious tone!
Yet well beyond these simple tricks of the trade, high above the level playing field of the trial, soaring like a bird, is your ability to paint an innocent man as guilty as a deep, cold and unforgiving sea. In your eyes, at your hands, the most innocent of men would, even in their own hearts, realise their guilt and throw themselves upon the ground before you. The very nature of your inspired strategy of the multiple repeated question, enforces upon the defendant, an anxious disbelief in himself; nay, not only himself but the very world in which he sits and walks, talks and breaths.
I have nothing but admiration for you and for the mind that brings to our profession this sharp, cutting edge of originality. I no longer hope, for now I know and am much relieved, that your name will go down in juridical history. When I think that I have had the honour of watching you, even from a distance my blood pounds and my mind is soothed with the balm of gratitude.
I forever wish to be your obedient servant,
After I had read the letter, I sat still in my chair, my mind in turmoil. There was an ability , a turn of phrase embedded in the letter, that reminded me of cheap erotic literature of the 19th century, a kind of stifling over flattering warmth. Yet however hard I considered the letter I could not place the mind, or the person behind it.
I decided to made the letter public, knowing that it must have been sent to me for a reason and that the writer, who seems to have delivered it himself, was, it occurs to me, hopeful that I would deliver it both privately and publically. To save any eventual embarrassment and blushes, having decided to make it public, I have declined to reveal the nome de plume of the writer.