The Lyon Archive

Enter Bernard Van Oven

One of the only times Lyon is alarmed enough to see a doctor is in the last few pages of the text. After returning to England from Kingston, Jamaica, he remarks that he has “lost much flesh” and continues to be “in a low dejected state” (Lyon 38). His friends are concerned by this change in him and recommend he see a doctor about it.

Within the next day or two, he sees four different doctors on the matter, the most consistent being Dr. Bernard Van Oven (39). Dr. Van Oven was Jewish, just like Lyon, and he descended from a line of prominent Jewish doctors in London. He was most likely the doctor many of Lyon’s friends saw, as he was the Honorary Physician to most of the major Jewish institutions in London (Rubenstein 999). Van Oven was particularly invested in the condition of the Jewish poor in London (999), and he would have been an ideal doctor for a person in Lyon’s position. For the duration of Lyon's time in London, they most likely attended the Great Synogogue together, making Van Oven the obvious and most convienent choice for a consult.

Van Oven was probably the first doctor Lyon thought to call on when he returned from Jamaica. However, Van Oven ultimately told Lyon that his illness was “nothing” and that he would “ultimately lose it entirely” (Lyon 39). Despite this, seven months later Lyon was still complaining of numbness and insisted that his health was not improving.

The Great Synagogue

The Great Synogogue was located at the corner of Duke's Place and St. James's Passage in the White Chapel district of London, only a five or ten minute walk from Lyon's house and Haydon Square where the Harts lived.