The boy who got his wick stuck in a candlestick

london medical and surgical journalThe year is 1827, and if you wish to apprise yourself of the latest and most important developments in medicine you could hardly do better than browse the pages of The London Medical and Physical Journal. It is everything a medical journal should be: up-to-date, authoritative, and – above all – serious. What, for instance, could be less frivolous than this case reported by the great Guillaume Dupuytren, chief surgeon at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Paris?

A boy lately presented himself at the Hôtel-Dieu, suffering the utmost agony from retention of urine. Upon examination, the penis was found enormously swollen, of a dark red colour, and divided in the middle by a deep depression. Upon separating the parts which formed the borders of this depression, M. Dupuytren discovered a foreign metallic body, of a yellow colour. Upon further investigation, he found, to his surprise, that this substance was the socket of a candlestick, the broad end of which was towards the pelvis.

‘Socket’ is perhaps not the best translation for the original French word, bobèche, which is a sort of ring or collar around the outside of a candlestick, intended to catch drips of hot wax. Or a teenage boy’s penis, in this case.

The torment of the patient was excessive. He had passed no urine for three days. The bladder was greatly distended, and ascended to the umbilicus. Gangrene of the penis was already threatened, and no time was to be lost in removing the cause of all the mischief.

I am surely not alone in thinking that the ‘cause of all the mischief’ was something other than the candlestick collar.

While the instruments were being brought for the operation, the boy, who had been pressed with many questions, confessed, that having got drunk, he had taken the socket of the candlestick “pour tout autre chose, et qu’il y avait poussé sa verge!”

He mistook it for something else, and stuck his penis in it. Boys, eh?

…that the subsequent efforts he made to withdraw the part were useless, and greatly increased his suffering. In fact, the narrow and sharp-edged opening of the socket pressed against, and of course wounded the glans penis.


M. Dupuytren first, with a pair of cutting pincers, divided the broad end of the socket at two opposite points. He then, with considerable difficulty, on account of the tumefaction [swelling] of the parts, separated it into two portions, by extending the incision.

It sounds as if the operation called for a firefighter rather than a surgeon. Either way, I suspect most men would demur at having cutting equipment employed in such close proximity to their, ahem, equipment.

The penis was now easily liberated, and the urine was passed without difficulty.

Most of this article is a faithful translation from the French. For some reason the translator decided to sanitise the original version of this sentence, which is rather more colourful:

M. Dupuytren learned that the strangulation had been successfully relieved when a stream of urine was propelled against him.


The patient, at the same time ashamed and delighted, immediately disappeared without even waiting to arrange his dress. The crowd through which he passed were favoured with abundant liquid proofs of the success of the operation, which had at once removed the torments he had endured from retention of urine, as well as the danger of gangrene and even death.

As M. Dupuytren wrung out his sodden clothes I’m sure he shared the young man’s delight.

3 thoughts on “The boy who got his wick stuck in a candlestick”

  1. I saw a similar case late one evening in the 1960s: a 30yr man with a chrome plated hardened steel ring spanner. What a terrible sight!We had to ask the fire brigade for help and it took over an hour to cut it off under GA. He discharged himself from the hospital 4 hours later.

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