The Lifted Veil (1859) is a text concerned with the interplay between science and the imagination. It is informed by The Physiology of Common Life, the work that G. H. Lewes published in the same year, and in many ways is in a dialogue with this work, asking that if we could look into someone's mind with the same power that a physician can examine the body, would we choose to exercise this specular power? The essay shows how George Eliot employs some of the same language that Lewes uses in his scientific writing, especially in the context of the circulation of blood and the circulation of feeling. Blood is crucial to this novella, and its wider nineteenth-century implications are also raised. In particular, the blood transfusion scene in The Lifted Veil is shown not to be a piece of mere Gothic melodrama but to be rooted in contemporary debate about transfusion. Historical specificity is reinforced through showing that Meunier, the doctor, had an actual prototype in the figure of Brown-Séquard. Examining these aspects of the novella raises questions about gender and authority. It is argued that, despite the dialogue with Lewes's work that occurs in The Lifted Veil, George Eliot gives even greater priority than Lewes does to the role of the imagination and to the provocative nature of that which cannot be revealed by science.
- Copyright 1997 The Regents of the University of California