Victorian values

This week’s Dalrymple BMJ column addresses “brain fever” in Victorian novels.

“We all dislike emotional shocks, of course, but it seems that only in Victorian novels are they regularly followed by ‘brain fever’ lasting several weeks. Pip in Great Expectations and Catherine in Wuthering Heights both get it, and for a time it is touch and go with them whether they will survive. It sometimes seems as if no Victorian novel is quite complete without a bout of brain fever.”

He goes on to ask whether the brain fever depicted in Victorian novels was based on actual occurences of viral encephalitis and whether viral encephalitis can be triggered by emotional shocks. He closes with, “Could so many Victorian novelists have been wrong?”

Read the full column

$4 purchase required or $82 for one-year unlimited access to the entire website. His essays older than one year are free. See his BMJ links on the left of this page.

UPDATE: I deleted some of my own personal commentary from the above, because I realized it didn’t make any sense.

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