A cut price Frankenstein

Dalrymple here turns (subscription required) to George Eliot’s 1859 novel The Lifted Veil, involving a man who, in keeping with Dalrymple’s BMJ column of the previous week, is able to read the thoughts of others and also knows the date of his own death:


George Eliot had been very religious in her early years but rejected religion entirely, indeed vehemently. Perhaps, then, she was making two points in this final scene: firstly, that the basis of life was purely physical…; and, secondly, that if we were restored to life after death by resurrection we should be just as petty, rancorous, and embittered as the first time round.

Learning that his wife intended to poison him, [the narrator] decides that discretion is the better part of resentment and leaves her. This irresistibly reminded me of one of my patients who tried to poison her husband and regarded his decision to leave her afterwards as unwarranted desertion. Personally, I think we humans are still some way from a full self understanding.

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