Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Heart and science

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e398 (Published 18 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e398
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was addicted to laudanum (tincture of opium in alcohol) for much of his life, but that did not prevent him from producing a vast corpus of work. Among his novels is Heart and Science, published in 1883, known (in so far it is known at all) for its protest against vivisection.

It is not a good novel, to put it mildly, and it would take several pages of convoluted prose to summarise its preposterous plot. But it has much, from character to incident, to interest the medical reader. There is the hero, a brilliant but exhausted young surgeon called Ovid Vere; an ineffectual family doctor, the aptly named Mr Null, who “submitted to …

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