Book ID: CBB623287771

The Complicity of Friends: How George Eliot, G. H. Lewes, and John Hughlings-Jackson Encoded Herbert Spencer’s Secret (2014)


Raitiere, Martin N. (Author)

Bucknell University Press

Publication Date: 2014
Physical Details: 402 pages
Language: English

One of Victorian England’s most famous philosophers harbored a secret: Herbert Spencer suffered from an illness so laden with stigma that he feared its revelation would ruin him. He therefore went to extraordinary lengths to hide his malady from the public. Exceptionally, he drew two of his closest friends—the novelist George Eliot and her partner, G. H. Lewes—into his secret. Years later, he also shared it with a remarkable neurologist, John Hughlings-Jackson, better placed than anyone else in England to understand his illness. Spencer insisted that all three support him without betraying his condition to others—and two of them did so. But George Eliot, still smarting from Spencer’s rejection, years earlier, of her offer of love, did not. Ingeniously, she devised a means both of nominally respecting (for their contemporaries) and of violating (for our benefit) Spencer’s injunction. What she hid from her peers she reveals to us in an act of deferred, but audacious literary revenge. It’s here decoded for the first time. Indeed The Complicity of Friends comprises the first disclosure of Spencer’s hidden frailty but also, more importantly, of the responses it generated in the lives and works of his three notable friends. This book provides a complete rethinking of its principal figures. The novelist who emerges in these pages is a more sinuous and passionate George Eliot than the oracular Victorian we are used to hearing about. The significance of the friendship between Lewes, her irrepressible partner, and the inventive Hughlings-Jackson is outlined for the first time. And in an ironic twist, even his three farsighted confidants could not anticipate that, late in the twentieth century, certain of Spencer’s own intuitions about the nature and provenance of his illness would be vindicated. Those with any interest in George Eliot, Lewes, Hughlings-Jackson, or Spencer will be compelled to re-envision their personalities after reading The Complicity of Friends.

Reviewed By

Review Samuel H. Greenblatt (2017) Review of "The Complicity of Friends: How George Eliot, G. H. Lewes, and John Hughlings-Jackson Encoded Herbert Spencer’s Secret". Journal of the History of the Neurosciences (pp. 339-340). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Smith, C. U. M.
Smith, Christopher Upham Murray
Malabou, Catherine
Constable, Marianne
Davis, Whitney
Wintroub, Michael
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Journal of the History of Biology
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Victorian Newsletter
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Journal of the History of Ideas
Princeton University Press
Oxford University Press
Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press
University of California, Berkeley
Science and literature
Brain localization
Mind and body
Jackson, John Hughlings
Eliot, George
Spencer, Herbert
Lewes, George Henry
Bain, Alexander
Darwin, Charles Robert
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
17th century
Great Britain
British Isles
London (England)
Melbourne (Victoria, Australia)

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