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|Authors: ||Hooker, C|
|Issue Date: ||2009|
|Publisher: ||ACP Press, Philadelphia|
|Citation: ||Hooker, C. ‘Middlemarch’ in Michael A. LaCombe, MD, David J. Elpern, MD (eds.), Osler’s Bedside Library, ACP Press, Philadelphia, pp 155-166. eISBN 9781934465479, ISBN 10 1-934465-47-X, http://www.acppress-ebooks.org/product/oslers-bedside-library|
|Abstract: ||At the time George Eliot wrote Middlemarch, the boundaries between History and Fiction (like those between Science and Romance, or Medicine and various Arts ) were still blurred. We who are the heirs of that era have liked to insist on distinguishing the soberly factual nature of history from the unhampered fantasies of fiction. Yet there are occasions when we must admit that the multi-faceted emotional and sensuous grasp of an era or a character that a good novelist can evoke may be at least as insightful as scholarly history. Eliot offers us this Gestalt-like experience, for she is unsurpassed in the ability to set her characters, with all their uniqueness of traits and doubts and actions and dreams, within the relentless current of the society that shaped them. And our compassion for them is increased by this broader and many-layered conception of them.
When Middlemarch was published to instant acclaim in 1871-2, the William Osler was in the midst of his medical education. Middlemarch was and is famous for its finely-tuned portrayal of Dr Lydgate, one of its two leading protagonists, and thus this ‘history’ of a fictional physician, may tell us something of what was passing in the young Osler’s heart and mind. And Osler was hardly unique in identifying with Lydgate, as his own note on the novel suggests: ‘if [he] was to ask the opinion of a dozen medical men upon the novel in which the doctor is best described … the majority will say, ‘Middlemarch’.
How could Osler have helped identifying with Lydgate? Lydgate embodies the loftiest ideals and the happiest balances associated with medicine –working for social good rather than personal profit, combining intellectual activity with emotional and social engagement. Few student physicians then or now would like to admit to lesser ambitions. Additionally, the young Osler and the young Lydgate had many things in common: like Lydgate, Osler was driven by intellectual passion (and one fortuitously stumbled upon, since the education of neither could have evoked it, and both were indifferent students as boys); like Lydgate, Osler similarly harboured hopes of building a ‘reputation’ as a scientific discoverer; like Lydgate, he could not earn a living in research, and had to integrate his intellectual ambitions with his professional life. And, although leaving the bench for the bedside initially depressed him, like Lydgate Osler is known for his care for his patients as unique individuals.|
|Description: ||permission to self-archive received on 19May15 from Chuck Graver Books Associate/Publishing Administrator, American College of Physicians, email@example.com|
|Type of Work: ||Book chapter|
|Appears in Collections:||Research Papers and Publications. Sydney Health Ethics|
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