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In this groundbreaking work, Raitiere (a practicing physician with a PhD in English literature) argues that the eminent Victorian philosopher Herbert Spencer suffered from a debilitating psychiatric illness but that his condition was known only to a few. This secret was betrayed in coded fashion by one of his closest friends, George Eliot, in her novella The Lifted Veil and to some extent in Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda. Eliot was advised and counseled by her partner, George Henry Lewes, "who had developed a serious interest in neuropsychiatric illness" partly through his friendship with Spencer. The fourth person in Raitiere's account, Hughlings-Jackson, was a brilliant neurologist. Raitiere provides a detailed account of the work of all four, arguing that "Spencer's illness functions as the nidus round which George Eliot, Lewes, and Hughlings-Jackson organized certain of their key works." Providing a thorough examination of the writings of each and areas of their work hitherto neglected or ignored, the book is truly interdisciplinary and one of the most fascinating (albeit dense) studies to emerge for many decades on the interconnections between Victorian literature, psychology, and allied areas. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. (CHOICE )

Beautifully written, based in exhaustive research, and like a detective story in its pace and sequence of revealed discovery, this study reveals that the famous 19th-century philosopher Herbert Spencer suffered from a specific neurological disorder, one that was described by his doctor John Hughlings-Jackson only in the privacy of his medical notes. Raitiere (he earned a PhD in English before going on to study and practice psychiatry and neuroscience) shows how Spencer's condition was perceived by friends and acquaintances, most notably by the novelist George Eliot, who incorporates her close relationship with him into fiction. This is a fascinating and substantial work, one that will be of interest to the general reader as well as specialists in 19th-century literature, philosophy, and neuroscience.
(Book News, Inc. )