Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dr. Cullen

I am writing a dissertation chapter on Wilkie Collins's novel The Moonstone. It features a science experiment (involving opium!). I was delighted to discover that he and G. H. Lewes (you remember, George Eliot's husband, only they weren't ever married) exchanged letters that were published in Lewes's periodical, The Leader in 1852. In these letters, they argued about the legitimacy of mesmerism (basically, the quasi-science of hypnotism and animal magnetism) (Collins - pro; Lewes - anti).

In one of his letters, G. H. Lewes remarks, "The facts of clairvoyance may seem simple and appreciable enough to persons who 'believe their eyes,' as they say; but scientific men know the truth of Dr. Cullen's sarcasm, that people are never so little to be believed as when narrating what they have seen."

This is brilliant and it fits in perfectly with my argument. I argue in this chapter that since circumstances cannot be trusted in The Moonstone (facts are misleading! people are not what they seem!), a non-empirical method of reading the world -- an intuitive way of finding moral certainty even when it is opposed to material fact -- is crucial to solving the mystery.

I included this quote from Lewes in my opening pages and it occurs to me that if he is referencing "the truth of Dr. Cullen's sarcasm," I should probably know who Dr. Cullen is.

So I do what every good researcher does when faced with a query: I google.

And here is where Google and I differ: Somehow, I do not think that the Dr. Cullen that G. H. Lewes references in 1852 in a public letter titled "The Fallacy of Clairvoyance" is the same Dr. Cullen who is foster-parent to Edward Cullen in Twilight.

I could be wrong, but I don't think so.


  1. I'm pretty sure your dissertation will be much more interesting and appeal to a broader audience if you just assume they are the same.