The Female Amateur Scientist and the Sense for Conduct in Heart and Science: Blind to Matter and Morals

Steven Mollmann, University of Tampa

The real nineteenth century was replete with women of science. From Mary Anning, the legendary fossil finder, to Hertha Marks Ayrton, the suffragist and electrical engineer, the role of women in the actual science of nineteenth-century Britain was substantial, and it has been well chronicled by many.[1] However, fictional women of science are much thinner on the ground. While the man of science recurred through the novels of writers such as Charles Kingsley, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Thomas Hardy from the 1850s onward, it was not until the 1890s that the literary woman of science made much of a mark, and then she was almost always a villain. The least evil of them is probably the amateur geologist Grace Waring in Kathleen ‘Iota’ Mannington Caffyn’s 1894 novel A Yellow Aster. Grace is one half of a science-obsessed married couple more interested in geology than parenting, and her emotional negligence causes her daughter to grow up incapable of love. Most of the women of science in 1890s literature were villains in scientific romances: George Griffith’s Olga Romanoff, or The Syren of the Skies (1895), T. Mullett Ellis’s Zalma (1896), and L. T. Meade’s The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings (1898) all have female terrorists with scientific training for antagonists. Susan Hroneck suggests that these novels ‘lack the means to conceptualize the woman scientist […] [T]he woman scientist is not linked with science’s fantastic future, but instead the villainous women of history and myth’ (par. 2). It is not until 1909, in H. G. Wells’s Ann Veronica, that there is a non-villainous female scientist character of significance.

The earliest fictional woman of science is Mrs. Maria Gallilee in Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science: A Story of the Present Time (1882–83).[2] Mrs. Gallilee is a self-educated scientific amateur, and an active participant in the scientific social scene of the 1880s. She is capable of performing dissections, and is well-versed on a range of scientific topics, from dinosaur dung to atmospheric explosions, from the theory of acoustics to protoplasm and the origins of life. Within the London scientific community, she is regarded highly both for her scientific opinions and her well-appointed scientific soirees. Much of the critical discussion of science in Heart and Science tends to focus on the novel’s vivisectionist, Dr. Nathan Benjulia—perhaps naturally, since Collins wrote the novel for the express purpose of condemning vivisection.[3] Critics primarily discuss the novel’s female characters as Benjulia’s (potential) victims. But Benjulia usually lurks at the margins of the novel, while Mrs. Gallilee is its primary villain: its main plot, after all, is about Mrs. Gallilee’s attempts to obtain the inheritance of her niece, Miss Carmina Graywell, in order to help pay off her own debts.[4]

Through a plot revolving around a villainous woman of science, Collins creates a broader critique of science than of only the ethics of vivisection. Heart and Science depicts those trained scientifically as literally seeing the world differently than other people: Dr. Benjulia and Mrs. Gallilee see animals, plants, and even other human beings as objects, valuable only for what they can offer the observer. Heart and Science is concerned with the ways that science reconfigures the sight of those who use it, leading to objectification. In a letter to Frances Power Cobbe, the leading antivivisectionist of the age, Collins noted his aim was not to show the horrors of vivisection directly, but ‘the moral influence of those [laboratory] cruelties on the nature of the man who practices them, and the result as to his social relations with the persons about him’ (446). These results included the ‘hardening of the heart [and] the fatal stupefying of all the fine sensibilities’ (447). But despite Collins’s statement, Dr. Benjulia is not the primary way this transformation is communicated in Heart and Science. Collins’s use of a female character with scientific vision, I argue, deepens his exploration of the relationship between ethics and seeing like a scientist. The Victorian separate-spheres doctrine makes female characters important test cases for scientific vision: if science harms women, its effects become particularly pernicious to a social order perceived as dependent on female virtue. Some novels, such as Florence Fenwick Miller’s Lynton Abbott’s Children (1879) and Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders (1886–87), perform this test by making women the objects of immoral male scientific observers, but Heart and Science is unusual in making a woman the observer, rather than the observed.

This article will explore the way that Heart and Science depicts the visual perspective of an amateur scientist, who is both a wife and mother, in order to explore reservations about the impact of science on morality. First, this essay will place Heart and Science in the context of the ongoing cultural discussion of the interaction between education, aesthetics, and ethics, primarily through the writings of John Ruskin and Matthew Arnold. Then, it will move into a more direct analysis of how Mrs. Gallilee’s perceptions of other human beings—and therefore her actions toward them—have been affected by her scientific training, especially given the way science itself was transforming in the 1880s, drawing on feminist philosophy’s work with scientific objectivity. Finally, it will present how Heart and Science depicts an alternative model for female sight in Mrs. Gallilee’s niece Carmina, who sees others with less accuracy but more morality.

Collins sees scientific sight as increasing selfishness, causing the scientist to view the entire world with rational self-interest. Thus, Mrs. Gallilee embodies a fear that science is an innately selfish force, one that causes its practitioners to view the world without ethical considerations, prioritising ends over means. In presenting a woman of science, Collins heightens what he sees as science’s antipathy to traditional values: women should be the keepers of ‘heart’, but it is impossible for them to be so if they have been trained by science. The wrong education and epistemology can endanger Britain’s moral foundation, the British mother.

Two Ways of Seeing: Scientific and Aesthetic Sight

Heart and Science was part of a larger debate that had been going on for decades about how the epistemology of the observer affected their vision of the natural world. Placing it within that debate helps illuminate Collins’s purpose in creating Mrs. Gallilee. One of the foremost advocates for scientific vision was the physicist John Tyndall, for whom scientific training and appreciation of natural beauty were inextricably linked. Tyndall spent much of his free time climbing the Alps; in an 1860 account of his ascent of Mont Blanc, Tyndall describes the view from the summit at some length, relating the grandness of the clouds (‘grander indeed than anything I had ever seen before’) and their varied colours and movement and the strange sense of scale created by the fact that some mountaintops rise above them (82). He moves from this description, however, straight into an experiment as to whether the sound of a gunpowder explosion is less great than at sea level (82–3). From Tyndall’s perspective, scientific study and aesthetic appreciation were both ways of interacting with the glories of nature.

Tyndall’s ideological opponents included the art critic John Ruskin, himself an amateur geologist. (Ruskin disagreed strongly with Tyndall’s theories about the movement of glaciers.) In a March 1875 lecture printed in Deucalion: Collected Studies of the Lapse of Waves, and Life of Stones (1875–83), Ruskin claimed that ‘in modern days, by substituting analysis for sense in morals, and chemistry for sense in matter, we have literally blinded ourselves to the essential qualities of both matter and morals’ (26: 115–16). Ruskin’s scientific writing consistently returns to the idea that most men of science allow theory to overdetermine their perceptions, not relying on their eyes, and therefore missing the realities of what they observe. In a lecture collected in The Eagle’s Nest: Ten Lectures on the Relation of Natural Science to Art (1872), Ruskin renders the tension between the sight of science and the sight of art in his most explicit fashion. He tells of two girls with astronomical interests, one of whom is versed in ‘abstract Science, and more or less acquainted with the laws by which what she now sees may be explained’; the other is ‘not versed in any science of this kind, but acquainted with the traditions attached by the religion of dead nations to the figures they discerned in the sky’ (22: 143). The second girl, Ruskin claims, will have the superior vision of the stars: ‘she will care little for arithmetical or geometrical matters, but will probably receive a much deeper emotion, from witnessing in clearness what has been the amazement of so many eyes long closed […] I need not surely tell you, that in this exertion of the intellect and the heart, there would be a far nobler sophia [wisdom] than any concerned with the analysis of matter, or the measurement of space’ (22: 143). Knowing of angles and declinations is all well and good, but if you really want to see the stars, and appreciate their beauty, knowledge of Greco-Roman mythology is the way to go. Scientific knowledge is incompatible with the appreciation of beauty.

The different ways that what we might call ‘scientific sight’ and ‘aesthetic sight’ render the natural world appear throughout Heart and Science, particularly in the character of Mrs. Gallilee. Mrs. Gallilee is like Ruskin’s first girl, trained in ‘arithmetical or geometrical matters’, while her viewpoint is contrasted repeatedly with other characters more like Ruskin’s second girl, who experience ‘deeper emotion’ when viewing the natural world, generally thanks to a lack of training. Collins makes this very explicit in a scene where Mrs. Gallilee’s niece Carmina attempts to make small talk with her. Mrs. Gallilee is reading a book about geographical botany; she tells Carmina, ‘The author divides the earth into twenty-five botanical regions—but, I forget […] you don’t care about these things’ (111). Carmina berates herself after this reprimand: ‘I am so ignorant […] Perhaps, I may know better when I get older’ (111). But on the next page, when Mrs. Gallilee asks Carmina what she has been reading, and Carmina indicates poetry, Mrs. Gallilee does not even know how to take it:

Mrs. Gallilee laid herself back in her chair, and submitted patiently to her niece’s simplicity. ‘Poetry?’ she repeated in accents of resignation. ‘Oh, good heavens!’

Unlucky Carmina tried a more promising topic. ‘What beautiful flowers you have in the drawing-room!’ (112)

Mrs. Gallilee rejects this overture, too, explaining that she has no aesthetic appreciation for flowers, she only has them put there because of social convention, and she neither selects nor arranges them herself: ‘The florist’s man […] does all that […] What would be the use of the man if I did?’ (112) Here, I see Ruskin’s distinction between scientific sight and aesthetic sight in action. Mrs. Gallilee’s reading on geographical botany has provided her with the same kind of knowledge as the first sister. She can count botanical regions, recalling Ruskin’s ‘measurement of space’, but she cannot see the truth of the flower, she cannot see its beauty or other ‘essential qualities.’

Carmina, coming from a place of scientific ignorance but aesthetic appreciation (she loves both music and poetry), perceives the exact same object in a different way, receiving a ‘deeper emotion’. Ruskin compares the second sister to the ‘innocent shepherds and husbandmen, who knew only the risings and settings of the immeasurable vault, as its lights shone on their own fields or mountains; yet saw true miracle in them’ (22: 143). These observers of the stars know literally nothing about what is happening except what they can see, and their lower level of scientific knowledge gives them more powerful aesthetic sight. With Ruskin’s astral observers, as with Collins’s characters, how the observer is educated literally determines their perceptions.

In the middle of the flowers scene, there is a brief digression where Carmina and Mrs. Gallilee discuss a different book, not about botany. This digression shows what Mrs. Gallilee has elected to observe with her scientific sight (other than flowers) and also gives us some understanding of how her objects of observation also shape her way of seeing. When Carmina is looking at Mrs. Gallilee’s books she chances upon Curiosities of the Coprolites because of its ‘beautiful binding’; Mrs. Gallilee gently ribs her for falling for its ‘pretty dress’ and explains that it is about ‘fossilised indigestions of extinct reptiles. The great philosopher who has written that book has discovered scales, bones, teeth, and shells—the undigested food of those interesting Saurians. What a man! what a field for investigation!’ (112–3) Coprolites are dinosaur poop. Mrs. Gallilee cannot appreciate a flower or a poem, both objects of beauty, but she can enthuse rhapsodically over ancient dung, an object of disgust. This evokes Ruskin’s statement in Deucalion that if you struggle to distinguish the angel and devil vying for your spirit, ‘you may discern the one from the other by a vivid, instant, practical test. The devils always will exhibit to you what is loathsome, ugly, and, above all, dead; and the angels, what is pure, beautiful, and, above all, living’ (26: 263). Ruskin goes on to specify dinosaurs as one of the problems of modern science, telling the reader that ‘you […] thwart alike your child’s angel, and his God […] [when] you show him the skeleton of the dead monster, and make him pore over its rotten cells and wire-stitched joints, and vile extinct capacities of destruction’ (26: 265). Surely there is nothing more ‘loathsome, ugly, and, above all, dead’ than fossilized dinosaur dung! Mrs. Gallilee has selected the sights of horror, and this itself has shaped both her way of seeing, and—as I will discuss—her way of acting. Ruskin’s hypothetical child in this passage is trained to behave cruelly: his parent may let him ‘play again by the woodside;—and the first squirrel he sees, he throws a stone at!’ (26: 265) For Ruskin, a scientific vision of nature cut off from actual nature leads to cruelty toward nature.

A similar consequence is seen in Heart and Science. We receive a sense of the moral implications of aesthetic sight as opposed to scientific sight in a scene where Mrs. Gallilee goes to visit Mr. Mool, her tender-hearted lawyer, himself an amateur botanist. Though Mool earlier tried to find common ground with Mrs. Gallilee through their shared appreciation of plants (77–8), this scene makes their different attitudes clear. Before Mrs. Gallilee arrives, Mool gazes upon a vase of flowers gifted to him by a client: ‘As a man, he enjoyed the lovely colours of the nosegay. As a botanist, he lamented the act which had cut the flowers from their parent stems, and doomed them to a premature death. ‘“I should not have had the heart to do it myself,” he thought; “but tastes differ”’ (191–92). Mool calls himself a ‘botanist’, but he clearly appreciates plants on an entirely aesthetic level if he cannot even countenance the cutting of stems for display. When Mrs. Gallilee arrives, she too appreciates the flowers: ‘Mrs. Gallilee […] admired the nosegay with her readiest enthusiasm. “Quite perfect,” she said—“especially the Pansy. The round flat edge, Mr. Mool; the upper petals perfectly uniform—there is a flower that defies criticism! I long to dissect it”’ (192). In contrast with Mool, Mrs. Gallilee’s appreciation of nature reminds one of Ruskin’s first sister or (a caricature of) Tyndall: she admires not its colours but its regularity, and while Mool cannot even stomach cutting a flower for display purposes, her appreciation for the flower is inseparable from her desire to experiment upon it in a way that will destroy it.

Seeing Human Beings Like a Scientist

The passages about Mrs. Gallilee’s contemplation of flowers also show how forms of vision are all-consuming. Ruskin gave his second sister a higher level of sophia than the first, and for Ruskin, ‘sophia is the form of thought, which makes common sense unselfish,—knowledge unselfish,—art unselfish,—and wit and imagination unselfish’ (22: 143). According to Ruskin, aesthetic sight works for the benefit of others, and scientific sight works for the benefit of the self. Both Ruskin and Collins imply that scientific sight is not something that the observer can switch off. Even if it did occur to them, Mrs. Gallilee cannot just decide to see her flowers aesthetically, while the first sister cannot just decide to appreciate the beauty of the night sky.

If ways of seeing are all-consuming, then they have moral implications for how the observers treat other human beings, not just nature. If aesthetic sight leads to sophia, and sophia leads to unselfishness, then the possessor of scientific sight will see not only objects of scientific inquiry selfishly, but everything they observe. This critique of scientific training brings to mind the position of Matthew Arnold, who in July 1882, two months after Wilkie Collins began writing Heart and Science (Farmer and Law), and a month before the novel’s first instalment appeared in Belgravia, delivered the Rede Lecture at Cambridge (published that August in The Nineteenth Century as ‘Literature and Science’). Arnold claimed that when most people learn a scientific proposition, ‘there will be found to arise an invincible desire to relate this proposition to the sense within them for conduct and to the sense for beauty. But this the men of science will not do for us, and will hardly, even, profess to do’ (225). The problem with scientific knowledge, as Arnold articulates it, is that though it provides its users with facts, it does nothing for their ‘sense for conduct’—that is, their inner morality.

But Heart and Science goes even further than Arnold, and possibly even Ruskin, though their concepts provide a useful way of illuminating the novel’s treatment of science and ethics. In its depiction of the harm the scientific observer can cause to the observed, Heart and Science foreshadows critiques of objectivity that would come from feminist philosophers of science in the late twentieth century. In her 1994 essay, ‘From Objectivity to Objectification: Feminist Objections’, Mary Hawkesworth investigates the ways in which feminist critiques of science argue that there exists a movement ‘from objectivity to objectification—that is, from epistemological process to a morally suspect reification, dehumanizing women’ (151). Hawkesworth defines objectification as reification: ‘to view a person as a thing, that is, as an entity devoid of consciousness and agency […] It seems a small step from envisioning a person as a thing [for the purposes of scientific inquiry] to treating a person as a thing. Thus reification provides a link to objectification in the more pejorative sense—a morally objectionable practice of treating a person as a means rather than as an end, as inert matter rather than as autonomous subject’ (155).

In linking scientific inquiry to treating people ‘as a means rather than as an end’, Hawkesworth echoes some of the critiques of vivisection in particular and science more generally advanced by Wilkie Collins in Heart and Science. Collins, though, depicts how science treats not just women or even people as a means rather than an end, but every form of life from protoplasm to animals. Vivisection is not an aberration of science in the world of Heart and Science, but a particularly pernicious instance of the systematic damage scientific sight does to the sense for conduct of the observer. Dr. Benjulia might vivisect animals for selfish reasons, but Mrs. Gallilee’s scientific training has caused her to observe everything for selfish reasons. Scientific sight objectifies without end.

The novel links Mrs. Gallilee’s scientific sight to her attenuated sense for conduct in a scene where she helps her son Ovid Vere make plans for a trip abroad. The scene begins with yet another rehearsal of how scientific sight makes no contribution to Mrs. Gallilee’s sense for beauty. Mrs. Gallilee tells Carmina and Ovid of her most recent lecture, and the imaginary sights she has witnessed in hearing it: ‘Fifty miles above us—only fifty miles—there is an atmosphere of cold that would freeze the whole human family to death […] Think of serious people looking up in that dreadful direction, and talking of going to Heaven’ (126). Mrs. Gallilee does not see beauty or God when she observes the natural world, but horror and atheism; her lack of religious faith is a minor recurrent point throughout the novel. The implications of her way of seeing manifest almost immediately, as she helps Ovid plan what to do with his cat during a trip abroad; the narrator records that she suggests that ‘[t]he easiest way to provide for the creature would be of course to have her poisoned’ (127). In a novel whose moral universe requires one to cry over inadvertently stepping on a beetle (103), this is a grave violation of ethics, a case of treating an animal ‘as a means rather than as an end’—objectification. For Mrs. Gallilee, Ovid’s cat has no purpose beyond whatever the emotional support it provides Ovid (and it seems unlikely she really even understands that purpose). If Ovid is gone, by Mrs. Gallilee’s logic, the cat’s existence should cease. Mrs. Gallilee’s scientific training has damaged her sense for conduct in that she only sees other living things as useful in what they can do for her. Obviously being willing to kill animals for selfish reasons has connections to vivisection, but Heart and Science goes further than that in its critique.

Mrs. Gallilee’s attenuated sense for conduct is shown most clearly in her relations with her niece Carmina. Patricia Murphy calls motherhood ‘the ultimate role of the Victorian female’ (114), and as Carmina’s guardian, under conventional Victorian social morality, Mrs. Gallilee ought to act as selflessly as possible, placing Carmina’s needs above her own. Instead, Mrs. Gallilee objectifies Carmina, seeing only what her ward can do for her: provide her with the money needed to rid herself of debt. Due to the fact that Mrs. Gallilee inherits if Carmina dies unmarried, she embarks on a campaign of preventing Carmina from marrying—even though Carmina is in love with her own son, another person whose ends Mrs. Gallilee would conventionally be expected to place above her own. Mrs. Gallilee begins plotting the separation of Carmina and Ovid almost immediately, mentioning to Ovid the ‘debatable’ nature of the marriage of cousins (88) and suggesting the childrearing difficulties that ensue with mixed-faith marriages (89), before entreating him to travel overseas, ostensibly entirely for reasons of health: ‘With Ovid absent, and with Carmina under her sole superintendence, Mrs. Gallilee could see her way to her own private ends’ (89). Every action Mrs. Gallilee takes from this point onward is designed to separate Ovid and Carmina, increasing the chances that she will inherit her brother’s wealth. Murphy argues that as a surrogate mother, Mrs. Gallilee actually ‘generates anxiety, fear, contempt and distrust on Carmina’s part’ thanks to the way she looks and acts toward Carmina (114).[5] The novel consistently reiterates that she is manipulative and selfish, describing her as ‘crafty and […] cruel’ (Collins 114), as possessing an outward ‘smooth surface’ that hides an ‘underlying malice’ (115), and as liking the idea that Dr. Benjulia might be a vivisectionist (136).  She is somewhat effective in her manipulations of those around her, but not successful in her overall goal. As a result, she continuously escalates her tactics until she suggests that Carmina is an illegitimate child and thus ought to be disinherited, even though she knows this to be untrue (249).

Mrs. Gallilee is greedy and shallow, and even if Heart and Science does not indicate that this is solely because of her scientific training, science is clearly a principal cause.  Mrs. Gallilee was not born without a sense for beauty or a sense for conduct; her consistent objectification of others came later. According to Amanda Anderson, Victorian womanhood ‘emphasized selflessness and sympathetic communing, and on the other hand allotted to women far-reaching forms of guardianship and influence, which in turn depended on cultivated practices of moral discernment, impersonal judgment, and even self-crafting’ (35). When she was a young woman, Mrs. Gallilee did indeed have the roots of proper Victorian womanhood, with selflessness and sympathy in full force. The narrator records that when she was Carmina’s age, ‘she had trembled with pleasure at the singing of a famous Italian tenor; […] she had given money to beggars in the street; she had fallen in love with a poor young man, and had terrified her weak-minded hysterical mother, by threatening to commit suicide when the beloved object was forbidden the house’ (287). Her issues began when her mother died: her father had little interest in his children, and when he died, he left his two daughters what they considered ‘a trumpery legacy’ (71). Mrs. Gallilee marries for money as a result of all this, not love, indicating that her mercenary nature already existed before her scientific education.

However, when her sister marries better than her (to a Scotch nobleman), Mrs. Gallilee is broken emotionally: she ‘became a serious woman. All her earthly interests centred now in the cultivation of her intellect. She started on that glorious career, which associated her with the march of science. In only a year afterwards—as an example of the progress which a resolute woman can make—she was familiar with zoophyte fossils, and had succeeded in dissecting the nervous system of a bee’ (71). A year of learning did not just grant her scientific knowledge, it also damaged her sense for conduct, reshaping her sight to see animals as objects, a far cry from the young woman of great sympathy she once was.

Christine Ferguson claims that Mrs. Gallilee has ‘a disregard for usefulness’ when it comes to science: ‘Science acts for Mrs. Gallilee purely as a vehicle for a sort of narcissistic gratification’ (472-73). Ferguson argues that Mrs. Gallilee’s complicated plan to obtain the inheritance is more about the pleasures of the plan itself than its financial benefits. However, this focus on the pleasures of the interior self overlooks Mrs. Gallilee’s consistent concern with her own social standing, especially display of success. Mrs. Gallilee does value the ‘usefulness’ of science, but in the sense of its use to herself, not to society at large. Unlike the novel’s female exemplar, Carmina, she places great emphasis on appearing successful, not inner morality. This tendency existed in her from early on, her circumstances exacerbated it, and once she failed in the most obvious route (economic display), she turned to science as a substitute. When Miss Minerva (the ill-tempered governess of the Gallilee daughters) asks why Mrs. Gallilee simply can’t spend less, Mrs. Gallilee replies that it puts her in too much social danger: ‘I expose myself to unfavourable comparison with other people of our rank in society […] Don’t suppose I care two straws about such things, myself’ (147). Now, Mrs. Gallilee is being disingenuous here; she obviously does care about her social standing to a degree that belies her words, but there is a kernel of truth in what she says. Mrs. Gallilee has set herself a goal of social success and pursues it by any means necessary: economics and science are all means to an end, which is to appear more successful than everyone else (in particular, her sister, with whom she compares herself incessantly, such as on pp. 168–9). The pleasure she obtains from manipulating Carmina is definitely part of her motivation, but everything she does—spend money on flowers and carriages, host scientific soirees, attempt to disinherit Carmina—is primarily in pursuit of her own social standing. She will be successful by any means necessary.

Mrs. Gallilee’s innate character is part of the problem, but a different education and training might have enhanced her senses for beauty and for conduct rather than attenuate them. The novel says she possesses an ‘inbred capacity for deceit’, describing the ‘formidable qualities in her nature, which a gentler and wiser training than hers had been might have held in check—by development of preservative influences that lay inert’ (76). Joan Burstyn notes the paradox that though Victorian women were expected to exert a positive influence over men’s education because of their moral powers, their moral powers were simultaneously much more precarious than men’s: ‘the education of women had to be carefully supervised. Their reading had to be prescribed so as to protect their virtue and strengthen their faith. Women should be kept out of universities because they would be tempted to follow any examples of vice they found in pagan literature or any atheistic ideas they found in science’ (114). The problem is, then, that scientific knowledge, as Arnold feared, does not contribute to the senses for beauty and for conduct.

Or, as Ruskin argued, that science actively works against them. Although he was an amateur geologist, Ruskin feared a certain strain within science that was damaging sophia: ‘The selfishness which renders sophia impossible, and enlarges the elastic and vaporous kingdom of folly, is shown by our caring for knowledge only so far as we have been concerned in its discovery, or are ourselves skilled and admired in its communication’ (22: 146). As science underwent its discontinuous process of professionalisation in the nineteenth century, publishing and making one’s name as a man of science became increasingly important. Robert Kargon places the emergence of what he calls the ‘devotees of science’ in the 1840s and ’50s: ‘the devotees possessed the inspiration proper to a true sense of vocation and were concerned with research at the frontiers of science, with publication, with “keeping up” with the output of the great practitioners of their specialties, with scientific communication’ (35). The emergence of this new form of science, distinct from the more ‘“gentlemanly” brand of amateur science’ that had preceded it (Kargon 34), is the cause behind Ruskin’s belief that science was becoming increasingly selfish as a discipline. Earlier forms of science may have enhanced sophia, but Ruskin thought that science as it was developing in the 1870s did not: ‘the practical suggestions which are scattered throughout the writing of the older naturalists tend always to directly the benefit of the general body of mankind; while the discoveries of modern science have, almost without exception, provoked new furies of avarice, and new tyrannies of individual interest’ (26: 339).

That science’s relationship to the sense for conduct had transformed across the nineteenth century is an idea that Heart and Science raises near its conclusion, when the narrator goes on a terrific rant condemning Mrs. Gallilee that is worth quoting at length:

See the lively modern parasites that infest Science, eager to invite your attention to their little crawling selves. Follow scientific inquiry, rushing into print to proclaim its own importance, and to declare any human being, who ventures to doubt or differ, a fanatic or a fool […] Absorb your mind in controversies and discussions, in which Mr. Always Right and Mr. Never Wrong exhibit the natural tendency of man to believe in himself, in the most rampant stage of development that the world has yet seen. And when you have done all this, doubt not that you have made a good use of your time. You have discovered what the gentle wisdom of FARADAY saw and deplored, when he warned the science of his day in words which should live for ever: ‘The first and last step in the education of the judgment is—Humility.’ (286)

Michael Faraday, the physicist of the early nineteenth century, would have completed most of his work near the beginning of what Kargon calls the era of the scientific devotee. As the scientific devotee increasingly took over from the amateur gentleman (for whom science was but one of many intellectual interests), and then the working professional from the devotee, the need to pursue knowledge not for its own sake, but for the scientist’s sake, increased as well. The shift in science from the days of Faraday (or Ruskin’s ‘older naturalists’) was to selfishness. Mrs. Gallilee had a predisposition toward selfishness that drew her toward science, but science amplified her selfishness in a positive feedback loop. A woman of science exacerbates the defect, but the defect is there regardless of gender. By the 1880s, science is selfish, and so therefore someone trained to think scientifically will objectify what they observe.

One critique of vivisectionists was that though they claimed to be working for the advancement of medical knowledge, they were actually interested in only their own glory; Heart and Science advances this critique through Dr. Benjulia, who sneers at the idea that he is working for ‘the medical interests of humanity,’ instead declaring, ‘I am working for my own satisfaction—for my own pride—for my own unutterable pleasure in beating other men—for the fame that will keep my name living hundreds of years hence. Humanity! I say with my foreign brethren—Knowledge for its own sake is the one god I worship’ (190).  That he pursues his research not to save lives, but out of selfish reasons, is driven home when he commits suicide when someone else finds the cure he has been seeking.

Mrs. Gallilee’s role in Heart and Science broadens this critique. If Benjulia was the sole scientist in the novel, Heart and Science would be only a critique of the ethics of vivisection. The focus on the link between Mrs. Gallilee’s scientific sight and her senses for beauty and for conduct transforms the novel into a critique of science as way of seeing and the ethical consequences of seeing like a scientist.[6] Mrs. Gallilee does not just see animals scientifically, she sees everything scientifically: pets, Niagara Falls, flowers, music, the sky, poetry, other human beings. Murphy argues that Heart and Science’s ‘unequivocal message [is] that scientific interests are wholly improper for women’s indulgence’ (136), but this overlooks that Collins’s novel is critiquing the entire institution of science; most of the people who attend Mrs. Gallilee’s scientific soirees are, after all, men, and they are all said to be ugly and small-minded (Collins 168). Mrs. Gallilee’s attitude of rational self-interest is the core of a critique of the entire epistemology of science. For many Victorians, including Frances Power Cobbe (who was, in addition to an antivivisectionist, a prominent suffragist) women were supposed to be the moral centre of the home, and as a consequence, the nation. Cobbe argued that, ‘We are entirely responsible for our own souls, and very greatly responsible for those of all the dwellers in our homes; and, in a lesser way, we are answerable for each widening circle beyond us’ (140). In Heart and Science, science’s threat to women is not just when they are the objects of scientific sight (as Carmina becomes for both Mrs. Gallilee and Dr. Benjulia), but that they can themselves become the objectifiers when they follow the link from objectivity to objectification. If women are the moral centre of the home and the nation, and yet can still be corrupted by scientific sight, if science can cause a woman to turn on her own children (and other charges), then how dangerous must it be? By including a woman of science in Heart and Science, Collins shows that the selfish epistemology of science threatens the moral foundations of the nation.

There are a few contrasting figures in the novel, designed to represent alternatives to its villains and their ways of seeing. I have already mentioned Carmina a little and will say more about her shortly, but now I want to briefly touch on a different un-selfish alternative way of seeing. Science in the post-Faraday age of Heart and Science may be predominantly selfish, but it does not have to be: there are still those who understand that ‘[t]he first and last step in the education of the judgment is—Humility.’ Ovid discovers the cure for brain disease on a trip to Canada when a dying American physician entrusts him with a manuscript. The American physician who helps Ovid, however, never appears on the page, is never even assigned a name: the reader only knows him through the notes that Ovid reads and uses to successfully treat Carmina. Jeanette Shumaker contends that the competing scientist is left unnamed because he is a mulatto and ‘Collins is not ready to give full credit to a dark-skinned scientist’ (104), but I argue that the anonymous physician must remain anonymous to be consistent with Collins’s larger point about how ethical science should avoid selfishness. The victorious scientist cannot have a name, he cannot even really appear in the novel, because if he did, it would contradict Collins’s point about humility. In remaining anonymous, he proves that he is the opposite of Dr. Benjulia and Mrs. Gallilee in every possible way, thereby showing how the sense for conduct can be maintained in scientific investigation, through denial of the self and the elevation of others’ ends over one’s own.[7]

Two Forms of ‘superior penetration’

Mrs. Gallilee’s scientific sight may have damaged her senses for beauty and for conduct, but it still makes her one of the most perceptive characters in the novel. She is the first to see that Ovid is in love with Carmina: ‘his motive was as plainly revealed to her as the sunlight shining in at the window’ (88). She proves adept at manipulating some members of the household to do her bidding, particularly Mr. Le Frank, the venal and vain music master, who praises her ‘superior penetration’ (277).  Like Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Gallilee even has superior vision of events she did not actually witness. When Mr. Gallilee smuggles their children out the house, to avoid a confrontation with his wife, the household servants describe what they saw of Mr. Gallilee’s clandestine undertaking—and Mrs. Gallilee’s ‘keen perceptions’ (289) piece it all together. Even though she did not physically behold the events described, she sees them more completely than those who did. Scientific sight may objectify, but it does reveal truths to the observer, albeit only ones that the observer can put to their own ends.

A significant factor in Mrs. Gallilee’s successful observations is her ability to predict what others will do, based on her understanding of the selfishness of others. Mrs. Gallilee is the only person able to work out that Miss Minerva loves Ovid Vere: ‘I have looked into her false heart,’ she declares (172). She uses that knowledge to manipulate Miss Minerva on her behalf, calculating that Miss Minerva will not want to see Ovid and Carmina married because of jealousy—Miss Minerva describes it as ‘the wickedness in me, on which Mrs. Gallilee calculated’ (173). Appealing to his selfishness is the predominant way Mrs. Gallilee makes Le Frank into her creature, calling him a ‘genius’ and subscribing to his compositions to stoke his vanity and thus manipulate him into functioning as a source of information for her (200–1). Thanks to her better understanding of human selfishness, Mrs. Gallilee keenly observes the motives and actions of those around her.

Contrast this with Carmina’s lack of perception. Carmina cannot see Mrs. Gallilee’s hidden motives while Miss Minerva can; Miss Minerva mocks Carmina, asking ‘Do those innocent eyes of your ever see below the surface?’ (118) Later, Carmina admits, ‘It’s no use asking me what I do see, or don’t see, in my aunt’ (118). Carmina is unable to perceive truth to the extent that her aunt can. (For the most part; she is the only person to notice that despite claiming to be preoccupied with chemical experiments, Dr. Benjulia has no chemical stains on his hands (123), indicating he must be spending his time in some other line.) Similarly, the good-natured Mr. Gallilee rues the extent to which his wife completely bamboozled him, telling her that ‘a clear-headed man might have found out how wicked you are’ (253), because Mr. Gallilee is so good-natured that, like Carmina, he is unable to see evil where it exists.

The trajectory of Heart and Science, though, makes Carmina’s failures of observation into a source of strength. Carmina and Miss Minerva start by viewing each other antagonistically: ‘While Carmina has been studying Miss Minerva, Miss Minerva had been studying Carmina. Already, the same instinctive sense of rivalry had associated, on a common ground of feeling, the two most dissimilar women that ever breathed the breath of life’ (91). But this does not last. When Carmina feels isolated, she reaches out to Miss Minerva for emotional support, and ‘that innocent outburst of trust […] had broken its way [through Miss Minerva’s surface]; and had purified for a while the fetid inner darkness with divine light’ (117). Carmina’s naïveté means that she trusts Miss Minerva even though she dislikes Miss Minerva and, as Miss Minerva points out, trusting her romantic rival is actually quite irrational. Miss Minerva grows irritated at Carmina’s attitude toward her: ‘she felt inclined to abuse the girl for believing her. “You fool, why don’t you see through me?”’ (152) But Miss Minerva does not say this, and Carmina does not perceive the truth until she is told directly.

When Mrs. Gallilee blindsides Carmina by telling her of Miss Minerva’s love for Ovid, Carmina does not lash out against Miss Minerva, but only writes her a letter to ask if Mrs. Gallilee is correct, in which she reaffirms her faith in Miss Minerva. This causes to Miss Minerva to write back: ‘The influence of your higher and better nature […] has opened my heart to tenderness and penitence of which I never believed myself capable […] All this I know, and yet I dare not believe in myself’ (173). In the moral universe of Heart and Science, the fact that Carmina’s perceptions of Miss Minerva are inaccurate do not reflect poorly on her because Miss Minerva begins transforming to correspond to Carmina’s perceptions. Miss Minerva leaves Mrs. Gallilee’s service so that she cannot be used as a weapon against Carmina any more, afraid that she will be unable to assert to her newfound better nature for long, and that her jealousy of Carmina will win out. But Carmina knows better, for she ‘could now see all that was worthiest of sympathy and admiration’ in Miss Minerva’s actions (235). Many had misjudged Miss Minerva’s character because she is physically unattractive (116, 125), but Carmina’s aesthetic vision, with its sense for conduct, sees the truth of character within Miss Minerva, who responds to what Carmina sees.

In the end, Miss Minerva returns to Carmina, nursing her through her sickness (298), Ovid (who had never thought much of her before the novel began) dubs her ‘that best of true women’ (311), and Ovid and Carmina name their first child after her (325). Far from being a liability, Carmina’s naïve but sympathetic sight turns out to be one of her greatest assets; without Miss Minerva’s assistance, she never would have uncovered or escaped Mrs. Gallilee’s machinations. Carmina’s lack of selfishness ultimately renders her perceptions superior to those of Mrs. Gallilee. Mrs. Gallilee may have failed in her duty to be ‘responsible for those [souls] of all the dwellers in our homes’ as Cobbe dictated, but even though Carmina technically had no obligation or authority over Miss Minerva, she took responsibility for her soul anyway, and in doing so, saved her. Mrs. Gallilee can better see human beings as they are, but Carmina sees them as they ought to be.[8] Scientific sight may reveal more of what Arnold described as ‘instrument-knowledges’, those facts that ‘cannot be directly related to the sense for beauty, to the sense for conduct’ (224), but aesthetic sight has true sophia: it makes the world better through its perceptions.

Mrs. Gallilee’s perceptions decrease in accuracy as others’ senses for conduct are increased. When Carmina’s nurse comes to be with her in London even though she hates London, Mrs. Gallilee does not understand why someone would put another’s needs above her own; when Carmina tries to explain why, Mrs. Gallilee rejoins, ‘these matter of mere sentiment escape my notice’ (175). This blindness proves her undoing. At one point, the narrator opines that if Mrs. Gallilee ‘had not deliberately starved her imagination, and emptied her heart of any tenderness of feeling’ she would better understand the behaviour of those in love (67). However, ‘her scientific education left her completely in the dark, where questions of sentiment were concerned, as if her experience of humanity, in its relation to love, had been experience in the cannibal islands’ (67). Due to the fact that her perceptions ‘calculate[ ] on wickedness’, the less wickedly someone behaves, the less accurate Mrs. Gallilee’s observations become. Her lack of a sense for conduct leaves her unable to perceive the senses for conduct of others.

Some of Mrs. Gallilee’s plans to make Carmina and Ovid doubt each other fail because Carmina and Ovid have too much faith in one another, which she is unable to take into account. Others fail because they employ Miss Minerva, and Carmina has made Miss Minerva less selfish than she used to be. Mrs. Gallilee is unable to conceive of minds that do not work like her own. She cannot even see what causes her calculations to go astray, and thus ‘her unimaginative nature began to tremble on the verge of superstition. Twice, had the subtle force of circumstances defeated her […] When some people talked of Fatality, were they quite such fools as she had hitherto supposed them to be?’ (178) The heretofore unsentimental and unreligious Mrs. Gallilee is more willing to believe in cosmic forces beyond her control than that her perceptions of human nature could be flawed—another component of Heart and Science’s critique of the lack of humility in scientific sight.

The mismatch between the world as it is and Mrs. Gallilee’s way of seeing it reaches its climax in a scene where she accuses Carmina of being illegitimate. Even though she has been advised that this is most likely not true, her self-interest has overridden her seeming rationality—she wants it to be true so much that she discounts all evidence not in favour of it, like a man of science clinging to a theory of his own devising despite empirical evidence being arranged against it. As Mrs. Gallilee shouts ‘You impudent bastard!’ at Carmina and declares, ‘She’s the child of an adulteress!’ (249), both Mr. Gallilee and Carmina’s nurse Teresa enter the room. At this point Mrs. Gallilee is so overwhelmed by her desire for Carmina’s bastard status to be true that she is unable to perceive their entry: ‘She was in no position to see them: she was incapable of hearing them’ (249). Her vision, consumed by selfishness, has gone from asset to liability. She is so used to perceiving what Ruskin would call ‘what is loathsome, ugly, and, above all, dead’ that she simply cannot see ‘what is pure, beautiful, and, above all, living.’ Shortly after this is when Mr. Gallilee extracts their children from the household, which causes Mrs. Gallilee to completely collapse: ‘She suddenly dropped on her knees. “Will somebody pray for me?” she cried piteously. “I don’t know how to pray for myself. Where is God?”’ (295)

Conclusion: The Overwhelming Danger of Scientific Objectification

It would be easy to imagine a female scientist novel where the novel ended with conversion, where the woman of science abandoned her scientific sight and reasserted the sense for conduct that Wilkie Collins, Frances Power Cobbe, and so many other Victorians saw as the purpose of women. Caffyn’s A Yellow Aster, from a decade after Heart and Science, is one such book: the female amateur geologist repents of her scientific ways when her grandchild is born and she realises how many emotional experiences she missed out on, and she dies soon after. Her scientifically raised daughter also reforms, finally coming to understand love at the climax of the novel. It would also be easy to imagine a novel where male scientific cruelty was pitted against female sympathy, and several of the antivivisection novels written around the same time as Heart and Science tend toward this form, such as Miller’s Lynton Abbott’s Children or Sarah Grand’s The Beth Book (1897). However, Collins’s novel resists both the conversion narrative and the simple dichotomy of gender. In the world of Heart and Science, the link between objectivity and objectification is too intrinsic, Mrs. Gallilee’s senses for conduct and for beauty too damaged, her eyes too accustomed to seeing the world with scientific knowledge and not with sophia. The professionalising science of the 1880s is utterly antipathetic to ‘heart’—once Mrs. Gallilee’s way of seeing has been altered by it, she cannot be redeemed. Instead, her collapse strips away completely whatever vestiges of the senses for conduct and for beauty remained within her.

For Heart and Science, the danger to women is not just in being objectified, but in losing their place in society and becoming objectifiers. Although Collins valorises the kind of Victorian womanhood described by Murphy and Anderson, he does not posit femininity as a universal cure-all for the dangers of scientific perception because women themselves can become scientific observers. His negative models of ways of seeing include both a man and a woman, as do his positive ones. Mrs. Gallilee and Dr. Benjulia practice ‘heartless’ science, while both Ovid and Carmina are characters who maintain the levels of sympathy needed to stop science’s selfish rationality.

Although Collins’s description of a link between scientific objectivity and the objectification of women somewhat resembles critiques advanced by twentieth-century feminist philosophers such as Mary Hawkesworth, they diverge more than they ally. For Hawkesworth, the problem is that ‘[o]bjective inquiry cannot be attained within the preserve of privilege—whether it be the privilege of whites, the middle class, or men. The feminist argument for the inclusion of women and people of color within […] science can best be understood not in terms of standpoint theories that suggest that specific individuals or groups have privileged access to truth, but rather in terms of the demands of objectivity’ (168). But ‘privileged access to truth’ is precisely what Heart and Science posits women possess: ethical truth. Collins’s vision of women in ethical science is one where a woman can assist a man of science, but never be a woman of science herself, an example of the Victorian ideology of ‘separate spheres’.

DeWitt identifies the central tension between supporters and critics of vivisection as being over exactly how the separate spheres ideology applied: ‘Supporters of vivisection insisted that since men belonged in the public sphere and women in the private, female antivivisectionists could not participate in a public debate over the practice […] Antivivisectionists […] claimed for themselves the superior morality accorded to women by the separate-spheres ideology’ (128). In Heart and Science, Collins argues that scientific education is so inimical to the sense for conduct that even though women ought to possess a ‘superior morality’, scientific education can corrupt and destroy it beyond hope of recovery. By examining Mrs. Gallilee as a fictional woman of science in the context of the debates over science, aesthetics, and ethics of Collins’s own time, we can see the ‘heart’ of the matter to which Mrs. Gallilee remains blind. Heart and Science goes beyond Ruskin’s parable of the two astronomer sisters to suggest that scientific sight is inimical to femininity itself.

In the end, Mrs. Gallilee throws herself fully into science, forsaking her children and her husband. She hosts a scientific soiree where ‘three superhuman men, who had each a peep behind the veil of creation, and discovered the mystery of life, attended the party and became centres of three circles—the circle that believed in “protoplasm”, the circle that believed in “bioplasm”, and the circle that believed in “atomized charges of electricity, conducted into the system by the oxygen of respiration”’ (327). Science may have superior sight, Heart and Science concludes, but much of what it reveals will be valueless and devoid of moral worth. Science can even corrupt the moral nature of woman beyond redemption, because Mrs. Gallilee’s closing words reveal that she has learned nothing from all her self-inflicted misfortunes: ‘At last, I’m a happy woman!’


Works Cited

Anderson, Amanda. The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment. Princeton UP, 2001.

Arnold, Matthew. ‘Literature and Science.’ Nineteenth Century, vol. 12, no. 66, Aug. 1882, pp. 216–30.

Burstyn, Joan N. Victorian Education and the Ideal of Womanhood. Croom Helm, 1980.

Cobbe, Frances Power. The Duties of Women: A Course of Lectures. Geo. H. Ellis, 1881.

Collins, Wilkie. Heart and Science: A Story of the Present Time. 1882-83. Edited by Steven Farmer, Broadview, 1996.

––. Letter to Frances Power Cobbe. 23 June 1882. The Letters of Wilkie Collins, edited by William Baker and William M. Clarke, St. Martin’s, 1999, pp. 446–47.

DeWitt, Anne. Moral Authority, Men of Science, and the Victorian Novel. Cambridge UP, 2013.

Ellis, T. Mullett. Zalma. Tower, 1895.

Farmer, Steve, and Graham Law. ‘“Belt-and-Braces” Serialization: The Case of Heart and Science.’ Wilkie Collins Journal, vol. 2, 1999,

Ferguson, Christine. ‘Decadence as Scientific Fulfillment.’ PMLA, vol. 117, no. 3, May 2002, pp. 465–78.

Grand, Sarah. The Beth Book. 1897. Edited by Jenny Bourne Taylor, Victorian Secrets, 2013.

Griffith, George. Syren of the Skies. 1894. Edited by Marcus L. Rowland, Heliograph, 2003.

Hardy, Thomas. Two on a Tower: A Romance. 1882. Edited by Sally Shuttleworth, Penguin, 1996.

––. The Woodlanders. 1886-87. Edited by Dale Kramer, Oxford UP, 2009.

Hawkesworth, Mary E. ‘From Objectivity to Objectification: Feminist Objections.’ Rethinking Objectivity, edited by Allan Megill, Duke UP, 1994, pp. 151–77.

Hroneck, Susan. ‘“They Would Take Me for a Witch or a Poisoner”: Marginalization and the Woman Scientist in Fin-de-Siècle Speculative Fiction.’ Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, vol. 12, no. 3, Winter 2016, 28 pars.,

Iota [Kathleen Mannington Caffyn]. A Yellow Aster. Hutchinson, 1894.

Jones, Claire G. Femininity, Mathematics and Science, 1880-1914. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Kargon, Robert H. Science in Victorian Manchester: Enterprise and Expertise. 1977. Transaction, 2010.

Le-May Sheffield, Suzanne. Revealing New Worlds: Three Victorian Women Naturalists. Routledge, 2001.

MacEachen, Dougald B. ‘Wilkie Collins’ Heart and Science and the Vivisection Controversy.’ Victorian Newsletter, no. 29, 1966, pp. 22–25.

Meade, L. T. The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings. 1898. Ward, Lock & Co., 1899.

[Miller, Florence Fenwick.] Lynton Abbott’s Children. Samuel Tinsley, 1879. 3 vols.

Murphy, Patricia. In Science’s Shadow: Literary Constructions of Late Victorian Women. University of Missouri P, 2006.

Otis, Laura. ‘Howled out of the Country: Wilkie Collins and H. G. Wells Retry David Ferrier.’ Neurology and Literature, 1860–1920, edited by Anne Stiles, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, pp. 27–51.

Ruskin, John. The Works of John Ruskin. Edited by E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, George Allen, 1903–12. 39 vols.

Scalpel, Æsculapius. [Edward Berdoe.] St. Bernard’s: The Romance of a Medical Student. 1887. 4th ed., Swan Sonnenschein, 1888.

Shumaker, Jeanette Roberts. ‘Degeneration and Mesmerism in Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science.’ South Carolina Review, vol. 41, no. 1, 2008, pp. 102–09.

Sparks, Tabitha. The Doctor in the Victorian Novel: Family Practices. Ashgate, 2009.

Talairach-Vielmas, Laurence. Wilkie Collins, Medicine and the Gothic. University of Wales P, 2009.

Tyndall, John. The Glaciers of the Alps: Being a Narrative of Excursions and Ascents: An Account of the Origin and Phenomena of Glaciers, and an Exposition of the Physical Principles to Which They Are Related. 1860. Longmans, 1906.

Wagner, Tamara S. ‘“Overpowering Vitality”: Nostalgia and Men of Sensibility in the Fiction of Wilkie Collins.’ MLQ, vol. 64, no. 4, Dec. 2002, pp. 471–500.

Watts, Ruth. Women in Science: A Social and Cultural History. Routledge, 2007.

Wells, H. G. Ann Veronica. 1909. Edited by Sita Schutt, Penguin, 2005.


[1] See, for example, Ruth Watts’s Women in Science: A Social and Cultural History (particularly ch. 5–7), Claire Jones’s Femininity, Mathematics and Science, 1880–1914, and Suzanne Le-May Sheffield’s Revealing New Worlds: Three Victorian Women Naturalists, for three studies operating at varying levels of detail.

[2] The term scientist is something of an anachronism when applied to Heart and Science; although William Whewell coined it in 1834, it did not begin to come into common usage until the 1870s (solidifying as the preferred term over man of science around 1900), and Wilkie Collins does not use it in his novel, preferring ‘scientific gentlemen’ (99) or ‘scientific people’ (161) as a blanket term. The earliest use of scientist known to me in fiction is in Thomas Hardy’s Two on a Tower: A Romance (1882); its serialisation overlapped with that of Heart and Science. Scientist is too convenient a word to drop completely but I will try to avoid its use in favour of more period-appropriate terms where possible. I use it here as a gender-neutral catchall for those who have devoted themselves to science in some fashion, either as amateurs or professionals.

[3] Douglas MacEachen, Tabitha Sparks, and Laura Otis, for example, all place Heart and Science within the history of the vivisection debates and examine the figure of Benjulia in that context.

[4] Even Anne DeWitt, who examines a wide range of antivivisection novels for the ways they ‘criticize the moral effects of women’s exclusion from science’ (129), claims that ‘Heart and Science is less concerned than other antivivisection fiction with the relationship of feminine morality to masculine science’ (159) because her analysis focuses almost exclusively on Dr. Benjulia and Ovid. She scarcely mentions the novel’s female scientific practitioner, who I would argue is present in the novel to foreground that exact relationship.

There are some exceptions, however, to the neglect of Mrs. Gallilee as a scientist. Jeanette Shumaker examines Mrs. Gallilee and science, though she identifies Mrs. Gallilee as a ‘vampirish figure hypnotized by science’ (107), rather than the willing woman of science she is. Laurence Talairach-Vielmas focuses on Benjulia, but does indicate Mrs. Gallilee’s role in Collins’s larger critique of the scientific objectification of human beings: ‘By conflating the professional male scientist and the amateur scientific lady […] the narrative foregrounds the extent to which modern scientific disciplines were […] turning the body into a functioning machine’ (154).

Patricia Murphy presents a thorough discussion of the character in ch. 4 of her monograph, In Science’s Shadow: Literary Constructions of Late Victorian Women. Murphy argues that Mrs. Gallilee’s character ‘demonstrates unwomanly behavior in numerous and varied instances […] [A] woman’s appropriate relationship to science is to function simply as a passive object to be scrutinized and probed. Thus, the novel validates an essential womanhood and carves no space in which a woman can follow scientific interests’ (106). While Murphy’s argument is congruent with mine in many respects, she emphasises what Collins uses Mrs. Gallilee to say about femininity, whereas I intend to focus on seeing like a scientist (though these are, of course, interrelated).

[5] Murphy also discusses Mrs. Gallilee’s attitude toward her biological children and her husband (116–19); in all cases, Mrs. Gallilee fails to fulfil her social role, even though she works hard to appear as though she is.

[6] The novel St. Bernard’s: The Romance of a Medical Student (1887) by Edward Berdoe (under the pseudonym Æsculapius Scalpel) advances a similar critique. Its depiction of 1880s medical education shows that vivisection is not an aberration of the scientific process, but a predictable outcome of how scientific medicine prioritizes interesting experiments (than can make the professional reputation of the experimenter) over actual cures: ‘To the objection that a man may die while the expected cure does not arrive, what more obvious than the answer, “But see what a brilliant paper for the Journal is the outcome of it all?”’ (53).

[7] According to DeWitt, Collins, like many antivivisection novelists, presents the (limited) inclusion of women in science as a means of maintaining science’s sense for conduct; she says of Ovid and Carmina’s correspondence about Ovid’s researches that ‘his ability to tell her about that science is a guarantor of its morality’ (159). As long as he is married to Carmina, we can be assured that Ovid will remain a positive counterexample of medical ethics.

[8] Murphy also argues that Carmina serves as an exemplar, mentioning that ‘Carmina’s salutary traits bring forth the highest qualities in others’, as in the case of Miss Minerva (126), but she goes on to say that ‘the valorized position for women, Heart and Science cautions, is to serve as a passive object of scientific study […] Carmina becomes completely and rightly dependent on men of science once her illness strikes, as they examine, probe, and treat her virtually inert body’ (127). This overlooks the extent to which Benjulia’s observations of Carmina are portrayed as morally suspect, as he is treating her as an object: observing her for his sake, rather than her own. Heart and Science suggests that no living thing should be treated as a scientific object, and that treating a woman as such is particularly harmful.

Due to my emphasis on Mrs. Gallilee as a female possessor of scientific sight, I have largely focused on Carmina’s way of seeing as my main positive counterexample. However, understanding Ovid’s way of seeing as a highly sympathetic male medical practitioner is also highly instructive; he provides a counterexample to both Dr. Benjulia and to his mother. As Tamara Wagner’s strong explication of Ovid’s moral virtues argues, Heart and Science ‘accentuates the moral difference between the physically strong, heartless, ruthless villains and the men and women of feeling’ (495). Wagner goes on to state ‘In Heart and Science the contrast between praiseworthy delicacy and heartlessness is an integral part of the novel’s antivivisection mission and its criticism of amateur scientists in general’ (496).

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