The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

A young and celebrated doctor, friend of M***, attempts a transfusion with his own blood. The operation succeeds and the dead woman is revived. In this brief flash of life, she recognizes Mme *** who has just entered the room, and “unveils” her guilt: “You plan to poison your husband,” she cries.

George Eliot, The Lifted Veil

H. É. Blanchon’s La Transfusion du sang

The story is told by the husband, now old and long separated from his wife. He foresees his death:

The time of my death approaches. I have lately been subject to attacks of angina pectoris, and in the ordinary course of things, my physician tells me, I may fairly hope that my life will not be protracted many months . . . I shall not much longer groan under the wearisome burthen of this earthly existence . . . I foresee when I shall die, and everything that will happen in my last moments.

Just a month from this day, on 20 September 1850, I shall be sitting in this chair, in this study, at 10 o’clock at night, longing to die, weary of incessant insight and foresight, without delusions and without hope. Just as I am watching, a tongue of blue flame rising from the fire, and my lamp is burning low, the horrible contraction will begin in my chest. I still only have time to reach the bell, and pull it violently, before the sense of suffocation will come . . . .

The sense of suffocation increases: my lamp goes out with a horrible stench: I make a great effort, and snatch at the bell again. I long for life, and there is no help. I thirsted for the unknown: the thirst is gone. . . .

Darkness—darkness—no pain—nothing but darkness: but I am passing on and on through the darkness: my thoughts stay in the darkness, always with the sense of moving onward . . . .

From: The Lifted Veil, by George Eliot, Oxford World Classics, Oxford University Press.

Note

H. É. Blanchon’s painting, La Transfusion du sang, no longer exists, but a black and white photograph of poor quality has survived in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

 


GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief.