Vivisection and the Victorians 1850-1907
In The Descent of Man (1871) Charles Darwin related a striking scene of animal compassion in the face of human cruelty. He wrote of a ‘dog suffering under vivisection who licked the hand of the operator’, continuing, ‘this man, unless he had a heart of stone, must have felt remorse to the last hour of his life’. Existing approaches to Victorian vivisection have been mostly historical, limited to the fin de siècle, and confined to intersections with feminist debates. This focus has neglected the impact of canonical Victorian writers who expressed horror and opposition to live animal experimentation through their work. My research seeks to locate vivisection concerns within a broader range of literary, philosophical, and scientific debates from the mid-nineteenth century when live animal experimentation became widespread, to the famous Brown Dog Affair of 1907.