If we talk of hearts today, we usually do it only in two rather restricted contexts; the romantic or the medical. A heart is either the focus of a love-aﬀair, or the seat of a disease. These two matters seem widely separated, not connected except externally and by chance. But a much wider use of the word is possible, and deserves examination. When Lady Macbeth, sleepwalking, moans because she cannot clean the smell of blood oﬀ her hands, her watchful Doctor says:
and her waiting-woman replies:
These people are talking in a perfectly natural way, but one which has become a triﬂe awkward for us now, partly through sentimental misuse of words like ‘heart’, partly because of certain changes in the pattern of our thoughts. What they are speaking of is the core or centre of someone’s being, the essential person, himself as he is in himself and (primarily) to himself. By comparison, both the romantic and the medical aspects of his life are partial and dependent. On the one hand, love aﬀairs do not depend only on certain special feelings, but on the whole character. On the other, someone who has to have a heart operation needs a surgeon whose heart is in his work, a stout-hearted one, who in unexpected diﬃculties will take heart rather than lose it, one whose heart will not easily sink or fail him. A medical student who, at heart, has never really cared for his work, would never become this kind of surgeon whatever his brains. The surgeon too, on his side, needs a stout-hearted patient, not a faint-hearted one-a patient who will put his heart into the business of recovery.