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Life of Goethe.” At Berlin she showed him some attempts she had been making in the field of fiction; "he at once recognized their merit; and in 1856 she attempted her first story, “ The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton." It came out 1857 in “
Blackwood's,” and at once showed that a new writer of great power had arisen. “Mr. Gilfil's Love Story” and “Janet's Repentance” followed. All three were reprinted the same year as “Scenes from Clerical Life,” “ by George Eliot,” that pseudonym being adopted because George was Mr. Lewes's Christian name and Eliot was a good mouth-filling easily-pronounced name.
The brilliant story of “ Adam Bede” followed 1859 and had such marvelous success that a Mr. Liggins, who had lived in the same district as the author, had the effrontery to claim the authorship. It is indeed one of the finest novels in the English language. The hero is a village carpenter, who is distinguished by tall stalwartness and a simple soul. The real heroine is Dinah Morris, a Methodist preacher; but Adam's love is fixed on a rustic coquette, Hetty Sorrel, who has the beauty and character of a young star-browed calf that, being inclined for a promenade out of bounds, leads you a severe steeple-chase over hedge and ditch, and only comes to a stand in the middle of a bog. Hetty's vanity and beauty lead to her ruin. She agrees to marry Adam, but finally goes away to seek her former lover, Arthur Donnicastle, and to hide her shame. The account of her anguish is related with true pathos. Both she and Adam are comforted by Dinah Morris, who eventually marries him. The vicar of the parish, Bartle Massey the bachelor schoolmaster, and Mr. Poyser of the Hall Farm are also well drawn. But Mrs. Poyser is the gem of the book, with her proverbial philosophy, her good sense, and her amazing and amusing volubility.
“The Mill on the Floss ” 1860 is largely autobiographical. Though not as rich in character portrayal as its predecessor, it is scarcely less humorous, powerful, and pathetic. “Silas Marner” 1861 has two merits that make it stand out among all of the novels of the language. With all of George Eliot's power of drawing true pictures of life, it is brief and it is a model of construction. Its plot is better, if anything, than those of the “ (Edipus Rex,” the “ Alchemist,” or “Tom Jones.” Every student should read it, if he never reads anything else of the author's.
Silas Marner” was followed 1863 by “Romola," a story of Florence in the days of Savonarola. It is highly finished, eloquent, artistic, and by some considered George Eliot's best work. The story, however, is a depressing one. Tito, the central figure, being no hero, chooses to remain in Florence, enjoy his ease, marry Romola, and seduce Tessa, instead of saving his father from slavery. The fact that he gets his just deserts does not make the story agreeable, but no reader can deny its gloomy power. It appeared first in “ The Cornhill Magazine" and brought its author 7000 pounds.
Between 1866 and 1871 George Eliot forsook fiction for poetry. “The Spanish Gypsy” 1868 was followed next year by " Agatha,"
The Legend of Jubal ” and “ Amgart.” Her most familiar poems are, however, “ The Two Lovers” and “ The Choir Invisible.” The first and the last stanzas of the former are:
Two lovers by a moss-grown spring :
Mingling the dark and sunny hair,
O budding time!
“ The red light shone upon the floor
And made the space between them wide;
O memories !
“ The Choir Invisible” begins thus:
“O may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead that live again
In minds made better by their presence.” In 1871-1872 appeared “Middlemarch,” which by some is regarded as George Eliot's greatest novel. It is a study of English provincial life. In style and spirit, “ Middlemarch” recalls Jane Austen's novels. Her last novel, “ Daniel Deronda”
“ Daniel Deronda” was published 1876. The heroine, Gwendolen Harleth, a haughty and capricious beauty, is finely drawn, and some of its sketches of Jewish life and manners are striking and original, but as a whole the book is inferior to its predecessors. Like " Adam Bede," “ Silas Marner," "Romola," “ Felix Holt,” and “Middlemarch," it is penetrated with the desire to show how selfish and desecrating love may be without marriage and how equally selfish and desecrating marriage may be without love.
“ Daniel Deronda ” was George Eliot's last publication, with the exception of “ The Impressions of Theophrastus Such," a series of miscellaneous essays, 1879. She had always been peculiarly dependent on some one person for affection and support, and after Mr. Lewes died in 1879 she fell into a state of great melancholy. From this she was roused by the kindness of Mr. John Cross, a friend of her own and Mr. Lewes's since 1869. To him she was married May 6, 1880. She died December 22 of the same year and was buried in Highgate Cemetery near Mr. Lewes.
George Eliot was one of the greatest novelists of the English school. She was greater than Richardson, whose painstaking style of portraiture she greatly admired, because she had a command of humor and pathos that he lacked. Her studies of English farmers and tradesmen give us a clear idea of the slow-moving, beef-consuming, habit-ridden population of the Midland countries in the early nineteenth century. Sir Walter Scott's borderers are not more vivid. But she is greatly inferior to him in imagination, rapidity, and warmth of color. As a historical novel,“ Romola” is inferior even to “ Count Robert of Paris.” On the other hand, there is hardly an ineffective speech put into the mouth of any of her characters. To all of her squires, maids, poachers, and innkeepers she gives individual voices. One other peculiarity of her method deserves notice. She makes her characters grow. They do not appear at first in all their beauty or deformity. We watch them, as it were, being moulded by Fate; and she describes the process, in spite of all her faults as a woman and a writer, with such skill, such sympathy, and such insight that “ Adam Bede,
,” « The Mill on the Floss” and “ Silas Marner” are as sure of lasting fame as “Ivanhoe,” “ David Copperfield,” “Henry Esmond” and “ Pride and Prejudice.”
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. Give an account of George Eliot's life up until 1841. 2. What effect did Strauss's “ Life of Jesus” probably have upon her point
of view ? 3. Who was Herbert Spencer ? 4. Write one hundred and fifty words presenting the attraction of “Silas
Marner." 5. Where was the scene of “Romola " laid ? 6. Was George Eliot a realist or a romanticist? 7. Is it unusual for novelists to make their characters grow”? 8. Who was Maggie Tulliver ? 9. Who was George Henry Lewes and what were his relations with George
Eliot ? 10. In what respects do you feel that George Eliot was born before her
Suggested Readings.—“Silas Marner " and "The Mill on the Floss are the most engaging for the beginner. Oscar Browning's “Life of George Eliot " will suit the student's needs.
OTHER VICTORIAN WRITERS
“A page of Hood will do a fellow good
-Holmes. "Sohrab and Rustum' and 'Balder Dead' are majestic poems.”E. C. Stedman.
“ His . (Darwin's) evolution theory has revolutionized biology and changed the whole intellectual outlook of mankind.”—T. Arthur Thomson.
Being asked at the Hustings upon what he stood, Lord Beaconsfield replied magnificently, ‘Upon my head.'”—George Whibley.
“ The dominating idea of modern thought is Evolution. With that idea the name of Herbert Spencer is indissolubly connected.”-Hector Macpherson.
“Huxley was foremost on the fighting line of the Evolutionist phalanx."-T. Arthur Thomson. “ Swinburne is a reed
through which all things blow into music.”—Tennyson.
THOMAS HOOD (1799–1845) was born with " ink in his blood," being descended from a tubercular literary family; lived a life that was one long disease; and wrote the best poetry that appeared between 1822, when Shelley died, and 1842, when Tennyson published his first successful volume. Of Hood's serious poems, James Russell Lowell wrote: “If thou wouldst learn how truly great he was,
Go, ask it of the poor.”
“A paşr of Hood will do a fellow good
After a scolding from Carlyle or Ruskin.” The student who wishes to form an opinion for himself of the justice of Lowell's assertion should read “ The Bridge of Sighs,” “The Deathbed," and " The Song of the Shirt." Holmes's may be tested by“ Faithless Sally Brown,
,”“ Parental Ode to My Infant Son," and “Faithless Nelly Gray." Hood's ability to extract puns from the English language has probably not been approached by any other