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fragments of her correspondence, first Tennyson's Godiva. After the evangelglimpses of her mind, are very curious ; ical note began to fade, it was still the they have nothing in common with the desire for faith (a faith which could reclater ones but the deep seriousness of the oncile human affection with some of the tone. Serious, of course, George Eliot unamiable truths of science), still the continued to be to the end; the sense of religious idea, that colored her thought; moral responsibility, of the sadness and not the love of human life as a spectadifficulty of life, was the most inveterate cle, nor the desire to do something in part of her nature. But the provincial art. It must be remembered, though, strain in the letters from which I have that during these years, if she were not quoted is very marked: they reflect a stimulating prophecy in any definite meagreness and grayness of outward cir- form, she was inhaling those imprescumstance; have a tivge as of Dissent sions which were to make her first books in a small English town, where there so full of the delightful midland quality, are brick chapels in back streets. This the air of old-fashioned provincialism. was only a moment in her development; The first piece of literary work she but there is something touching in the attempted (and she brought it to the contrast between such a state of mind best conclusion) was a translation of and that of the woman before whom, at Strauss's Life of Jesus, which she bemiddle age, all the culture of the world gan in 1844, when she was not yet unrolled itself, and towards whom fame twenty-five years of age; a task which and fortune and an activity which at the indicates not only the persistence of her earlier period she would bave thought religious preoccupations, as well as the very profane pressed with rapidity. In higher form they took, but the fact that, 1839, as I have said, she thought very with the limited facilities afforded by meanly of the art in which she was to her life at that time, she had mastered attain such distinction. “I venture to one of the most difficult of foreign lanbelieve that the same causes which exist guages and the vocabulary of a German in my own breast to render novels and exegetist. In 1841 she thought it wrong romances pernicious have their counter- to encourage norels, but in 1847 she part in every fellow creature. ... The confesses to reading George Sand with weapons of Christian warfare were never great delight. There is no exhibition in sharpened at the forge of romance.” Mr. Cross's pages of the steps by which
The style of these pietistic utterances is she passed over to a position of tolerant singularly strenuous and heavy; the light skepticism: but the details of the proand familiar are absent from them, and I cess are after all of minor importance ; think it is not too much to say that they the essential fact is that the change was show scarcely a single premonitory ray of predetermined by the nature of her the genius which had Silas Marner in mind. reserve. This dryness was only a phase, The great event of her life was, of indeed; it was speedily dispelled by course, her acquaintance with George more abundant showers of mental expe- Henry Lewes. I say “of course,” berience. Premonitory rays are still ab- cause this relation had an importance sent, however, after her first asceticism even more controlling than the publipasses away a change apparently coin- cation and success of her first attempt cident with her removal from the cou at fiction, inasmuch as it was in consetry to the pleasant old town of Cov- quence of Mr. Lewes's friendly urgency entry, where all American pilgrims to that she wrote the Scenes of Clerical midland shrines go to-day to look at the Life. She met him for the first time in " three tall spires” commemorated in London, in the autumn of 1851; but it
was not till the summer of 1854 that false position, as we may call it, prothe connection with him began (it was duced upon George Eliot's life a certain marked to the world by their going to effect of sequestration, which was not spend together several months in Ger- favorable to social freedom, and which many, where he was bent on researches excited on the part of her companion a for his Life of Goethe) which was to certain protecting, sheltering, fostering, become so much closer than many for- precautionary attitude, - the assumption mal marriages, and to last till his death that they lived in special, in abnormal in 1878. The episode of Miss Evans's conditions. It would be too much to life in London during these three years say that George Eliot had not the courwas already tolerably well known. She age of the situation she had embraced, had become by this time a professional but she had, at least, not the indifferliterary woman, and had regular work ence; she was unable, in the premises, as assistant editor of the Westminster to be sufficiently superficial. Her deep, Review, to which she gave her most strenuous, much-considering mind, of conscientious attention. Her accom- which the leading mark is the capacity plishments now were wide.
for a sort of luminous brooding, fed a linguist, a copious reader, an earnest upon the idea of her irregularity with student of history and philosophy. She an intensity which doubtless only her wrote much for the Westminster, as well magnificent intellectual activity and as solicited articles from others, and sev- Lewes's brilliancy and ingenuity kept eral of her contributions are contained from being morbid. The fault of inost in the volume of essays published after of her work is the absence of spontaneher death, — essays of which it is fair to ity, the excess of reflection ; and by her say that they give but a faint intimation action in 1854 (which seemed, superfiof her latent powers. George Henry cially, to be of the sort usually termed Lewes was a versatile, hard-working reckless) she committed berself to bejournalist, with a tendency, apparently, ing nothing if not reflective, to cultivatof the drifting sort; and after having ing a kind of compensatory earnestness. been made acquainted with each other Her earnestness, her refined conscience, by Mr. Herbert Spencer the pair com- her exalted sense of responsibility, were mingled their sympathies and their work. colored by her peculiar position; they Her letters, at this season, contain con- committed her to a plan of life, of stant mention of Lewes (one allusion to study, in which the accidental, the unexthe effect that he “ has quite won my re- pected, were too little allowed for, and gard, after having had a good deal of my this is what I mean by speaking of her vituperation "); she takes an interest in sequestration. If her relations with his health, and corrects his proofs for him the world had been easier, in a word, when he is absent. It was impossible her books would have been less difficult. for Mr. Lewes to marry, as he had a Mr. Cross, very justly, merely touches wife living, from whom he was sepa- upon this question of her forming a tie rated. He had also three children, of which was deprived of the sanction of whom the cure did not devolve upon the law; but he gives a portion of a lettheir mother. The union Miss Evans ter written to Mrs. Bray more than a formed with him was a deliberate step, year after it had begun, which sufficientof which she accepted all the conse- ly indicates the serenity of her resoluquences. These consequences were ex- tion. Repentance, of course, she never cellent, so far as the world is at liberty had, — the success of her experiment was to judge, save in an important particu- too rare and complete for that; and I do lar. This particular is the fact that her not mean that her attitude was ever for a moment apologetic. On the contrary, pears to have been agreed between the it was only too superabundantly confirm- pair that there was at least no harm in atory. Her effort was to pitch her life the lady's trying her hand at a story. ever in the key of the superior wisdom Lewes professed a belief that she would that made her say to Mrs. Bray, in the really do something in this line, while letter of September, 1855, “ That any she, more skeptical, reserved her judg. unworldly, unsuperstitious person who ment till after the test. The Scenes is sufficiently acquainted with the real- from Clerical Life were therefore preities of life can pronounce my relation eminently an empirical work of fiction. to Mr. Lewes immoral I can only un- With the sending of the first episode to derstand when I remember how subtle the late Mr. John Blackwood for apand complex are the influences that proval, there opened a relation between mould opinion.” I need not attempt publisher and author which lasted to to project the light of criticism on this the end, and which was probably more particular case of conscience ; there re- genial and unclouded than any in the mains ever, in the mutual relations of annals of literature, as well as almost respectable men and women, an element unprecedentedly lucrative to both parwhich is for themselves alone to consid- ties. This first book of George Eliot's er. One reflection, however, forces it has little of the usual air of a first book, self upon the mind : if the connection none of the crudity of an early attempt; had not taken place, we should have lost it was not the work of a youthful perthe spectacle and influence of one of the son, and one sees that the material had most complete and tender unions pre- been long in her mind. The ripeness, sented to us in the history of literature. the pathos, a sort of considered quality, There has been much talk about George are as striking to-day as when Amos Eliot's "example,” which is not to be Barton and Janet's Repentance were deprecated so long as it is remembered published, and enable us to understand that in speaking of the example of a that people should have asked themwoman of such rare nobleness of mind selves with surprise, at that time, who it we can only mean example for good. was, in the midst of them, that had been Exemplary indeed, in her long connec- taking notes so long and so wisely withtion with George Henry Lewes, were out giving a sign. Adam Bede, written her sympathy, appreciation, affection, rapidly, appeared in 1859, and George constancy.
Eliot found herself a consummate novShe was thirty-seven years old when elist without having suspected it. The the Scenes from Clerical Life were pub- book was an immense, a brilliant suclished, but this work opened wide for cess, and from this moment the author's her the door of success, and fame and life took its definite and final direction. fortune came to her rapidly. Her union She accepted the great obligations which with Lewes had been a union of pover- to her mind belonged to a person who ty: there is a sentence in her journal, had the ear of the public, and her whole of the year 1856, which speaks of their effort thenceforth was highly to respond ascending certain cliffs called the Tors, to them, — to respond to them by teachat Ilfracombe, “only twice; for a tax of ing, hy vivid moral illustration, and even 3d. per head was demanded for this lux- by direct exhortation. It is striking that ury, and we could not afford a sixpenny from the first her conception of the norwalk very frequently." The incentive elist's task is never in the least as the to writing Amos Barton seems to have game of art. The most interesting pasbeen mainly pecuniary. There was an sage in Mr. Cross's volumes is, to my urgent need to make money, and it ap- sense, a simple sentence in a short entry
in her journal in the year 1859, just after Eliot may be said to have acted on her she had finished the first volume of The generation ; but the “ artistic mind,” the Mill on the Floss (the original title of possession of which it implies, existed which, by the way, had been Sister in her with limitations remarkable in a Maggie) : “ We have just finished read- writer whose imagination was so rich. ing aloud Père Goriot, a hateful book.” We feel in her, always, that she proThat Balzac's masterpiece should have ceeds from the abstract to the concrete; elicited from her only this remark, at a that her figures and situations are time, too, when her mind might have evolved, as the phrase is, from her morbeen opened to it by her own activity al consciousness, and are only indirectly of composition, is significant of so many the products of observations. They are things that the few words are, in the deeply studied and elaborately justified, whole Life, those I should have been but they are not seen in the irresponsimost sorry to lose. Of course they are ble plastic way. The world was, first not all George Eliot would have had to and foremost, for George Eliot, the say about Balzac, if some other occasion moral, the intellectual world ; the perthan a simple jotting in a diary had pre- sonal spectacle came after ; and lovingsented itself. Still, what even a jotting ly, humanly, as she regarded it, we conmay not have said after a first perusal stantly feel that she cares for the things of Le Père Goriot is eloquent; it illu- she finds in it only so far as they are minates the author's general attitude types. The philosophic door is always with regard to the novel, which, for her, open, on her stage, and we are aware was not primarily a picture of life, ca- that the somew.hat cooling draught of pable of deriving a high value from its ethical purpose draws across it. This form, but a moralized fable, the last constitutes half the beauty of her work ; word of a philosophy endeavoring to the constant reference to ideas may be teach by example.
an excellent source of one kind of realThis is a very noble and defensible ity — for, after all, the secret of seeing view, and one must speak respectfully of a thing well is not necessarily that you any theory of work which would produce see nothing else. Her preoccupation with such fruit as Romola and Middlemarch. the universe helped to make her charBut it testifies to that side of George acters strike you as also belonging to it; Eliot's nature which was weakest — the it raised the roof, widened the area, of absence of free æsthetic life (I venture her æsthetic structure. Nothing is finthis remark in the face of a passage er, in her genius, than the combination quoted from one of her letters in Mr. of her love of general truth and love of Cross's third volume); it gives the hand, the special case ; without this, indeed, as it were, to several other instances we should not have heard of her as a that may be found in the same pages. novelist, for the passion of the special “My function is that of the æsthetic, case is surely the basis of the storynot the doctrinal teacher ; the rousing teller's art. All the same, that little of the nobler emotions, which make sign of all that Balzac failed to suggest mankind desire the social right, not the to her showed at what perils the special prescribing of special measures, concern- case got itself considered. Such daning which the artistic mivd, however gers increased as her activity proceeded, strongly moved by social sympathy, is and many judges perhaps hold that in often pot the best judge.” That is the her ultimate work, in Middlemarch and passage referred to in my parenthetic Deronda (especially the latter), it ceased allusion, and it is a good general de- to be considered at all. Such critics scription of the manner in which George assure us that Gwendolen and GrandVOL. LV. - NO. 331.
court, Deronda and Myra, are not con- ture (to my sense, at least); by which I crete images, but disembodied types, do not mean that they belong to a very pale abstractions, signs and symbols of happy art. I cite them, on the contra
“great lesson.” I give up Deronda ry, as an evidence of artistic weakness ; and Myra to the objector, but Grand- they are a very good example of the court and Gwendolen seem to me to view in which a story must have marhave a kind of superior reality ; to be, in riages and rescues in the nick of time a high degree, what one demands of a as a matter of course. I must add, in figure in a novel, planted on their legs fairness to George Eliot, that the marand complete.
riage of the nun - like Dinah, which The truth is, perception and reflec- shocks the reader, who sees in it a base tion, at the outset, divided George Eli- concession, was a trouvaille of Lewes's, ot's great talent between them ; but, as and is a small sign of that same faulty time went on, circumstances led the lat- judgment in literary things which led ter to develop itself at the expense of him to throw his influence on the side the former — one of these circumstances of her writing verse
verse which is being apparently the influence of George all reflection, with direct, vivifying visHenry Lewes. Lewes was interested ion remarkably absent. in science, in cosmic problems; and It is a part of this same limitation of though his companion, thanks to the the pleasure she was capable of taking original bent of her versatile, powerful in the fact of representation for itself mind, needed no impulse from without that the various journals and notes of to turn herself to speculation, yet the her visits to the Continent are, though contagion of his studies pushed her fur- by no means destitute of the tempered ther than she would otherwise have gone enjoyment of foreign sights, which was in the direction of scientific observation, as near as she ever came to rapture, which is but another form of what I singularly vague in expression on the have called reflection. Her early novels subject of the general and particular are full of natural as distinguished from spectacle — the life and manners, the systematic observation, though even in works of art. She enumerates diligentthem it is less the dominant will, I ly all the pictures and statues she sees, think, than the love of the “moral,” the and the way she does so is a proof of reaction of thought in the face of the her active, earnest intellectual habits ; human comedy. They had observation but it is rarely apparent that they have, sufficient, at any rate, to make their for- as the phrase is, said much to her, or tune, and it
well be said that that is that what they have said is one of their enough for any novel. In Silas Mar- deeper secrets. She is capable of writner, in Adam Bede, the quality seems ing, after coming out of the great chapgilded by a sort of autumn haze, an af- el of San Lorenzo, in Florence, that ternoon light, of meditation, which mit- “ the world-famous statues of Michael igates the sharpness of portraiture. 1 Angelo on the tombs ... remained to doubt very much whether the author us as affected and exaggerated in the herself had a clear vision, for instance, original as in copies and casts.” That of the marriage of Dinah Morris to sentence startles one, on the part of the Adam, or of the rescue of Hetty from author of Romola, and that Mr. Cross the scaffold at the eleventh hour. The should have printed it is a commendable reason of this may be, indeed, that her proof of his impartiality. perception was a perception of nature It was in Romola, precisely, that the much more than of art, and that these equilibrium I spoke of just now was lost, particular incidents do not belong to na- and that reflection began to weigh dowe