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novel would not be poor, yet it would likely be wanting in dramatic presentation. He used to say, “You have wit, description, and philosophy — these go a good way towards the production of a novel. It is worth while for you to try the experiment."
" When she had finished the first part of Amos Barton, Mr. Lewes was no longer skeptical about her ability to write dialogue. The next question was whether she had the power of pathos. This was to be determined by the way in which the death of Milly was to be treated. 'One night G. went to town on purpose to leave me a quiet evening for writing it. I wrote the chapter from the news brought by the shepherd to Mrs. Hackit, to the moment when Amos is dragged from the bed-side, and I read it to G. when he came home. We both cried over it, and then he came to me and kissed me, saying, “I think your pathos is better than
The story, for which she was paid fifty guineas, appeared in the January number of Blackwood. Amos Barton was followed by Mr. Gilfil's Love Story and Janet's Repentance. The three stories were then published in a book under the title Scenes from Clerical Life. As these stories and the later Adam Bede were full of local color, there was great curiosity in certain villages in Warwickshire as to who was the mysterious and gifted George Eliot. Suspicion fastened upon a Mr. Liggins, who had some local reputation as a mediocre poet. Liggins was not unwilling to pose as the writer of clever fiction. When the public was about to subscribe some money to assist the pseudo-literary genius, George Eliot was forced to reveal her identity.
Adam Bede.- Her next step is indicated by a note in her journal, with the date of October 22, 1857, “Began my new novel, Adam Bede.” It was published in a three-volume edition
a in 1858. It was immediately successful, seven editions appearing during the first year. Her remuneration was such as to place the family in what we usually call "comfortable circumstances.” The original agreement with her publisher was that she should receive £800 for a four years' copyright. Blackwood generously gave her back the copyright and an additional £800, and offered her £2,000 for 4,000 copies of her next novel. In this connection
it may be recorded that later, for the appearance of Romola in the Cornhill Magazine, George Smith offered her £10,000, but £7,000 was accepted; and for Middlemarch, which did not appear in magazine form, she received a still larger sum.
Almost as gratifying as the financial returns from her first novel was the praise from the leading men of letters. Herbert Spencer, Froude, Dickens, and Charles Reade were among the most enthusiastic admirers, the last named declaring that “ Adam Bede was the finest thing since Shakspere."
There is a freshness of life about Adam Bede that has made it one of the most popular of her novels; in the opinion of many.. critics of today it is regarded as her masterpiece. The contrast between it and Romola is the contrast between God's out-of-doors with the odor of the the fresh earth and a library rich in learned tomes. In Adam Bede we have the experiences and observa tions of a writer who without effort reproduces the life with which she has been intimately acquainted; in Romola we have scenes and characters of an alien country brought before us by a gifted woman who has labored long and patiently among books. Her picture of rural life in England convinces by its naturalness; her panorama of the rich, varied Florentine life in the time of Savonarola astonishes us by its erudition.
The characters in Adam Bede are sharply individualized. Dinah Morris, the lovable Methodist preacher, is drawn with such a sympathetic touch that it is hard to believe that George Eliot had lost all faith in the simple religion of her childhood; Adam himself is an admirable portrait of a sturdy, manly, noble workingman; but the masterpiece is the inimitable Mrs. Poyser, a character. Shaksperean in its individuality. She is an “irresistible humorist,” worthy to be enrolled among the immortals along with Sam Weller and Falstaff. Against Dinah the criti
cism has been made that, while she is drawn lovingly and skillfully, she is insipid because she lacks that touch of frailty which makes the whole world kin, but this charge can never be made. against. Mrs. Poyser, who surely is not too good for human nature's daily food. A critic writes:
“Her dairy is the center of the whole microcosm. ... She represents the very spirit of the place; and her influence is the secret of the harmony of the little world of squire and parson and parish clerk and schoolmaster and blacksmith and carpenter and shepherd and carter. Each of these types is admirably sketched in turn, but the pivot of the whole is the farm in which Mrs. Poyser displays her conversational powers."
Artistically considered, the story is defective, as is true of her other novels, with the exception of Silas Marner; there is a lack of unity. The story might have been called Dinah Morris, or Hetty Sorrel, as well as Adam Bede. After our interest has reached its climax in the plight of poor, frail Hetty, who goes to Botany Bay instead of to the gallows, we are suddenly called upon to take up a love story centering in Adam and Dinah, and the book ends with the marriage of Adam and Dinah. Mr. Hardy's treatment of Tess in Tess of the D'Urbervilles is a contrast both as to unity of effect and as to the grim willingness to permit the wheels of the gods to grind out their inexorable doom regardless of the feelings of the “gentle reader."
" One of the charms of this novel is its picture of rural England with its country people and their simple Christian virtues. There is less of that somber melancholy that steeps some of her later writings. We learn that through the baptism of sorrow and suffering comes the purification from selfishness. The following passage illustrates the naturalness with which she passes from description into the deeper philosophic reflections of a mind that dwelt much on the mystery of good and evil. It is taken from the chapter on "The Hidden Dread" in Adam Bede:
“ Bright February days have a stronger charm of hope about them than any other days of the year. One likes to pause in the mild rays of the sun, and look over the gates at the patient plough-horses turning at the end of the furrow, and think that the beautiful year is all before one. The birds seem to feel just the same; their notes are as clear as the clear air. There are no leaves on the trees and hedgerows, but how green all the grassy fields are! and the dark purplish brown of the ploughed earth and the bare branches is beautiful too. What a glad world this looks like, as one drives or rides along the valleys and over the hills! I have often thought so when, in foreign countries, where the fields and woods have looked to me like our English Loamshire – the rich land tịlled with just
as much care, the woods rolling down the gentle slopes to the green meadows — I have come on something by the roadside which has reminded me that I am not in Loamshire: an image of a great agony - the agony of the Cross. It has stood, perhaps, by the clustering apple-blossoms, or in the broad sunshine by the cornfield, or at a turning by the wood where a clear brook was gurgling below; and surely, if there came a traveller to this world who knew nothing of the story of man's life upon it, this agony would seem to him strangely out of place in the midst of this joyous nature. He would not know that, hidden behind the apple-blossoms, or among the golden corn, or under the shrouding boughs of the wood, there might be a human heart beating heavily with anguish - perhaps a young blooming girl, not knowing where to turn for refuge from swiftadvancing shame; understanding no more of this life of ours than a foolish lost lamb wandering farther and farther in the nightfall of the lonely heath, yet tasting the bitterest of life's bitterness.
“Such things are sometimes hidden among the sunny fields and behind the blossoming orchards; and the sound of the gurgling brook, if you came close to one spot behind a small bush, would be mingled for your ear with a despairing human sob. No wonder man's religion has much sorrow in it; no wonder he needs a suffering God.”
The Mill on the Floss. — This novel, which in popularity rivaled Adam Bede, appeared in April, 1860. The manuscript bore this inscription:
“To my beloved husband, George Henry Lewes, I give this MS. of my third book, written in the sixth year of our life together, at Holly Lodge, South Field, Wandsworth, and finished 21st March, 1860.”
When she had finished the task she felt sad that she no longer could live with her people on the banks of the Floss.
In one respect The Mill on the Floss is the most interesting of all her books, for it is the spiritual autobiography of George Eliot herself. Maggie Tulliver is George Eliot, not in the sense that we have a literal and exact transcript of the life of the author in the doings and sayings of Maggie, but in the broader sense in which the soul of the writer is imaged in the longings and aspirations of the heroine. It is a commonplace that George Eliot is a psychological novelist, a patient seeker after the motives that inspire action, a discriminating analyst with the added gift of imagination. In The Mill, as she was wont to call this novel, we have an intimate revelation of a young girl's heart. Here is the story of an impulsive, imaginative child living with commonplace people in commonplace surroundings; a child eager to learn, quick to love, and ready to invest the trivial with the witchery of romance. In Maggie snatching at the crumbs of learning and reveling in the religious mysticism of à Kempis, it is not hard to see the youthful Mary Ann.
It is generally said that George Eliot was stronger in the delineation of her feminine characters than in her portrayal of the masculine. Mr. Stephen thinks she was too thoroughly feminine to be at home in the psychology of the male animal. Her women are drawn with an unerring touch, whether she is dealing with the vigorous Mrs. Poyser, the vain Hetty, the religious Dinah, or the warm-hearted Maggie. Her Seths and Toms and Stephens are not altogether convincing.
In The Mill we have again that defectiveness in plot that we noted in Adam Bede. The first two volumes (the story appeared in three) deal leisurely and sympathetically with the development of a poetic soul amid prosaic conditions. George Eliot herself felt that her enjoyment of this part of the story led her to linger longer than she should; the third volume rushes to a catastrophe that is not closely related to the events in the first part of the story. Stephen Guest, an insipid young man of the coxcomb species, is suddenly introduced, that Maggie may fall in love with him and go to her downfall. That young girls fall in love with insipid and dandified youth is not to be disputed; but that a girl like Maggie should fall in love with Stephen does not seem probable. The objection is not that the author has shown us the degradation of a high-strung nature, for it is unfortunately true that a lamentable ending to high aspirations is not uncommon, but that this refined and sensitive girl should be fascinated by uninteresting, prosaic, comfortable Stephen Guest is incomprehensible — at least to a man. It is not strange that a prominent novelist, Henry James, has said, “The chief defect - indeed the only serious one. -in The Mill on the Floss is .its conclusion."
Silas Marner.- Silas Marner, begun in November, 1860, ,