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free-masonry among women, by which they understand at once those with whom they have any intellectual sympathy. A few words, and all reserve was gone. Come, sit by me on this sofa,' she said; and instantly, seated side by side, we were deep in conversation. It is in such intimacy one feels the magnetism of a large mind informed by a true woman's heart. ... Looking into that clear, calm eye, one sees a transparent nature, a soul of goodness and truth, an impression that is deepened as you listen to her soft and gentle tones. A low voice is said be an excellent thing in woman. It is a special charm of the most finely cultured English ladies. But never did a sweeter voice fascinate a listener.... But I should do her great injustice if I gave the impression that there was in her conversation any attempt at display. There is no wish to shine. . . . She does not engross the conversation, but is more eager to listen than to talk. ... You do not feel awed by her genius, but only quickened by it, as something that calls out all that is better and truer. While there is no attempt to impress you with her intellectual superiority, you naturally feel elevated into a higher sphere."
As a Writer. — The intellectual element predominates in her fiction. George Eliot came to her work as novelist at the age of thirty-seven; she had been occupied in studies of a philosophical and religious character; her mind had been disciplined by logic and metaphysics. No prominent novelist has had a more ponderous equipment in philosophy, and this may explain why the intellectual quality of her fiction is more impressive than the dramatic and artistic. She is more of a philosopher than an artist. Pedantry destroys art, and there are times when George Eliot's intellectuality verges upon pedantry. In the earlier novels we find a warmth and glow suggestive of the emotionalism of her youth, but as she ventures into other fields, failing in the highest type of imagination and without the gift of the “born storyteller," her philosophic mind asserts its supremacy and she offers us a theory of life instead of life itself.
Her high seriousness is another decided characteristic. In no other great novelist in English literature do we find such an emphasis placed upon the moral law; no one insists more vigorously upon the necessity of following the highest ideals. Not faith or love or hope but duty is the word that looms large in her consciousness. In her fiction the great contests are waged, not in
battlefield or tournament, but in the soul of her characters. She likes the word Nemesis. No preacher insists more vigorously than she upon the text, “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” This doctrine of retribution is carried so far that we miss the possibility of escape from the consequences of wrongdoing through the intervention of that “divine grace” which effects the miracle of regeneration. Both religion and modern science in the teaching of psychology, as well as the testimony of re-born men and women, declare that there is hope for the sinner.
The melancholy that pervades her work is another characteristic. It would not be fair
to classify George Eliot as a pessimist, but it cannot be denied that we arise from the reading of her fiction with a feeling of gloom. She shows us how every thought and desire of her characters is rich in consequences of woe. In her we find little of that joyousness of life, that cheerful acceptance of things as they are with the brave outlook into the future, such as we find in the great poets from Chaucer to Browning. The heart of Carlyle is as deeply torn as George Eliot's by the pathetic spectacle of the sons of men, forever sinning and forever suffering, but his vigorous masculinity is tonic in its faith in God and immortality - a faith that has more of cheer and refreshment than that furnished by George Eliot's abstract religion of humanity.
Yet in spite of these limitations George Eliot is one of the great novelists of English literature. Her marvellous insight into the psychology of action, her careful analysis of motives, her humor and democratic sympathy, her high seriousness, her learning and pathos, her magnanimity and womanliness assure her a high place in the list of those whose fiction has made a notable contribution to the criticism of life. That her place is not so high today as a generation ago does not necessarily detract from the quality of her achievement.
Some sayings from the writings of George Eliot:
Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, refrains from calling attention to the fact."
“It's easy finding reasons why other folks should be patient.”
“It's the will o' them above as a many things should be dark to us; but there's some things as I've never felt in the dark about, and they're mostly what comes i' the day's work.”
“I'm not denyin' the women are foolish: God Almighty made 'em to match the men.”
Some folks tongues are like the clocks as run on strikin', not to tell you the time o' the day, but because there's summat wrong i' their own inside."
“I've never any pity for conceited people, because I think they carry their comfort about with them.”
“The power of being quiet carries a man well through moments of embarrassment."
"A man's own safety is a god that sometimes makes very grim demands."
A philosopher is the last sort of animal I should choose to resemble. I find it enough to live, without spinning lies to account for life.”
Comprehensive talkers are apt to be tiresome when we are athirst for information, but to be quite fair we must admit that superior reticence is a good deal due to the lack of matter. Speech is often barren, but silence also does not necessarily brood over a full nest. Your still fowl, blinking at you without remark, may all the while be sitting on an addled nest-egg; and when it takes to cackling, will have nothing to announce but that addled delusion.”
" Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous.”
“ The emptiness of all things, from politics to pastimes, is never so striking to us as when we fail in them."
“No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence."
“Our deeds determine us as much as we determine our deeds."
"I couldn't live in peace if I put the shadow of a wilful sin between myself and God.”
“More helpful than all wisdom is one draught of simple human pity that will not forsake us."
George Eliot's Life. Cross.
Life of George Eliot. BROWNING.
George Eliot and George Sand. PONSONBY. 19th Cent., vol. 50, p. 607.
Æolian attachment.” He certainly is one of the most massive, impressive, and vehement literary forces of the prolific age in which he lived. In his sharp denunciation of the sham and hypocrisy of his times, he stands out like a fiery prophet of Israel hurling anathemas upon a sinning and perverse generation; but along with this vehemence there is a strain of pathos and sympathy as gentle as the music of the Æolian harp. Living from 1795 to 1881 he was contemporary with great men and epoch-making events. When Carlyle was born Burns had but seven months remaining of an unfortunate life; Shelley was three years old; Byron was seven; Scott and Wordsworth were unknown young men of twenty-four and twenty-five. France had passed through a bloody revolution and was now beginning her brilliant but costly career under the young Corsican. Carlyle was twenty when the first Napoleon met defeat at Waterloo; seventy-five when the third Napoleon lost at Sedan. During the eighty-six years of his long life a great part of the economic, political, and scientific life of modern Europe underwent transformation. Science especially made immense progress; with a touch as thaumaturgic as Prospero's wand she bade the forces of Nature do the will of men. But that an increase of material comforts does not mean an increase of human worth is one of the truths insisted on again and again by Carlyle. In his rage against the sordid materialism of his age he may have been unjust to men like Darwin, for it was easy for Carlyle to be blinded by his prejudices; in his adoration of Great Men as the inspired leaders of humanity he was unjust to the advocates of a wide Democracy, but these are but limitations that stamp his humanity; above these limitations one feels the burning hatred of