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George Eliot; A Critical Study of Her Life, Writings & Philosophy by George Willis Cooke

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The publication of a new edition of this work permits me to say that the
essay on "The Lady Novelists," quoted in the seventh chapter, was written
by George Henry Lewes. Its opinions, however, are substantially those of
George Eliot, and they will be found in harmony with her own words.
Confessing to the error, I yet venture to let the quotations, and the
comments on them, stand as at first made. The three poems mentioned on page
75, were among the latest of the productions of George Eliot's pen.

It has been suggested to me that I have not done perfect justice to George
Henry Lewes, especially in what I say of his books on the Spanish drama and
the life of Goethe. I have carefully reconsidered what I wrote of him, and
find no occasion for any change of judgment, though two or three words
might properly give place to others of a more appreciative meaning.

My book has met with much greater praise than I could have expected. Its
errors, I have no doubt, are quite numerous enough; and yet I venture to
think the main thought of the book is correct.

MARCH, 1884.


























The poet and the novelist write largely out of personal experience, and
must give expression to the effects of their own history. What they have
seen and felt, gives shape and tone to what they write; that which is
nearest their own hearts is poured forth in their books. To ignore these
influences is to overlook a better part of what they write, and is often to
lose the explanation of many features of their work. Shakspere is one of
those who are of no time or place, whose words gain no added meaning in
view of what he was and how he lived; but it is not so with a great number
of the best and most inspiring writers. The era in which they lived, the
intellectual surroundings afforded them by their country and generation,
the subtle phases of sentiment and aspiration of their immediate time and
place, are all essential to a true appreciation of their books. It is so of
Goethe, Byron, Shelley, Hugo, Wordsworth, Emerson, and how many more!

As we must know the eighteenth century in its social spirit, literary
tendencies, revolutionary aims, romantic aspirations, philosophy and
science, to know Goethe, so must we know the nineteenth century in its
scientific attainments, agnostic philosophy, realistic spirit and
humanitarian aims, in order to know George Eliot. She is a product of her
time, as Lessing, Goethe, Wordsworth and Byron were of theirs; a voice to
utter its purpose and meaning, as well as a trumpet-call to lead it on. As
Goethe came after Lessing, Herder and Kant, so George Eliot came after
Comte, Mill and Spencer. Her books are to be read in the light of their
speculations, and she embodied in literary forms what they uttered as
science or philosophy.

Not only is a poet's mind affected by the tone of thought about him, but
his personal experiences and surroundings are likely to have a large
influence on what he writes. Scott was deeply affected by the romantic
atmosphere of his native land. Her birthplace and youthful surroundings had
a like effect on George Eliot. The Midland home, the plain village life,
the humble, toiling country folk, shaped for her the scenes and characters
about which she was to write. Some knowledge of her early home and the
influences amidst which her mind was formed, help largely to an
appreciation of her books and the views of life which she presents in them.

The Midland region of England she has pictured with something of that
accuracy with which Scott described the Border. It is a country of historic
memories. Near by her childhood home was the forest of Arden and Astly
Castle, the home of Sir John Grey, whose widow, Elizabeth Woodville, became
the queen of Edward IV. This was also one of the homes of Henry Grey, Duke
of Suffolk, who was found in a hollow tree near by after his rebellion; and
the home, likewise, of his daughter, Lady Jane Grey. In another direction
was Bosworth Field; and within twenty miles was Stratford-upon-Avon. The
ancient city of Coventry was not far distant. It was not these historic
regions which attracted her, however, so much as the pleasant country, the
common people, the quiet villages. With observant eyes she saw the world
about her as it was and she entered into the heart of its life, and has
painted it for us in a most sympathetic, appreciative spirit. The simple,
homely, unromantic life of middle England she has made immortal with her
wit, her satire, her fine description, and her keen love of all that is
human. She herself recognized the importance of her early surroundings. In
one of her letters she used these words:

It is interesting, I think, to know whether a writer was born in a
central or border district--a condition which always has a strongly
determining influence. I was born in Warwickshire, but certain family
traditions connected with more northerly districts made these districts
a region of poetry to me in my early childhood. I was brought up in the
Church of England, and have never joined any other religious society,
but I have had close acquaintance with many Dissenters of various
sects, from Calvinistic Anabaptists to Unitarians.

The influence of the surroundings of childhood upon character she has more
than once touched upon in her books. In the second chapter of _Theophrastus
Such_, she says,--

I cherish my childish loves--the memory of that warm little nest where
my affections were fledged.

In the same essay she says,--

Our Midland plains have never lost their familiar expression and
conservative spirit for me.

In _Daniel Deronda_ she most tenderly expresses the same deep conviction
concerning the soul's need of anchorage in some familiar and inspiring
scene, with which the memories of childhood may be delightfully associated.
Her own fond recollections lent force to whatever philosophical
significance such a theory may have had for her.

A human life should be well rooted in some spot of a native land, where
it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for
the labors men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it,
for whatever will give that home a familiar, unmistakable difference
amidst the future widening of knowledge; a spot where the definiteness
of early knowledge may be inwrought with affection, and kindly
acquaintance with all neighbors, even to the dogs and monkeys, may
spread, not by sentimental effort and reflection, but as a sweet habit
of the blood.

Mary Ann Evans was born at South Farm, a mile from Griff, in the parish of
Colton, Warwickshire, England, November 22, 1819. In after years she
adopted the abbreviated form of her name, and was known by her friends as
Marian. When she was six months old the family moved to Griff House, which
was situated half-way between Bedworth, a mining village, and the
manufacturing town of Nuneaton. In approaching Griff from Nuneaton, a
little valley, known as Griff Hollows, is passed, much resembling the "Red
Deeps" of _The Mill on the Floss_. On the right, a little beyond, is Griff
House, a comfortable and substantial dwelling surrounded by pleasant
gardens and lawns.

Robert Evans, her father, was born at Ellaston, Staffordshire, of a
substantial family of mechanics and craftsmen. He was of massive build,
tall, wide-shouldered and strong, and his features were of a marked,
emphatic cast. He began life as a master carpenter, then became a forester,
and finally a land agent. He was induced to settle in Warwickshire by Sir
Roger Newdigate, his principal employer, and for the remainder of his life
he had charge of five large estates in the neighborhood. In this employment
he was successful, being respected and trusted to the fullest extent by his
employers, his name becoming a synonym for trustworthiness. Marian many
times sketched the main traits of her father's character, as in the love of
perfect work in "Stradivarius." He had Adam Bede's stalwart figure and
robust manhood. Caleb Garth, in _Middlemarch_, is in many ways a fine
portrait of him as to the nature of his employment, his delight in the
soil, and his honest, rugged character.

Caleb was wont to say that "it's a fine thing to have the chance of getting
a bit of the country into good fettle, and putting men into the right way
with their farming, and getting a bit of good contriving and solid building
done--that those who are living and those who come after will be the better
for. I'd sooner have it than a fortune. I hold it the most honorable work
that is." Robert Evans, like Caleb Garth, "while faithfully serving his
employers enjoyed great popularity among their tenants. He was gentle but
of indomitable firmness; and while stern to the idle and unthrifty, he did
not press heavily on those who might be behindhand with their rent, owing
to ill luck or misfortune, on quarter days."

While still living in Staffordshire, Robert Evans lost his first wife, by
whom he had a son and a daughter. His second wife, the mother of Marian,
was a Miss Pearson, a gentle, loving woman, and a notable housewife. She is
described in the Mrs. Hackit of "Amos Barton," whose industry, sharp
tongue, epigrammatic speech and marked character were taken from life.
Something of Mrs. Poyser also entered into her nature. She had three
children, Christiana, Isaac and Mary Ann. The house at Griff was situated
in a rich landscape, and was a large, commodious farm-house of red brick,
ivy-covered, and of two stories' height. At the back was a large garden,
and a farm-yard with barns and sheds.

In the series of sonnets entitled "Brother and Sister," Marian has given
some account of her early life. She had the attachment there described for
her brother Isaac, and followed him about with the same persistence and
affection. The whole of that poem is autobiographical. The account of the
mother gives a delightful glimpse into Marian's child-life:

Our mother bade us keep the trodden ways,
Stroked down my tippet, set my brother's frill,
Then with the benediction of her gaze
Clung to us lessening, and pursued us still
Across the homestead to the rookery elms,
Whose tall old trunks had each a grassy mound,
So rich for us, we counted them as realms
With varied products.

The early life of Marian Evans has, in many features of it, been very fully
described in the story of Maggie Tulliver. How far her own life is that of
Maggie may be seen by comparing the earlier chapters in _The Mill on the
Floss_ with the "Brother and Sister." The incident described in the poem,
of her brother leaving her in charge of the fishing-rod, is repeated in all
its main features in the experiences of Maggie. In the poem she describes
an encounter with a gipsy, which again recalls Maggie's encounter with some
persons of that race. The whole account of her childhood life with her
brother, her trust in him, their delight in the common pleasures of
childhood, and the impression made on her by the beauties of nature,
reappears in striking similarity in the description of the child-life of
Maggie and Tom. These elements of her early experience and observation of
life have been well described by one who knew her personally. This person
says that "Maggie Tulliver's childhood is clearly full of the most accurate
personal recollections."

Marian Evans very early became an enthusiastic reader of the best books. In
an almanac she found a portion of one of the essays of Charles Lamb, and
remembered reading it with great delight. In her seventh year a copy
of _Waverley_ was loaned to her older sister. She became herself intensely
fascinated by it, and when it was returned before she had completed it she
was thrown into much distress. The story so possessed her that she began to
complete it in writing, according to her own conception. When this was
discovered, the book was again secured for her perusal. This incident she
has described in a sonnet, which appears as the motto to the fifty-seventh
chapter of _Middlemarch_.

They numbered scarce eight summers when a name
Rose on their souls and stirred such motions there
As thrill the buds and shape their hidden frame
At penetration of the quickening air:
His name who told of loyal Evan Dhu,
Of quaint Bradwardine, and Vich Ian Vor,
Making the little world their childhood knew
Large with a land of mountain, lake and scaur,

And larger yet with wonder, love, belief,
Toward Walter Scott, who living far away
Sent them this wealth of joy and noble grief.
The book and they must part, but day by day,
In lines that thwart like portly spiders ran,
They wrote the tale, from Tully Veolan.

Not only was she a great reader, but she was also a diligent and even a
precocious student, learning easily and rapidly whatever she undertook to
acquire in the way of knowledge.

She was first sent, with her brother Isaac, to a free school in the village
of Griff. Among her mates was William Jacques, the original of Bob Jakins
in _The Mill on the Floss_. When seven years old she went to a girls'
school at Nuneaton. Her schoolmates describe her as being then a "quiet,
reserved girl, with strongly lined, almost masculine features, and a
profusion of light hair worn in curls round her head." The abundance of
her curling hair caused her much trouble, and she once cut it off, as
Maggie Tulliver did, because it would not "lie straight." "One of her
school-fellows," we are told, "recalls that the first time she sat down to
the piano she astonished her companions by the knowledge of music she had
already acquired. She mastered her lessons with an ease which excited
wonder. She read with avidity. She joined very rarely in the sports of her
companions, and her diffidence and shrinking sensibility prevented her from
forming any close friendship among her school-fellows. When she stood up in
the class, her features, heavy in repose, were lighted by eager excitement,
which found further vent in nervous movements of her hands. At this school
Marian was well taught in English, with drawing, music, and some little

Leaving this school at the age of twelve, she went to that of the Misses
Franklin in Coventry, a large town a few miles distant. To the careful
training received there she was much indebted, and in after years often
spoke of it with the heartiest appreciation. One of her friends, Edith
Simcox, has given an account of this school and of Marian's studies
there. "Almost on the outskirts of the old town of Coventry, towards the
railway station, the house may still be seen, itself an old-fashioned
five-windowed, Queen Anne sort of dwelling, with a shell-shaped cornice
over the door, with an old timbered cottage facing it, and near adjoining
a quaint brick and timber building, with an oriel window thrown out upon
oak pillars. Between forty and fifty years ago, Methodist ladies kept the
school, and the name of 'little mamma,' given by her school-fellows, is
a proof that already something was to be seen of the maternal air which
characterized her in later years, and perhaps more especially in
intercourse with her own sex. Prayer meetings were in vogue among the
girls, following the example of their elders; and while taking, no doubt,
a leading part in them, she used to suffer much self-reproach about her
coldness and inability to be carried away with the same enthusiasm as
others. At the same time, nothing was farther from her nature than any
sceptical inclination, and she used to pounce with avidity upon any
approach to argumentative theology within her reach, carrying Paley's
_Evidences_ up to her bedroom, and devouring it as she lay upon the floor

During the three years Marian attended this school she held aloof from the
other pupils, was grave and womanly in her deportment. She acquired Miss
Rebecca Franklin's slow and precise method of speaking, and to her diligent
training owed her life-long habit of giving a finished completeness to all
her sentences. It seems that her imagination was alive at this time, and
being slowly cultivated. She was in the habit of scribbling verses in her
books and elsewhere.

A fellow-pupil during the time she was a member of this boarding-school has
given these reminiscences of Marian's life there: "She learned everything
with ease," says this person, "but was passionately devoted to music, and
became thoroughly accomplished as a pianist. Her masters always brought the
most difficult solos for her to play in public, and everywhere said she
might make a performer equal to any then upon the concert stage. She was
keenly susceptible to what she thought her lack of personal beauty,
frequently saying that she was not pleased with a single feature of her
face or figure. She was not especially noted as a writer, but so uncommon
was her intellectual power that we all thought her capable of any effort;
and so great was the charm of her conversation, that there was continual
strife among the girls as to which of them should walk with her. The
teachers had to settle it by making it depend upon alphabetical

Leaving the school in Coventry at the age of fifteen, Marian continued her
studies at home. The year following, her mother died; and this event, as
she afterwards said, first made her acquainted with "the unspeakable grief
of a last parting." Soon after, her older sister and her brother were
married and left home. She alone remained with her father, and was for
several years his housekeeper. "He offered to get a housekeeper," says Miss
Blind, "as not the house only, but farm matters had to be looked after, and
he was always tenderly considerate of 'the little wench,' as he called her.
But his daughter preferred taking the whole management of the place into
her own hands, and she was as conscientious and diligent in the discharge
of her domestic duties as in the prosecution of the studies she carried on
at the same time." Her experiences at this period have been made use of in
more than one of her characters. The dairy scenes in _Adam Bede_ are so
perfectly realistic because she was familiar with all the processes of
butter and cheese making.

In 1841 her father gave up his business to his son and moved to Foleshill,
one mile from Coventry. A pleasant house and surroundings made the new
home, and her habits of thought and life became more exact and fastidious.
The frequent absence of her father gave her much time for reading, which
she eagerly improved. Books were more accessible, though her own library
was a good one.

She zealously began and carried on a systematic course of studies, such as
gave her the most thorough results of culture. She took up Latin and Greek
with the head master of the Coventry grammar-school, and became familiar
with the classic literatures. French, German and Italian were read in all
the master-pieces of those languages. The Old Testament was also studied
in the original; at the same time she became a proficient player on the
piano, and obtained a thorough knowledge of music. During several years of
quiet and continuous study she laid the foundations of that accurate and
wide-reaching knowledge which was so notable a feature of her life and
work. It was a careful, systematic knowledge she acquired, such as entitled
her to rank as an educated person in the fullest sense. Her painstaking
thoroughness, and her energetic application, were as remarkable at this
time as in later years. Her knowledge was mainly self-acquired, but it was
in no sense superficial. It is difficult to see in what way it could have
been improved, even if the universities had been open to her.

Her life and her studies at Coventry have been well described by one who
knew her. We are told that "in this somewhat more populous neighborhood she
soon became known as a person of more than common interest, and, moreover,
as a most devoted daughter and the excellent manager of her father's
household. There was perhaps little at first sight which betokened genius
in that quiet gentle-mannered girl, with pale grave face, naturally pensive
in expression: and ordinary acquaintances regarded her chiefly for the
kindness and sympathy that were never wanting to any. But to those with
whom, by some unspoken affinity, her soul could expand, her expressive gray
eyes would light up with intense meaning and humor, and the low, sweet
voice, with its peculiar mannerism of speaking--which by the way wore off
in after years--would give utterance to thoughts so rich and singular that
converse with Miss Evans, even in those days, made speech with other people
seem flat and common. Miss Evans was an exemplification of the fact that a
great genius is not an exceptional, capricious product of nature, but a
thing of slow, laborious growth, the fruit of industry and the general
culture of the faculties. At Foleshill, with ample means and leisure, her
real education began. She acquired French, German and Italian from Signor
Brezzi. An acquaintance with Hebrew was the result of her own unaided
efforts. From Mr. Simms, the veteran organist of St. Michaels, Coventry,
she received lessons in music, although it was her own fine musical sense
which made her in after years an admirable pianoforte player. Nothing once
learned escaped her marvellous memory; and her keen sympathy with all human
feelings, in which lay the secret of her power of discriminating character,
caused a constant fund of knowledge to flow into her treasure-house from
the social world about her."

Marian Evans early showed an unusual interest in religious subjects. Her
parents belonged to the Established Church, while other members of the
family were zealous Methodists. Religion was a subject which occupied much
of their attention, and several of them were engaged in one way and another
in its inculcation. Marian was an attentive listener to the sermons
preached in the parish church, and at the age of twelve was teaching in a
Sunday school held in a cottage near her father's house. Up to the age of
eighteen she was a most devoted believer in Christianity, and her zeal was
so great that Evangelicalism came to represent her mode of thought and
feeling. She was a somewhat rigid Calvinist and full of pious enthusiasm.
After her removal to Coventry, where her reading was of a wider range and
her circle of friends increased, doubts gradually sprang up in her mind. In
a letter written to Miss Sara Hennell she gave a brief account of her
religious experiences at this period. In it she described an aunt, Mrs.
Elizabeth Evans, who was a Methodist preacher, and the original of Dinah
Morris in _Adam Bede_.

There was hardly any intercourse between my father's family, resident
in Derbyshire and Staffordshire, and our family--few and far-between
visits of (to my childish feeling) strange uncles and aunts and cousins
from my father's far-off native country, and once a journey of my own,
as a little child, with my father and mother, to see my uncle William
(a rich builder) in Staffordshire--but _not_ my uncle and aunt Samuel,
so far as I can recall the dim outline of things--are what I remember
of northerly relatives in my childhood.

But when I was seventeen or more--after my sister was married and I was
mistress of the house--my father took a journey into Derbyshire, in
which, visiting my uncle and aunt Samuel, who were very poor, and lived
in a humble cottage at Wirksworth, he found my aunt in a very delicate
state of health after a serious illness, and, to do her bodily good, he
persuaded her to return with him, telling her that _I_ should be very,
very happy to have her with me for a few weeks. I was then strongly
under the influence of Evangelical belief, and earnestly endeavoring to
shape this anomalous English-Christian life of ours into some
consistency with the spirit and simple verbal tenor of the New
Testament. I _was_ delighted to see my aunt. Although I had only heard
her spoken of as a strange person, given to a fanatical vehemence of
exhortation in private as well as public, I believed that I should find
sympathy between us. She was then an old woman--about sixty--and, I
believe, had for a good many years given up preaching. A tiny little
woman, with bright, small, dark eyes, and hair that had been black, I
imagine, but was now gray--a pretty woman in her youth, but of a
totally different physical type from Dinah. The difference--as you will
believe--was not _simply_ physical; no difference is. She was a woman
of strong natural excitability, which I know, from the description I
have heard my father and half-sister give, prevented her from the
exercise of discretion under the promptings of her zeal. But this
vehemence was now subdued by age and sickness; she was very gentle and
quiet in her manners--very loving--and (what she must have been from
the very first) a truly religious soul, in whom the love of God and the
love of man were fused together. There was nothing highly distinctive
in her religious conversation. I had had much intercourse with pious
Dissenters before; the only freshness I found, in our talk, came from
the fact that she had been the greater part of her life a Wesleyan, and
though _she left the society when women were no longer allowed to
preach_, and joined the New Wesleyans, she retained the character of
thought that belongs to the genuine old Wesleyan. I had never talked
with a Wesleyan before, and we used to have little debates about
predestination, for I was then a strong Calvinist. Here her superiority
came out, and I remember now, with loving admiration, one thing which
at the time I disapproved; it was not strictly a consequence of her
Arminian belief, and at first sight might seem opposed to it, yet it
came from the spirit of love which clings to the bad logic of
Arminianism. When my uncle came to fetch her, after she had been with
us a fortnight or three weeks, he was speaking of a deceased minister,
once greatly respected, who from the action of trouble upon him had
taken to small tippling, though otherwise not culpable. "But I hope the
good man's in heaven, for all that," said my uncle. "Oh, yes," said my
aunt, with a deep inward groan of joyful conviction, "Mr. A's in
heaven--that's sure." This was at the time an offence to my stern,
ascetic, hard views--how beautiful it is to me now!

One who has been permitted to read the letters of Marian Evans written to
this aunt, has given the following account of them, which throws much light
on her religious attitude at this period: "Most of the epistles are
addressed to my 'dear uncle and aunt,' and all reveal George Eliot's great
talents. The style is elegant and graceful, and the letters abound in
beautiful metaphor; but their most striking characteristic is the religious
tinge that pervades them all. Nearly every line denotes that George Eliot
was an earnest biblical student, and that she was, especially in the years
1839 and 1840, very anxious about her spiritual condition. In one of these
letters, written from Griff to Elizabeth Evans, in 1839, she says she is
living in a dry and thirsty land, and that she is looking forward with
pleasure to a visit to Wirksworth, and likens her aunt's companionship and
counsel to a spring of pure water, acceptable to her as is the well dug for
the traveller in the desert. That the most affectionate and loving
relationship existed between the eminent author and Mrs. Elizabeth Evans,
is apparent from this correspondence. The inmost secrets of George Eliot's
heart are laid bare in these letters to the famous Methodist preacher, who
was at that time her dearest friend. She is ever asking for advice and
spiritual guidance, and confesses her faults with a candor that is rendered
additionally attractive by reason of the polished language in which it is
clothed. When quite a girl, George Eliot was known as pious and clever; and
in the letters she wrote in 1839, when she was twenty years old, the
cleverness has grown and expanded, although she is not so sure about her
piety. She says that 'unstable as water thou shalt not excel,' seems to be
a description of her character, instead of the progress from strength to
strength that should be experienced by those who wish to stand in the
presence of God. In another letter she admits that she cannot give a good
account of her spiritual state, says that she has been surrounded by
worldly persons, and that love of human praise is one of her great
stumbling-blocks. But in a letter written in 1840 the uncertainty has gone
from her mind, and she writes that she has resolved in the strength of the
Lord to serve him evermore. In a later communication, however, she does not
appear so confident, and admits that she is obliged to strive against the
ambition that fills her heart, and that her fondness of worldly praise is a
great bar and hindrance to spiritual advancement. Still she thinks it is no
use sitting inactive with folded hands; and believing that the love of God
is the only thing to give real satisfaction to human beings, she hopes,
with his help, to obtain it. One of the letters is chiefly devoted to the
concern felt by Marian Evans at Elizabeth Evans' illness; and another,
written at Foleshill, betrays some humor amid the trouble that afflicts her
about her own future. Their outward circumstances, she writes, are all she
can desire; but she is not so certain about her spiritual state, although
she feels that it is the grace of God alone that can give the greatest
satisfaction. Then she goes on to speak of the preacher at Foleshill, with
whom she is not greatly pleased: 'We get the truth, but it is not
recommended by the mode of its delivery,' is how she writes of this divine;
yet she is charitable withal, and removes the sting by adding that more
good may sometimes be obtained from humble instruments than from the
highest privileges, and that she must examine her own heart rather than
speak unkindly of the preacher. Up to this period it is evident that Marian
Evans' views upon religion were orthodox, and that her life was passed in
ceaseless striving for the 'peace that passeth understanding;' but in 1843
a letter was written to Elizabeth Evans by a relative in Griff, in which
Marian Evans is spoken of, and the change in her religious opinions
indicated. She writes that they are in great pain about Mary Ann; but the
last portion of the letter, dealing more fully with the subject, has
unfortunately got lost or destroyed. The close association of George Eliot
with Derbyshire, as well as her love for the quaint village of Wirksworth,
and its upright, honest, God-fearing people, breaks forth in more than one
of these communications."

Partly as the result of her studies and partly as the result of contact
with other minds, Marian began to grow sceptical about the religious
beliefs she had entertained. This took place probably during her
twenty-third year, but the growth of the new ideas was slow at first. As
one of her friends has suggested, it was her eagerness for positive
knowledge which made her an unbeliever. She had no love of mere doubt, no
desire to disagree with accepted doctrines, but she was not content unless
she could get at the facts and reach what was just and reasonable. "It is
seldom," says this person, "that a mind of so much power is so free from
the impulse to dissent, and that not from too ready credulousness, but
rather because the consideration of doubtful points was habitually crowded
out, one may say, by the more ready and delighted acceptance of whatever
accredited facts and doctrines might be received unquestioningly. We can
imagine George Eliot in youth, burning to master all the wisdom and
learning of the world; we cannot imagine her failing to acquire any kind of
knowledge on the pretext that her teacher was in error about something else
than the matter in hand; and it is undoubtedly to this natural preference
for the positive side of things that we are indebted for the singular
breadth and completeness of her knowledge and culture. A mind like hers
must have preyed disastrously upon itself during the years of comparative
solitude in which she lived at Foleshill, had it not been for that
inexhaustible source of delight in every kind of intellectual acquisition.
Languages, music, literature, science and philosophy interested her alike;
it was early in this period that in the course of a walk with a friend she
paused and clasped her hands with a wild aspiration that she might live 'to
reconcile the philosophy of Locke and Kant!' Years afterward she remembered
the very turn of the road where she had spoken it."

The spiritual struggles of Maggie Tulliver give a good picture of Marian
Evans' mental and spiritual experiences at this time. Her friends and
relatives were scandalized by her scepticism. Her father could not at all
sympathize with her changed religious attitude, and treated her harshly.
She refused to attend church, and this made the separation so wide that it
was proposed to break up the home. By the advice of friends she at last
consented to outwardly conform to her father's wishes, and a partial
reconciliation was effected. This alienation, however, had a profound
effect upon her mind. She slowly grew away from the intellectual basis
of her old beliefs, but, with Maggie, she found peace and strength in
self-renunciation, and in the cultivation of that inward trust which makes
the chief anchorage of strong natures. She bore this experience patiently,
and without any diminution of her affection; but she also found various
friends among the more cultivated people of Coventry, who could sympathize
with her in her studies and with her radical views in religion. These
persons gave her the encouragement she needed, the contact with other and
more matured minds which was so necessary to her mental development, and
that social contact with life which was so conducive to her health of mind.
In one family especially, that of Mr. Charles Bray, did she find the true,
and cordial, and appreciative friendship she desired. These friends
softened the growing discord with her own family, and gave her that devoted
regard and aid that would be of most service to her. "In Mr. Bray's
family," we are told by one who has written of this trying period of her
career, "she found sympathy with her ardent love of knowledge and with the
more enlightened views that had begun to supplant those under which (as she
described it) her spirit had been grievously burdened. Emerson, Froude,
George Combe, Robert Mackay, and many other men of mark, were at various
times guests at Mr. Bray's house at Rosehill while Miss Evans was there
either as inmate or occasional visitor; and many a time might have been
seen, pacing up and down the lawn or grouped under an old acacia, men of
thought and research, discussing all things in heaven and earth, and
listening with marked attention when one gentle woman's voice was heard to
utter what they were quite sure had been well matured before the lips
opened. Few, if any, could feel themselves her superior in general
intelligence; and it was amusing one day to see the amazement of a certain
doctor, who, venturing on a quotation from Epictetus to an unassuming young
lady, was, with modest politeness, corrected in his Greek by his feminine
auditor. One rare characteristic belonged to her which gave a peculiar
charm to her conversation. She had no petty egotism, no spirit of
contradiction; she never talked for effect. A happy thought well expressed
filled her with delight; in a moment she would seize the thought and
improve upon it--so that common people began to feel themselves wise in her
presence; and perhaps years after she would remind them, to their pride and
surprise, of the good things they had said."

She was an ardent reader of Emerson and other thinkers of his cast of
thought, and some traces of this early sympathy are to be seen in her
books. On his second visit to England Emerson spent a day or two at the
house of Charles Bray, with whose writings he had previously become
acquainted. Emerson was much impressed with the personality of Marian
Evans, and more than once said to Bray, "That young lady has a calm,
serious soul." When Emerson asked her somewhat suddenly, "What one book do
you like best?" she at once replied, "Rousseau's _Confessions_." She
cherished this acquaintance with Emerson, and held him in grateful
remembrance through life.

The painful experiences of this period are undoubtedly reflected in another
of her autobiographic poems, that entitled "Self and Life." She speaks of
the profound influence the past had over her mind, and that her hands and
feet were still tiny when she began to know the historic thrill of contact
with other ages. She also makes Life say to Self, in regard to her pain and

But all thy anguish and thy discontent
Was growth of mine, the elemental strife
Towards feeling manifold with vision blent
To wider thought: I was no vulgar life
That like the water-mirrored ape,
Not discerns the thing it sees,
Nor knows its own in others' shape,
Railing, scorning, at its ease.
Half man's truth must hidden lie
If unlit by sorrow's eye.
I by sorrow wrought in thee
Willing pain of ministry.

The intellectual surroundings of Marian Evans at this time gave shape to
her whole after-life. There were now laid the foundations of her mode of
thinking, and her philosophic theories began to be formed. It was in the
home of one of her friends she learned to think for herself, and it was
there her positivist doctrines first appeared. Charles Bray was affected by
the transcendental movement, and was an ardent admirer of Newman, Emerson
and others among its leaders. This interest prepared him, as it has so many
other minds, for the acceptance of those speculative views which were built
up on the foundation of science when the transcendental movement began to
wane. The transcendental doctrines of unity, the oneness of mind and
matter, the evolution of all forms of life and being from the lowest, the
universal dominion of law and necessity, and the profound significance of
nature in its influence on man, as they were developed by Goethe,
Schelling, Carlyle and Emerson, gave direction to a new order of
speculation, which had its foundations in modern science.

Bray was an ardent phrenologist, and in 1832 published a work on _The
Education of the Feelings_, based on phrenological principles. In 1841
appeared his main work, _The Philosophy of Necessity_; this was followed
several years later by a somewhat similar work, _On Force, its Mental and
Moral Correlates_. His philosophy was summarized in a volume published in
1871, which was entitled _A Manual of Anthropology_. He also wrote
pamphlets on "Illusion and Delusion," "The Reign of Law," "Toleration," and
"Christianity." In his work on necessity he promulgated very many of those
ideas which have formed so prominent a part of the philosophy of George
Eliot. The dominion of law, the reign of necessity, experience as the
foundation of knowledge, humanity as an organism that develops a larger
life for man by the aid of experience and tradition,--these are among the
doctrines of the book. There is every reason for believing that in the
teachings of Charles Bray, Marian Evans found many of the main elements of
her philosophy, and with his aid her opinions were largely shaped.

Mrs. Bray was also a woman of large intelligence, and of a mind freely
open to new theories. She wrote a _Physiology for Schools_ and a
school-book on _Duties to Animals_, which have been well received by the
public and used as text books in the schools of the Midland counties. In
1882 she published a little book on the _Elements of Morality_, consisting
of a series of easy lessons for Unitarian Sunday schools and for home
teaching. To the Brays, Marian Evans owed much in the way of sympathy,
culture and direct influence. Perhaps more than any other persons they gave
tone and direction to her mind. One who knew them has said, "Besides being
a practical as well as theoretical philanthropist, Mr. Bray was also a
courageous impugner of the dogmas which form the basis of the popular
theology. Mrs. Bray shared in this general largeness of thought, while
perhaps more in sympathy with the fairer aspects of Christianity."

A brother and a sister of Mrs. Bray's, Charles C. Hennell and Sara S.
Hennell, also had a large influence on Marian Evans during this period. It
was Charles Hennell who induced her to translate Strauss, and it was Sara
Hennell to whom she wrote about her aunt after the publication of _Adam
Bede_. Hennell's _Inquiry concerning the origin of Christianity_ was
published in 1838, and appeared in a second edition in 1841. In the latter
year the book was read by Marian Evans, after a faithful perusal of the
Bible as a preparation for it, and quickly re-read, and with great interest
and delight. She then pronounced it "the most interesting book she had ever
read," dating from it a new birth to her mind. The book was translated into
German, Strauss writing a preface for it, and that interpreter of
Christianity praised it highly. Hennell rejected all supernaturalism and
the miraculous, regarding Christianity as a slow and natural development
out of Judaism, aided by Platonism and other outside influences. He finds
the sources of Jesus' teachings in the Jewish tendencies of the time, while
the cause of the supremacy of the man Jesus was laid in a long course of
events which had swelled to a crisis at the time of his appearance, and
bore him aloft to a height whence his personal qualities told with a power
derived from the accumulated force of many generations. Jesus was an
enthusiast who believed himself the predicted king of the Jews, and he was
a revolutionist expecting to establish an earthly kingdom for the supremacy
of Judaism. Jesus was largely influenced by the Essenes, but he rejected
their austerity. Hennell found a mixture of truth and error in the Gospels,
and believed that many mythical elements entered into the accounts given of
Jesus. A thorough rationalist, he claimed to accept the spiritual essence
of Christianity, and to value highly the moral teachings of Jesus. In a
later work on _Christian Theism_ he finds an argument for belief in God
mainly in nature. In his conclusions he is not far from F.W. Newman and
Theodore Parker; but he does not give the credit to intuition and the
religious faculty they do, though he is an earnest believer in God, and
inclined to accept Christianity as the highest expression of religion.

Sara S. Hennell early published _An Essay on the Skeptical Tendency of
Butler's Analogy_, and a Baillie prize essay on _Christianity and
Infidelity: An Exposition of the Arguments on Both Sides_. A work of much
merit and thought appeared from her pen in 1860, under the title of
_Thoughts in Aid of Faith_. In this work she follows her brother, Strauss,
Feuerbach and Spencer in an interpretation of religion, which constantly
recalls the theories of George Eliot. In a series of more recent books she
has continued the same line of thought. The early and intimate friendship
of Marian Evans and Miss Hennell may explain this similarity of opinion,
and the beliefs they held in common were doubtless developed to a greater
or less extent even when the former lived in Coventry.

Another friend of this period was a German scholar by the name of Brabant,
resident in England, a friend of Strauss, Paulus, Coleridge and Grote.
Grote described him as "a vigorous self-thinking intellect." A daughter of
Dr. Brabant first undertook the translation of Strauss, and she it was who
married Charles Hennell. After this marriage Miss Evans offered to take to
Dr. Brabant the place of his daughter, and did act as his housekeeper for
some months.

Marian Evans was surrounded at the most impressible period of her life by
this group of intellectual, free-thinking people, who seem to have fully
indoctrinated her with their own opinions. None of them had rejected
Christianity or theism, but they were rationalists in spirit, and eager
students of philosophy and science. Here were laid the foundations of the
doctrines she afterwards held so strongly, and even during this period very
many of the theories presented in her books were fully developed. Here her
mind was thoroughly prepared for the teachings of Comte, Spencer and Lewes;
and her early instructors had gone so far in their lessons that the later
teachers had little to do more than to give system to her thoughts.

It was essential to George Eliot's novel-writing that she was educated
amidst religious influences, and that she earnestly accepted the religious
teaching of her childhood. Not less important was her humble home and her
association with the common life of the people. Through all her work these
influences appear, coloring her thought, shaping her views of life, and
increasing her sympathies and affections. Her tender, enthusiastic love of
humble life never lost any of its quickening power. The faith of childhood
was lost, but its memory was left in a warm appreciation of all phases of
religious life and a heartfelt sympathy with all the sorrows and
aspirations of men.

Her father's health becoming very poor, Marian spent the next two or three
years in the care of him. She read to him most of Scott's novels, devoting
several hours each day to this task. During this period she made a visit to
the Isle of Wight, and there read the novels of Richardson. Her father died
in 1849, and she was very much affected by this event. She grieved for him
overmuch, and could find no consolation. Her friends, the Brays, to divert
and relieve her mind, invited her to take a continental tour with them.
They travelled extensively in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Her
grief, however, was so excessive as to receive little relief, and her
friends began to fear the results. On their return to England they left her
at Geneva, where she remained for nearly a year. After some months in a
boarding-house near Geneva she became an inmate of the family of M.
d'Albert Durade, a Swiss water-color painter of some reputation, who
afterwards became the translator of her works into French. She devoted the
winter of 1849-50 to the study of French and its literature, to mathematics
and to reading. Her teacher in mathematics soon told her that she was able
to proceed without his aid. She read Rousseau and studied the French
socialists. M. Durade painted her portrait, making a remarkable picture.
The softness of the clear blue eyes, in which is expressed a profound depth
of thought, is one of its characteristics. M. Durade accompanied her to
England in the spring of 1850, and she went to live with her brother, where
she remained for a few months. The old family differences about religion
had alienated the brother and sister so far intellectually that she
accepted an invitation from the Brays to find a home with them. Her sadness
and grief continued, and her health was not good. Her fits of nervousness
and of tears were frequent, but her studies continued to occupy her mind.
She delighted to converse with Mr. Bray, and other persons of earnest
thought had their influence on her mind. Among these was George Dawson, the
famous preacher who cut himself loose from all denominations.



It was while living at Foleshill, and amidst the intellectual influences of
awakening radicalism, that Marian Evans undertook her first literary labor.
This was the translation of the _Leben Jesu_ of David Strauss. A book so
daring in its interpretations of the origin of Christianity excited much
attention, and especially among those who had broken away from the old
religious beliefs. The work of translation was at first undertaken by Miss
Brabant, who soon married Charles Hennell. Then the task was taken up by
Marian Evans, who gave three years to it, renewing her Hebrew studies for
the purpose, and the book was published in 1846. The work was thoroughly
done, so much so that Strauss complimented the translator on its accuracy
and correctness of spirit. Concerning the translation the _Westminster
Review_ had this word of praise to offer: "We can testify that the
translator has achieved a very tough work with remarkable spirit and
fidelity. The author, though indeed a good writer, could hardly have spoken
better had his country and language been English. The work has evidently
fallen into the hands of one who has not only effective command of both
languages, but a familiarity with the subject-matter of theological
criticism, and an initiation into its technical phraseology." Another
critic said that "whoever reads these volumes without any reference to the
German, must be pleased with the easy, perspicuous, idiomatic force of the
English style. But he will be still more satisfied when, on turning to the
original, he finds that the rendering is word for word, thought for thought
and sentence for sentence. In preparing so beautiful a rendering as the
present, the difficulties can have been neither few nor small in the way of
preserving, in various parts of the work, the exactness of the translation,
combined with that uniform harmony and clearness of style which impart to
the volumes before us the air and the spirit of an original. A modest and
kindly care for his reader's convenience has induced the translator often
to supply the rendering into English of a Greek quotation when there was no
corresponding rendering into German in the original. Indeed, Strauss may
well say, as he does in the notice which he writes for this English
edition, that, as far as he has examined it, the translation is _et
accurata et perspicua_."

The book had a successful sale, but Marian Evans received only twenty
pounds, and twenty-five copies of the book, for her share of the
translation. A little later she translated Feuerbach's _Essence of
Christianity_, receiving fifty pounds for this labor. It was published in
1854, but the sale was small, and it proved a heavy loss to the publisher.
While translating Strauss she aided a friend interested in philosophical
studies (probably Charles Bray) by the translation, for his reading, of the
_De Deo_ of Spinoza. Some years later she completed a translation of the
more famous _Ethica_ of the same thinker. It was not published, probably
because there was at that time so little interest in Spinoza.

The execution of such work as this, and all of it done in the most
creditable and accurate manner, indicates the thoroughness of Marian Evans'
scholarship. Though she doubtless was somewhat inclined to accept the
opinions she thus helped to diffuse, yet Miss Simcox tells us that "the
translation of Strauss and the translation of Spinoza were undertaken, not
by her own choice but at the call of friendship; in the first place to
complete what some one else was unable to continue, and in the second to
make the philosopher she admired accessible to a friendly phrenologist
who did not read Latin. At all times she regarded translation as a work
that should be undertaken as a duty, to make accessible any book that
required to be read; and though undoubtedly she was satisfied that the
_Leben Jesu_ required to be read in England, it would be difficult to
imagine a temper more naturally antipathetic to her than that of its
author; and critics who talk about the 'Strauss and Feuerbach period'
should be careful to explain that the phrase covers no implication that
she was at anytime an admirer or a disciple of Strauss. There are extremes
not only too remote but too disparate to be included in the same life."

Marian Evans did not become an admirer or disciple of Strauss, probably
because she preferred Charles Hennell's interpretation of Christianity, It
is certain, however, that she was greatly affected by Feuerbach, and that
his influence was ever after strongly marked in her thinking. The teachings
of Charles Bray and Charles Hennell had prepared her for the reception of
those of Feuerbach, and he in turn made her mind responsive to the more
systematic philosophy of Comte. Bray had taught her, along with Kant, to
regard all knowledge as subjective, while Hennell and her other friends had
shown her the objective falsity of Christianity. Thus her mind was made
ready for Feuerbach's leading principle, that all religion is a product of
the mind and has no outward reality corresponding to its doctrines.
According to Feuerbach, the mind creates for itself objective images
corresponding to its subjective states, reproduces its feelings in the
outward world. In reality there is no objective fact corresponding to these
subjective ideas, but what the mind conceives to exist is a necessary
product of its own activity. The mind necessarily believes in God, which is
man's way of conceiving his species and realizing to himself the perfect
type of his own nature. God does not exist, and yet he is a true picture of
man's soul, a necessary product of his feeling and consciousness. All
religious ideas are true subjectively, and Christianity especially
corresponds to the inward wants and aspirations of the soul. To Feuerbach
it is true as a poetic interpretation of feeling and sentiment, and to him
it gives the noblest and truest conception of what the soul needs for its
inward satisfaction.

The influence of Feuerbach is to be seen in the profound interest which
Marian Evans ever took in the subject of religion. That influence alone
explains how it was possible for one who did not accept any religious
doctrines as true, who did not believe in God or immortality, and who
rejected Christianity as a historic or dogmatic faith, to accept so much as
she did of the better spirit of religion and to be so keenly in sympathy
with it. It was from the general scepticism and rationalism of the times
she learned to reject all religion as false to truth and as not giving a
just interpretation of life and its facts. It was from Feuerbach she
learned how great is the influence of religion, how necessary it is to
man's welfare, and how profoundly it answers to the wants of the soul. Like
so many keen minds of the century, she rejected, with a sweeping
scepticism, all on which a spiritual religion rests, all its facts,
arguments and reasons. She knew only nature and man; inspiration,
revelation, a spiritual world, had no existence for her. Yet she believed
most thoroughly in religion, accepted its phenomena, was deeply moved by
its spiritual aims, yearned after its perfect self-renunciation. Religion
was to her, however, a purely subjective experience; it gave her a larger
realization of the wants of humanity, it revealed to her the true nature of
feeling. To Feuerbach she owed this capacity to appreciate Christianity, to
rejoice in its spiritual aims, and even to accept it as a true
interpretation of the soul's wants, at the same time that she totally
rejected it as fact and dogma.

In the spring of 1851 she was invited to London by John Chapman, to assist
him in the editorship of the _Westminster Review_, Chapman had been the
publisher of her translations, and she had met him in London when on the
way to the continent the year before. He was the publisher of a large
number of idealistic and positivist works, representing the outspoken and
radical sentiment of the time. The names of Fichte, Emerson, Parker,
Francis Newnian, Cousin, Ewald, H. Martineau, and others of equal note,
appeared on his list. The _Westminster Review_ was devoted to scientific
and positivist views, and was the organ of such writers as Mill, Spencer,
Lewes and Miss Martineau. It was carefully edited, had an able list of
contributors, but its advanced philosophical position did not give it a
wide circle of readers. It gave careful reviews of books, and had able
departments devoted to the literature of each of the leading countries.
Marian Evans did much of the labor in preparing these departments and in
writing special book reviews. Her work was thoroughly done, and shows wide
reading and patient effort. Her position brought her the acquaintance of
a distinguished and brilliant company of men and women. Under this
influence her powers widened, and she quickly showed herself the peer of
the ablest among them. Herbert Spencer has said that at this time she was
"distinguished by that breadth of culture and universality of power which
have since made her known to all the world." We are told by another that
"her strength of intellect, her scholarship and varied accomplishments, and
the personal charm of her manner and conversation, made a deep impression
on all who wore thrown into her society."

Dr. Chapman then lived in the Strand, and Marian Evans became a member of
his family, sharing in its interests as well as in its labors. She was
extremely simple in her habits, went but very little into society, and gave
herself almost exclusively to her duties and to metaphysical studies. A
fortnightly gathering of the contributors to the _Review_ was held in Mr.
Chapman's house, and on these occasions she came to know most of the
scientific and positivist thinkers of England at that time. Harriet
Martineau invited her to Ambleside, and she was a frequent guest at the
London residence of Sir James and Lady Clarke. She visited George Combe and
his wife at Edinburgh in October, 1852, going to Ambleside on her return.

While assisting Mr. Chapman, Marian Evans contributed only one article,
beyond her editorial work, to the pages of the _Westminster Review_. The
work she did, almost wholly that of digesting and reviewing new books,
could have been little to her taste. It must have been a drudgery, except
in so far as it aided her in the pursuit of her studies. Occasionally,
however, she must have found a task to her mind, as when, in the summary of
current English literature for January, 1852. she had Carlyle's _Life of
Sterling_ in hand. Her notice of the book is highly appreciative of
Carlyle's genius, and full of cordial praise. This passage gives her idea
of a true biography:

We have often wished that genius would incline itself more frequently
to the task of the biographer,--that when some great or good personage
dies, instead of the dreary three or five volumed compilations of
letter, and diary, and detail, little to the purpose, which two-thirds
of the reading public have not the chance, nor the other third the
inclination, to read, we could have a real "Life," setting forth
briefly and vividly the man's inward and outward struggles, aims and
achievements, so as to make clear the meaning which his experience has
for his fellows. A few such lives (chiefly, indeed, autobiographies)
the world possesses, and they have, perhaps, been more influential on
the formation of character than any other kind of reading. But the
conditions required for the perfection of life writing,--personal
intimacy, a loving and poetic nature which sees the beauty and the
depth of familiar things, and the artistic power which seizes
characteristic points and renders them with life-like effect,--are
seldom found in combination. _The Life of Sterling_ is an instance of
this rare conjunction. Its comparatively tame scenes and incidents
gather picturesqueness and interest under the rich lights of Carlyle's
mind. We are told neither too little nor too much; the facts noted, the
letters selected, are all such as serve to give the liveliest
conception of what Sterling was and what he did; and though the book
speaks much of other persons, this collateral matter is all a kind of
scene-painting, and is accessory to the main purpose.

The earliest of the regular articles, and the only one printed while she
was the associate editor of the _Review_, is on "The Lady Novelists." It
appeared in the number for July, 1852, and contained a striking discussion
of woman's place in literature, a defence of woman's right to occupy that
field she can best cultivate, with a clear and just criticism of several of
the most prominent among lady novelists. She was quite full in her
treatment of Jane Austen and George Sand, praising as well as criticising
with insight and fine discrimination. At the outset she defines literature
as an expression of the emotions, and gives a remarkably clear and original
description of its functions.

Her editorial connection with the _Westminster Review_ continued for about
two years, until the end of 1853. For the next three years she was a
contributor to its pages, where there appeared "Woman in France: Madame de
Sable," in October, 1854; "Evangelical Teaching: Dr. Cumming," October,
1855; "German Wit: Heinrich Heine," January, 1856; "The Natural History of
German Life," July, 1856; "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists," October, 1856;
and "Worldliness and other-Worldliness: the Poet Young," January, 1857. Two
other articles have been attributed to her pen, but they are of little
value. These are "George Forster," October, 1856, and "Weimar and its
Celebrities," April, 1859. The interest and value of nearly all these
articles are still as great as when they were first published. This will
justify the publication here of numerous extracts from their most salient
and important paragraphs. As indicating her literary judgment, and her
capacity for incisive characterization and clear, trenchant criticism,
reference may be made to the essay on Heine, which is one of the finest
pieces of critical writing the century has produced.

Heine is one of the most remarkable men of this age; no echo, but a
real voice, and therefore, like all genuine things in this world, worth
studying; a surpassing lyric poet, who has uttered our feelings for us
in delicious song; a humorist, who touches leaden folly with the magic
wand of his fancy, and transmutes it into the fine gold of art--who
sheds his sunny smile on human tears, and makes them a beauteous
rainbow on the cloudy background of life; a wit, who holds in his
mighty hand the most scorching lightnings of satire; an artist in prose
literature, who has shown even more completely than Goethe the
possibilities of German prose; and--in spite of all charges against
him, true as well as false--a lover of freedom, who has spoken wise and
brave words on behalf of his fellow-men. He is, moreover, a suffering
man, who, with all the highly wrought sensibility of genius, has to
endure terrible physical ills; and as such he calls forth more than an
intellectual interest. It is true, alas! that there is a heavy weight
in the other scale--that Heine's magnificent powers have often served
only to give electric force to the expression of debased feeling, so
that his works are no Phidian statue of gold, and ivory, and gems, but
have not a little brass, and iron, and miry clay mingled with the
precious metal. The audacity of his occasional coarseness and
personality is unparalleled in contemporary literature, and has hardly
been exceeded by the license of former days. Yet, when all coarseness,
all scurrility, all Mephistophelean contempt for the reverent feelings
of other men, is removed, there will be a plenteous remainder of
exquisite poetry, of wit, humor and just thought. It is apparently too
often a congenial task to write severe words about the transgressions
committed by men of genius, especially when the censor has the
advantage of being himself a man of _no_ genius, so that those
transgressions seem to him quite gratuitous; _he_, forsooth, never
lacerated any one by his wit, or gave irresistible piquancy to a coarse
allusion, and his indignation is not mitigated by any knowledge of the
temptation that lies in transcendent power....

In Heine's hands German prose, usually so heavy, so clumsy, so dull,
becomes, like clay in the hands of the chemist, compact, metallic,
brilliant; it is German in an _allotropic_ condition. No dreary,
labyrinthine sentences in which you find "no end in wandering mazes
lost;" no chains of adjectives in linked harshness long drawn out; no
digressions thrown in as parentheses; but crystalline definiteness and
clearness, fine and varied rhythm, and all that delicate precision,
all those felicities of word and cadence, which belong to the highest
order of prose. And Heine has proved that it is possible to be witty
in German; indeed, in reading him, you might imagine that German was
pre-eminently the language of wit, so flexible, so subtle, so piquant
does it become under his management. He is far more an artist in
prose than Goethe. He has not the breadth and repose, and the calm
development which belongs to Goethe's style, for they are foreign
to his mental character; but he excels Goethe in susceptibility to
the manifold qualities of prose, and in mastery over its effects.
Heine is full of variety, of light and shadow: he alternates
between epigrammatic pith, imaginative grace, sly allusion, and
daring piquancy; and athwart all those there runs a vein of sadness,
tenderness and grandeur which reveals the poet.

The introduction to this article contains a wise comparison of wit and
humor, and makes a subtle discrimination between them. German wit she finds
is heavy and lacking in nicety of perception; and the German is the only
nation that "had contributed nothing classic to the common stock of
European wit and humor" previous to the present century. In Heine she found
both in a marked degree, so that he is unlike the other writers of Germany,
having a flavor and a spirit quite his own.

Her essays on Dr. Cumming and the poet Young were largely of a theological
character. They are keen in their thrusts at dogmatic religion, sparkling
with witty hits at a make-believe piety, and full of biting sarcasm. Her
entire want of sympathy with the men she dissects, makes her sometimes
unjust to them, and she makes them worse than they really were. The
terrible vigor of her criticism may be seen in her description of Dr.
Cumming and his teaching. She brings three charges against him, and defends
each with ample quotation, wit, sarcasm, argument and eloquence. She finds
in his books unscrupulosity of statement, absence of genuine charity, and a
perverted moral judgment. These essays much resemble Thackeray's dissection
of Swift for their terrible sarcasm, their unmerciful criticism, and their
minute unveiling of human weakness and hypocrisy. It is possible that
Thackeray was her model, as his lecture was first delivered in 1851 or
1852; but, at least, she is not at all his inferior in power to lay bare
the character and tendencies of the men she selected for analysis. Her keen
psychological insight was shown here in a manner as brilliant and as
accurate as in any of her novels. She may have done injustice to the
circumstances under which these men were placed, their religious education,
the social conditions which aided them in the pursuit of the lives they
lived; and she may not have been quite ready enough to deal charitably with
those who were blinded, as these men were, by all their surroundings and by
whatever of culture they received; but she did see into the secret places
of their lives, and laid bare the inner motives of their conduct. It was
because these men came before the world as its teachers, holding up before
it a special ideal and motive for its guidance, that she criticised them.
In reality they were selfish, narrow, worldly; their teaching came from no
deep convictions, nor from a high moral purpose; and hence her criticism.
She laid bare the shallowness of their thoughts, the selfishness of their
purposes, and the spiritual unfruitfulness of their teachings. Criticism so
unsparing and so just, because based on the most searching insight into
character and conduct, it would be difficult to find elsewhere.

Dr. Cumming's mind is evidently not of the pietistic order. There is
not the slightest leaning towards mysticism in his Christianity--no
indication of religious raptures, of delight in God, of spiritual
communion with the Father. He is most at home in the forensic view of
justification, and dwells on salvation as a scheme rather than as an
experience. He insists on good works as the sign of justifying faith,
as labors to be achieved to the glory of God, but he rarely represents
them as the spontaneous, necessary outflow of a soul filled with divine
love. He is at home in the external, the polemical, the historical, the
circumstantial, and is only episodically devout and practical. The
great majority of his published sermons are occupied with argument or
philippic against Romanists and unbelievers, with vindications of the
Bible, with the political interpretation of prophecy, or the criticism
of public events; and the devout aspiration, or the spiritual and
practical exhortation, is tacked to them as a sort of fringe in a
hurried sentence or two at the end. He revels in the demonstration that
the Pope is the Man of Sin; he is copious on the downfall of the
Ottoman empire; he appears to glow with satisfaction in turning a story
which tends to show how he abashed an "infidel;" it is a favorite
exercise with him to form conjectures of the process by which the earth
is to be burned up, and to picture Dr. Chalmers and Mr. Wilberforce
being caught up to meet Christ in the air, while Romanists, Puseyites
and infidels are given over to gnashing of teeth. But of really
spiritual joys and sorrows, of the life and death of Christ as a
manifestation of love that constrains the soul, of sympathy with that
yearning over the lost and erring which made Jesus weep over Jerusalem,
and prompted the sublime prayer, "Father, forgive them," of the gentler
fruits of the Spirit, and the peace of God which passeth
understanding--of all this, we find little trace in Dr. Cumming's

Even more severe is her account of the poet Young. She speaks of him as "a
remarkable individual of the species _divine_." This is her account of his

He is on the verge of fifty, and has recently undergone his
metamorphosis into the clerical form. Rather a paradoxical specimen, if
you observe him narrowly: a sort of cross between a sycophant and a
psalmist, a poet whose imagination is alternately fired by the "Last
Day" and by a creation of peers, who fluctuate between rhapsodic
applause of King George and rhapsodic applause of Jehovah. After
spending "a foolish youth, the sport of peers and poets," after being a
hanger-on of the profligate Duke of Wharton, after aiming in vain at a
parliamentary career, and angling for pensions and preferment with
fulsome dedications and fustian odes, he is a little disgusted with his
imperfect success, and has determined to retire from the general
mendicancy business to a particular branch; in other words, he has
determined on that renunciation of the world implied in "taking
orders," with the prospect of a good living and an advantageous
matrimonial connection. And no man can be better fitted for an
Established Church. He personifies completely her nice balance of
temporalities and spiritualities. He is equally impressed with the
momentousness of death and of burial fees; he languishes at once for
immortal life and for "livings;" he has a vivid attachment to patrons
in general, but on the whole prefers the Almighty. He will teach, with
something more than official conviction, the nothingness of earthly
things; and he will feel something more than private disgust if his
meritorious efforts in directing man's attention to another world are
not rewarded by substantial preferment in this. His secular man
believes in cambric bands and silk stockings as characteristic attire
for "an ornament of religion and virtue;" hopes courtiers will never
forgot to copy Sir Robert Walpole; and writes begging letters to the
King's mistress. His spiritual man recognizes no motives more familiar
than Golgotha and the skies; it walks in graveyards, or it soars among
the stars. His religion exhausts itself in ejaculations and rebukes,
and knows no medium between the ecstatic and the sententious. If it
were not for the prospect of immortality, he considers it would be wise
and agreeable to be indecent or to murder one's father; and, heaven
apart, it would be extremely irrational in any man not to be a knave.
Man, he thinks, is a compound of the angel and the brute; the brute is
to be humbled by being reminded of its "relation to the stalls," and
frightened into moderation by the contemplation of death-beds and
skulls; the angel is to be developed by vituperating this world and
exalting the next; and by this double process you get the
Christian--"the highest style of man." With all this, our new-made
divine is an unmistakable poet. To a clay compounded chiefly of the
worldling and the rhetorician, there is added a real spark of
Promethean fire. He will one day clothe his apostrophes and
objurgations, his astronomical religion and his charnel-house morality,
in lasting verse, which will stand, like a Juggernaut made of gold and
jewels, at once magnificent and repulsive; for this divine is Edward
Young, the future author of _Night Thoughts_.

She says, "One of the most striking characteristics of Young is his
_radical insincerity as a poetic artist_."

Indeed, we remember no mind in poetic literature that seems to have
absorbed less of the beauty and the healthy breath of the common
landscape than Young's. His images, often grand and finely presented,
lie almost entirely within that circle of observation which would be
familiar to a man who lived in town, hung about the theatres, read the
newspaper, and went home often by moon and star light. There is no
natural object nearer than the moon that seems to have any strong
attraction for him, and even to the moon he chiefly appeals for
patronage, and "pays his court" to her.... He describes nothing so well
as a comet, and is tempted to linger with fond detail over nothing more
familiar than the day of judgment and an imaginary journey among the
stars.... The adherence to abstractions, or to the personification of
abstractions, is closely allied in Young to the _want of genuine
emotion_. He sees Virtue sitting on a mount serene, far above the mists
and storms of earth: he sees Religion coming down from the skies, with
this world in her left hand and the other world in her right; but we
never find him dwelling on virtue or religion as it really exists--in
the emotions of a man dressed in an ordinary coat, and seated by his
fireside of an evening, with his hand resting on the head of his little
daughter, in courageous effort for unselfish ends, in the internal
triumph of justice and pity over personal resentment, in all the
sublime self-renunciation and sweet charities which are found in the
details of ordinary life.

In these essays there are various indications of her religious opinions,
and those of a decided character. In that on Dr. Cumming, she has this word
to say of the rationalistic conception of the Bible:

He seems to be ignorant, or he chooses to ignore the fact, that there
is a large body of eminently instructed and earnest men who regard the
Hebrew and Christian scriptures as a series of historical documents, to
be dealt with according to the rules of historical criticism, and that
an equally large number of men, who are not historical critics, find
the dogmatic scheme built on the letter of the scriptures, opposed to
their profoundest moral convictions.

This statement is suggestive of her position on religious subjects:

The best minds that accept Christianity as a divinely inspired system,
believe that the great end of the Gospel is not merely the saving but
the educating of men's souls, the creating within them of holy
dispositions, the subduing of egoistical pretensions, and the perpetual
enhancing of the desire that the will of God--a will synonymous with
goodness and truth--may be done on earth. But what relation to all this
has a system of interpretation which keeps the mind of the Christian in
the position of a spectator at a gladiatorial show, of which Satan is
the wild beast in the shape of a great red dragon, and two thirds of
mankind the victims--the whole provided and got up by God for the
edification of the saints?

She calls Dr. Cumming's teachings "the natural crop of a human mind where
the soil is chiefly made up of egoistic passions and dogmatic beliefs."
Then she deals with that belief in this trenchant fashion:

Happily, the constitution of human nature forbids the complete
prevalence of such a theory. Fatally powerful as religious systems have
been, human nature is stronger and wider than religious systems, and
though dogmas may hamper, they cannot absolutely repress its growth:
build walls around the living tree as you will, the bricks and mortar
have by and by to give way before the slow and sure operation of the
sap. But next to the hatred of the enemies of God which is the
principle of persecution, there perhaps has been no perversion more
obstructive of true moral development than this substitution of a
reference to the glory of God for the direct promptings of the
sympathetic feelings. Benevolence and justice are strong only in
proportion as they are directly and inevitably called into activity by
their proper objects; pity is strong only because we are strongly
impressed by suffering; and only in proportion as it is compassion that
speaks through the eyes when we soothe, and moves the arm when we
succor, is a deed strictly benevolent. If the soothing or the succor be
given because another being wishes or approves it, the deed ceases to
be one of benevolence, and becomes one of deference, of obedience, of
self-interest, or vanity. Accessory motives may aid in producing an
action, but they presuppose the weakness of the direct motive; and
conversely, when the direct motive is strong, the actions of accessory
motives will be excluded.

In writing of Young she says,--

The God of the _Night Thoughts_ is simply Young himself "writ large"--a
didactic poet, who "lectures" mankind in the antithetic hyperbole of
mortal and immortal joys, earth and the stars, hell and heaven, and
expects the tribute of inexhaustible applause. Young has no conception
of religion as anything else than egoism turned heavenward; and he does
not merely imply this, he insists on it.

She contrasts Young with Cowper, preferring the latter because he dwells
more on the things of a common and simple life.

In Young we have the type of that deficient human sympathy, that
impiety toward the present and the visible, which flies for its
motives, its sanctities, and its religion, to the remote, the vague and
unknown: in Cowper we have the type of that genuine love which
cherishes things in proportion to their nearness, and feels its
reverence grow in proportion to the intimacy of its knowledge.

This warm human sympathy is all she cares for in religion.

See how a lovely, sympathetic nature manifests itself in spite of creed
and circumstance! Where is the poem that surpasses the _Task_ in the
genuine love it breathes, at once toward inanimate and animate
existence--in truthfulness of perception and sincerity of
presentation--in the calm gladness that springs from a delight in
objects for their own sake, without self-reference--in divine sympathy
with the lowliest pleasures, with the most shortlived capacity for
pain? Here is no railing at the earth's "melancholy map," but the
happiest lingering over her simplest scenes with all the fond
minuteness that belongs to love; no pompous rhetoric about the
inferiority of the brutes, but a warm plea on their behalf against
man's inconsiderateness and cruelty, and a sense of enlarged happiness
from their companionship in enjoyment; no vague rant about human misery
and human virtue, but that close and vivid presentation of particular
deeds and misdeeds, which is the direct road to the emotions. How
Cowper's exquisite mind falls with the mild warmth of morning sunlight
on the commonest objects, at once disclosing every detail and investing
every detail with beauty! No object is too small to prompt his song--
not the sooty film on the bars, or the spoutless teapot holding a bit
of mignonette that serves to cheer the dingy town lodging with a "hint
that nature lives;" and yet his song is never trivial, for he is alive
to small objects, not because his mind is narrow, but because his
glance is clear and his heart is large.

Her contributions to the _Westminster Review_ indicate that Marian Evans
had read much and well, and that she was possessed of a thoroughly
cultivated mind and much learning. To their preparation she gave herself
diligently, writing slowly, after a careful study of her subject and much
thought devoted to a faithful thinking out of all its parts. It has been
many times suggested that these articles gave indication only of learning
and studious effort. They certainly give strong hint of these, but also of
much more. That on human life shows how much she had thought, and how
thoroughly and philosophically, on one of the largest problems; while the
one on Heine indicates her penetrating literary judgment and her capacity
for analysis and interpretation. These essays are not mere compilations,
mere digests of learned information; they are studies of large subjects
done in a large and inspiring manner. Her essays on the poet Young and Dr.
Cumming, and the two on lady novelists, as well as that on Heine, show many
indications of that subtle power and that true genius which were displayed
in her later work. There was genius displayed in these articles, without
doubt, and genius of a high order. It was genius not as yet aware of
itself, and not yet at the height of its power and capable of its truest
expression, but genius nevertheless. Many of the most striking
characteristics of her novel-writing were shown in these essays. Here was
the same love of common human life; the same interest in its humbler forms
and expressions; the like penetrating analysis and subtle portrayal of
character; a psychological method of the same probing and comprehensive
nature. Her main philosophical ideas were indicated here, though not given
that clear and incisive expression they afterwards received. When she wrote
of the natural history of German life she indicated in the very title of
her essay one of her main theories, and her conception of man as a social
being was brought out in it. These essays fully indicate that her opinions
were already formed, that the leading ideas she was to give expression to
in her novels had been arrived at by diligent study and thought, and that
she had equipped herself with ample reasons for the acceptance of the
opinions she held. Their chief defect is in their occasional arrogance of
expression, as if the writer had not yet wholly escaped the superior airs
of the young woman elated with the greatness of her knowledge, and a
certain rudeness and vehemence of statement not seen later. It is a defect
that is not very prominent, but one that is apparent enough to mar some of
the best of these pages. It was one she never wholly outgrew, though in her
novels her large information was usually so managed and subordinated as to
give little annoyance to the intelligent reader.

It must be quite evident to any reader of her _Westminster Review_
contributions, that Marian Evans would never have attained to any such high
literary eminence as an essayist as that which she has secured as a
novelist. Readable as are her essays,--and the five just named are
certainly worthy of a place in her complete works,--yet they are not of the
highest order. She could attain the highest range of her power only when
something far more subtile and intrinsic was concerned. That this is true
may be seen in these essays; for even here she writes the best only when
she has human motives, feelings and aspirations to weigh and explain. That
she could dissect and explain the inner man they made apparent enough; but
her genius demanded also the opportunity to create, to build up a life of
high beauty and purpose from materials of its own construction. Her
_Review_ articles gave her a high place in the eyes of her friends, and
their chief value seems to have been, that they caused these friends to see
that she could do other and better work, and led them to induce her to
apply her genius in a direction more congenial to its capacity.



In 1853 Marian Evans became the wife of George Henry Lewes. He had married
at an early ago a woman possessed of many charms of person. They went to
live in a large house at Kensington with five other young couples, keeping
house on a co-operative arrangement, with many attractions of social
entertainment therewith. One result was the desertion of her home by Mrs.
Lewes in connection with one of the men into whose company she was
constantly thrown by this manner of life. She soon repented, and Lewes
forgave her, receiving her back to his home. A second time, however, she
left him. His having condoned her fault made it impossible for him to
secure a divorce according to the laws of England at that time. He seems to
have done what he could to retain her faithful devotion to her marriage
relations, so long as that seemed possible.

When Lewes and Marian Evans met, on her going to live in London, and after
his wife had deserted him, there sprang up a strong attachment between
them, As they could not be legally married, she agreed to live with him
without that formality.

It is to be said of this affair that George Eliot was very far from looking
at such a problem as Goethe or, George Sand would have looked at it, from
the position of personal inclination. Yet we are told by Miss Blind that
she early entertained liberal views in regard to divorce, believing that
greater freedom in this respect is desirable. There could have been no
passionate individualistic defiance of law in her case, however. No one has
insisted more strongly than she on the importance and the sanctity of the
social regulations in regard to the union of the sexes. That her marriage
was a true one in all but the legal form, that she was faithful to its
every social obligation, has been abundantly shown. She was a most faithful
wife to Lewes, and the devoted mother of his three children by the previous
marriage, while she found in him that strong, self-reliant helpmate she

Her marriage under these circumstances required no little individualism of
purpose, and some defiance of social obligations. Her intimate friends were
unable to comprehend her conduct, and she was alienated from most of them.
Especially her friends in Coventry were annoyed at such a marriage, and
were not reconciled with her for a long time, and not until they saw that
she had acted with a conscientious purpose. She was excluded from society
by this act, and her marriage was interpreted as a gross violation of
social morality. To a sensitive nature, as hers assuredly was, and to one
who so much valued the confidence of her friends as she did, such exclusion
must have been a serious cross. She freely elected her own course in life,
however, and she never seems to have complained at the results it brought
her. That it saddened her mind seems probable, but there is no outward
evidence that she accepted her lot in a bitter or complaining spirit. No
one could have written of love and marriage in so high and pure a spirit as
everywhere appears in her books with whom passion was in any degree a
controlling influence. In _Adam Bede_ her own conception of wedded love is
expressed out of the innermost convictions and impulses of her own heart,
when she exclaims,--

What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they
are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on
each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be
one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the
last parting.

In _Felix Holt_ there is a passage on this subject which must have come
directly from her own experience, and it gives us a true insight into the
spirit in which she accepted the distrust of friends and the coldness of
the world which her marriage brought her.

A supreme love, a motive that gives a sublime rhythm to a woman's life,
and exalts habit into partnership with the soul's highest needs, is not
to be had when and how she will: to know that high initiation, she must
often tread where it is hard to tread, and feel the chill air, and
watch through darkness. It is not true that love makes all things easy;
it makes us choose what is difficult.

Throughout her novels she exalts marriage, never casts any slur upon it,
treats it as one of the most sacred of all human relations. She makes it
appear as a sacrament, not of the Church, but of the sublime fellowship of
humanity. It is pure, holy, a binding tie, a sacred obligation, as it
appears in her books. When Romola is leaving Florence and her husband, her
love dead and all that made her life seem worthy gone with it, she meets
Savonarola, who bids her return to her home and its duties. What the great
prophet-priest says on this occasion we have every reason to believe
expressed the true sentiments of George Eliot herself. He proclaims, what
she doubtless thoroughly believed, that marriage is something far more than
mere affection, more than love; that its obligation holds when all love is
gone; that its obligation is so sacred and binding as to call for the
fullest measure of renunciation and personal humiliation. As throwing light
on George Eliot's manner of looking at this subject, the whole chapter
which describes the meeting of Romola and Savonarola deserves to be read.
That portion of it in which Savonarola gives his views of marriage may here
be reproduced, not as giving the doctrine of the Church, but as presenting
the positivist conception of marriage as interpreted by George Eliot.

His arresting voice had brought a new condition into her life, which
made it seem impossible toiler that she could go on her way as if she
had not heard it; yet she shrank as one who sees the path she must
take, but sees, too, that the hot lava lies there. And the instinctive
shrinking from a return to her husband brought doubts. She turned away
her eyes from Fra Girolamo, and stood for a minute or two with her
hands hanging clasped before her, like a statue. At last she spoke, as
if the words were being wrung from her, still looking on the ground.

"My husband--he is not--my love is gone!"

"My daughter, there is the bond of a higher love. Marriage is not
carnal only, made for selfish delight. See what that thought leads you
to! It leads you to wander away in a false garb from all the
obligations of your place and name. That would not have been if you had
learned that it is a sacramental vow, from which none but God can
release you. My daughter, your life is not as a grain of sand, to be
blown by the winds; it is as flesh and blood, that dies if it be
sundered. Your husband is not a malefactor?"

Romola flushed and started. "Heaven forbid! No; I accuse him of

"I did not suppose he was a malefactor. I meant that if he were a
malefactor your place would be in the prison beside him. My daughter,
if the cross comes to you as a wife, you must carry it as a wife. You
may say, 'I will forsake my husband,' but you cannot cease to be a

"Yet if--oh, how could I bear--" Romola had involuntarily begun to say
something which she sought to banish from her mind again.

"Make your marriage sorrows an offering, too, my daughter: an offering
to the great work by which sin and sorrow are being made to cease.
The end is sure, and is already beginning. Here in Florence it is
beginning, and the eyes of faith behold it. And it may be our
blessedness to die for it: to die daily by the crucifixion of our
selfish will--to die at last by laying our bodies on the altar. My
daughter, you are a child of Florence; fulfil the duties of that great
inheritance. Live for Florence--for your own people, whom God is
preparing to bless the earth. Bear the anguish and the smart. The iron
is sharp--I know, I know--it rends the tender flesh. The draught is
bitterness on the lips. But there is rapture in the cup--there is the
vision which makes all life below it dross forever. Come, my daughter,
come back to your place!" [Footnote: Chapter XL.]

Again, when Dorothea goes to see Rosamond to intercede in Dr. Lydgate's
behalf with his wife, we have an expression of the sacredness of marriage,
and the renunciation it demands of all that is opposed to its trust and
helpfulness. Dorothea says,--

"Marriage is so unlike everything else. There is something even awful
in the nearness it brings. Even if we loved some one else better
than--than those we were married to, it would be of no use"--poor
Dorothea, in her palpitating anxiety, could only seize her language
brokenly--"I mean, marriage drinks up all our power of giving or
getting any blessedness in that sort of love. I know it may be very
dear--but it murders our marriage--and then the marriage stays with us
like a murder--and everything else is gone. And then our husband--if he
loved and trusted us, and we have not helped him, but made a curse in
his life--"

If Marian Evans rejected the sanctions which society has imposed on the
love of man and woman in the legal forms of marriage, it was not in a
wilful and passionate spirit. There are reasons for believing that she was
somewhat touched in her youth with the individualistic theories of the
time, which made so many men and women of genius reject the restraints
imposed by society, as in the case of Goethe, Heine, George Sand, Shelley
and many another; yet she does not appear to have been to more than a very
limited extent influenced by such considerations in regard to her own
marriage. The matter for surprise is, that one who regarded all human
traditions, ceremonies and social obligations as sacred, should have
consented to act in so individualistic a manner. She makes Rufus Lyon
say--and it is her own opinion--that "the right to rebellion is the right
to seek a higher rule, and not to wander in mere lawlessness." Her
marriage, after the initial act, had in it nothing whatever of lawlessness.
She believed there exists a higher rule than that of Parliament, and to
this higher law she submitted. To her this was not a law of self-will and
personal inclination, but the law of nature and social obligation. That she
was not overcome by the German individualistic and social tendencies may be
seen in the article on "Weimar and its Celebrities," in the _Westminster
Review_, where, in writing of Wieland as an educator, she says that the
tone of his books was not "immaculate," and that it was "strangely at
variance, with that sound and lofty morality which ought to form the basis
of every education." She also speaks of the philosophy of that day as "the
delusive though plausible theory that no license of tone, or warmth of
coloring, could injure any really healthy and high-toned mind." In the
article on "Woman in France," she touches on similar theories. As this
article was written just at the time of her marriage, one passage in it may
have a personal interest, and shows her conception of a marriage such as
her own, based on intellectual interest rather than on passionate love. She
is speaking of

the laxity of opinion and practice with regard to the marriage tie.
Heaven forbid [she adds] that we should enter on a defence of French
morals, most of all in relation to marriage! But it is undeniable that
unions formed in the maturity of thought and feeling, grounded only on
inherent fitness and mutual attraction, tended to bring women into more
intelligent sympathy with men, and to heighten and complicate their
share in the political drama. The quiescence and security of the
conjugal relation are, doubtless, favorable to the manifestation of the
highest qualities by persons who have already attained a high standard
of culture, but rarely foster a passion sufficient to rouse all the
faculties to aid in winning or retaining its beloved object--to convert
indolence into activity, indifference into ardent partisanship, dulness
into perspicuity.

Her conception of marriage may have been affected by that presented by
Feuerbach in his _Essence of Christianity_. In words translated into
English by herself, Feuerbach says, "that alone is a religious marriage
which is a true marriage, which corresponds to the essence of
marriage--love." Again, he says that marriage is only sacred when it is an
inward attraction confirmed by social and personal obligations; "for a
marriage the bond of which is merely an external restriction, not the
voluntary, contented self-restriction of love--in short, a marriage which
is not spontaneously concluded, spontaneously willed, self-sufficing--is
not a true marriage, and therefore not a truly moral marriage." As a moral
and social obligation, marriage is to be held sacred; its sacredness grows
out of its profound human elements of helpfulness, nurture and emotional
satisfaction, while its obligation rises from its primary social
functions. It does not consist in any legal form, but in compliance with
deep moral and social responsibilities. Some such conception of marriage
as this she seems to have accepted, which found its obligation in the
satisfaction it gives to the inner nature, and in the fulfilment of social
responsibilities. The influence of Compte may also have been felt in the
case of both Lewes and Marian Evans; they saw in the marriage form a
fulfilment of human, not of legal, requirements.

While there is no doubt they would both gladly have accepted the legal
form had that been possible, yet they were sufficiently out of sympathy
with the conventionalities of society to cause them to disregard that form
when it could not be complied with. They regarded themselves, however, as
married, and bound by all the ties and requirements which marriage
imposes. They proclaimed themselves to their friends as husband and wife,
and they were so accepted by those who knew them. In her letters to
literary correspondents she always mentioned Lewes as "my husband." The
laws of most civilized nations recognize these very conditions, and
regard the acceptance of the marriage relation before the world as a
sufficient form.

Those who have written of this marriage, bear testimony to its devotion
and beauty. The author of the account of her life and writings in the
_Westminster Review_, an early and intimate friend, says the "union was
from the first regarded by themselves as a true marriage, as an alliance
of a sacred kind, having a binding and permanent character. When the fact
of the union was first made known to a few intimate friends, it was
accompanied with the assurance that its permanence was already irrevocably
decreed. The marriage of true hearts for a quarter of a century has
demonstrated the sincerity of the intention. 'The social sanction,' said
Mr. Lewes once in our hearing, 'is always desirable.' There are cases in
which it is not always to be had. Such a ratification of the sacrament of
affection was regarded as a sufficient warrant, under the circumstances of
the case, for entrance on the most sacred engagement of life. There was
with her no misgiving, no hesitation, no looking back, no regret; but
always the unostentatious assertion of quiet, matronly dignity, the most
queenly expression and unconscious affirmation of the 'divine right' of
the wedded wife. We have heard her own oral testimony to the enduring
happiness of this union, and can, as privileged witnesses, corroborate it.
As a necessary element in this happiness she practically included the
enjoyment inseparable from the spontaneous reciprocation of home
affection, meeting with an almost maternal love the filial devotion of Mr.
Lewes's sons, proffering all tender service in illness, giving and
receiving all friendly confidence in her own hour of sorrowful
bereavement, and crowning with a final act of generous love and
forethought the acceptance of parental responsibilities in the
affectionate distribution of property, the visible result of years of the
intellectual toil whose invisible issues are endless."

Their marriage helped both to a more perfect work and to a truer life. She
gave poise and purpose to the "versatile, high-strung, somewhat wayward
nature" of her husband, and she "restrained, raised, ennobled, and
purified" his life and thought. He stimulated and directed her genius life
into its true channel, cared for her business interests with untiring
faithfulness, made it possible for her to pursue her work without burdens
and distractions, and gave her the inspiration of a noble affection and a
cheerful home. Miss Edith Simcox speaks of "the perfect union between
these two," which, she says, "lent half its charm to all the worship paid
at the shrine of George Eliot." She herself, Miss Simcox proceeds to say,
"has spoken somewhere of the element of almost natural tenderness in a
man's protecting love: this patient, unwearying care for which no trifles
are too small, watched over her own life; he stood between her and the
world, her relieved her from all those minor cares which chafe and fret
the artist's soul; he wrote her letters; in a word, he so smoothed the
course of her outer life as to leave all her powers free to do what she
alone could do for the world and for the many who looked to her for help
and guidance. No doubt this devotion brought its own reward; but we are
exacting for our idols and do not care to have even a generous error to
condone, and therefore we are glad to know that, great as his reward was,
it was no greater than was merited by the most perfect love that ever
crowned a woman's life." Mr. Kegan Paul also writes of the mutual
helpfulness and harmony of purpose which grew out of this marriage. "Mr.
Lewes's character attained a stability and pose in which it had been
somewhat lacking, and the quiet of an orderly and beautiful home enabled
him to concentrate himself more and more on works demanding sustained
intellectual effort, while Mrs. Lewes's intensely feminine nature found
the strong man on whom to lean in the daily business of life, for which
she was physically and intellectually unfitted. Her own somewhat sombre
cast of thought was cheered, enlivened and diversified by the vivacity and
versatility which characterized Mr. Lewes, and made him seem less like an
Englishman than a very agreeable foreigner."

This marriage presents one of the curious ethical problems of literature.
In this case approval and condemnation are alike difficult. Her own
teaching condemns it; her own life approves it. We could wish it had not
been, for the sake of what is purest and best; and yet it is not difficult
to see that its effects were in many ways beneficial to her. That it was
ethically wrong there is no doubt. That it was condemned by her own
teaching is so plain as to cause doubt about how she could herself approve

Lewes had a brilliant and versatile mind. He was not a profound thinker,
but he had keen literary tastes, a vigorous interest in science, and a
remarkable alertness of intellect. His gifts were varied rather than deep;
literary rather than philosophical. As a companion, he had a wonderful
charm and magnetism; he was a graceful talker, a marvellous story-teller,
and a wit seldom rivalled. His intimate friend, Anthony Trollope, says,
"There was never a man so pleasant as he with whom to sit and talk vague
literary gossip over a cup of coffee and a cigar." By the same friend we
are told that no man related a story as he did. "No one could say that he
was handsome. The long bushy hair, and the thin cheeks, and the heavy
mustache, joined as they were, alas! almost always to a look of sickness,
were not attributes of beauty. But there was a brilliance in his eye which
was not to be tamed by any sickness, by any suffering, which overcame all
other feeling on looking at him."

George Henry Lewes was born in London, April 18, 1817. His grandfather was
a well-known comedian. His education was received in a very desultory
manner. He was at school for a time in Jersey, and also in Brittany, where
he acquired a thorough command of French. Later he attended a famous school
in Greenwich, kept by a Dr. Burney. After leaving school he went into a
notary's office, and then he became a clerk to a Russia merchant. His mind
was, however, attracted to scientific and philosophic studies, and he
betrayed little interest either in the law or in commercial pursuits. Then
he took up the study of medicine, giving thorough attention to anatomy and
physiology. It is said that his horror of the dissecting-room was so great
as to cause him to abandon the purpose to become a physician. All this time
his mind was steadily drawn to philosophy, and he gave as much time to it
as he could. The bent, of his mind was early developed, and in 1836, when
only nineteen, he had projected a treatise on the philosophy of mind, in
which he proposed to give a physiological interpretation to the doctrines
of Reid, Stewart and Brown. At the age of twenty he gave a course of
lectures on this subject; and to this line of thought he held ever after.
One of the influences which led to his departure from a strict
interpretation of the Scotch metaphysicians was the influence of Spinoza.
As indicating the eagerness with which he pursued his studies in all
directions, and the earnestness of his purpose at so early an age, his own
account of a club he attended at this time [Footnote: Fortnightly Review,
April 1,1866, introductory to the article on Spinoza.] may be mentioned. In
this account he describes a Jew by the name of Cohen, who first introduced
him to the study of Spinoza, and who has mistakenly been supposed to be the
original of Mordecai in _Daniel Deronda_.

The sixth member of this club, who "studied anatomy and many other things,
with vast aspirations, and no very definite career before him," was Lewes
himself, in all probability. His eager desire for knowledge took him to
Germany in 1838, where he remained for two years in the same desultory
study of many subjects. He became thoroughly acquainted with the German
language and life, and gave much attention to German literature and
philosophy. On his return to England, Lewes entered upon his literary
career, which was remarkable for its versatility and productiveness. In
1841 he wrote "The Noble Heart," a three-act tragedy, published in 1852.
His studies of Spinoza found expression in one of the first essays on the
subject published in England. In 1843, he published in the _Westminster
Review_ his conclusions on that thinker. His essay was reprinted in a
separate form, attracting much attention, and in 1846 was incorporated into
a larger work, the result of his studies in Germany and of his interest in
philosophy. In 1845, at the age of twenty-nine, he published a history of
philosophy, in which he undertook to criticise all metaphysical systems
from the inductive and scientific point of view. This work was his
_Biographical History of Philosophy_. It appeared in four small volumes in
Knight's weekly series of popular books devoted to the diffusion of
knowledge among the people. Lewes touched a popular demand in this book,
reaching the wants of many readers. He continued through many years to
elaborate his studies on these subjects and to re-work his materials. New
and enlarged editions, each time making the book substantially a new one,
were published in 1857, in 1867 and in 1871. No solid book of the century
has sold better; and it has been translated into several continental

Lewes did not confine himself to philosophy. Other and very different
subjects also attracted his attention. His mind ranged in many directions,
and his flexible genius found subjects of interest on all sides. In 1846 he
published a little book on _The Spanish Drama: Lope de Vega and Calderon_,
a slight affair, full of his peculiar prejudices, and devoted mainly to an
unsympathetic criticism. The following year he gave to the world an
ambitious novel, _Ranthorpe_. It seems to have been well read in its day,
was translated into German and reprinted on the continent by Tauchnitz. The
plot is well conceived, but the story is rapidly told, full of incident and
tragedy, and there is a subtle air of unreality about it. The experiences
of a poet are unfolded in a romantic form, and the attempt is made to show
what is the true purpose and spirit in which literature can be successfully
pursued. To this end there is a discussion running through the book on the
various phases of the literary life, much in the manner of Fielding.
_Ranthorpe_ would now be regarded as a very dull novel, and it is crude,
full of the sensational, with little analysis of character and much action.

It was read, however, by Charlotte Bronte with great interest, and she
wrote of it to the author in these words: "In reading _Ranthorpe_ I have
read a new book--not a reprint--not a reflection of any other book, but _a
new book_. I did not know such books were written now. It is very different
to any of the popular works of fiction; it fills the mind with fresh
knowledge. Your experience and your convictions are made the reader's; and
to an author, at least, they have a value and an interest quite unusual."
In 1848, Lewes published another novel of a very different kind--_Rose,
Blanche and Violet_. This was a society novel, intended to reach the minds
of the ordinary novel-readers, but was not so successful as the first. It
has little plot or incident, but has much freshness of thought and
originality of style.

The same year appeared his _Life of Robespierre_, the result of original
investigations, and based largely on unpublished correspondence. Without
any sympathy of opinion with Robespierre, and without any purpose of
vindicating his character, Lewes told the true story of his life, and
showed wherein he had been grossly misrepresented. The book was one of
much interest, though it lacked in true historic insight and was clumsily
written. While these works were appearing, Lewes was a voluminous
contributor to the periodical literature of the day. He wrote, at this
time and later, for the _Edinburgh Review_, the _Foreign Quarterly_,
_British Quarterly_, _Westminster Review_, _Fraser's Magazine_,
_Blackwood's Magazine_, _Cornhill Monthly_, _Saturday Review_, in the
_Classical Museum_, the _Morning Chronicle_, the _Atlas_ and various other
periodicals, and on a great variety of subjects. His work of this kind was
increased when in 1849 he became the literary editor of _The Leader_
newspaper, a weekly journal of radical thought and politics. His
versatility, freshness of thought and vigor of expression made this
department of _The Leader_ of great interest. His reviews of books were
always good, and his literary articles piquant and forcible. In the first
volume he published a story called _The Apprenticeship of Life_. In April,
1852, he began in its columns a series of eighteen articles on Comte's
Positive Philosophy. In connection with the second article of this series
he asked for subscriptions in aid of Comte, and in the third reported that
three workingmen had sent in money. These subscriptions were continued
while the articles were in progress, and amounted to a considerable sum. In
1854 these essays were republished in Bohn's _Scientific Library_ under the
title of _Comte's Philosophy of the Sciences_. The _Leader_ was ably
conducted, but it was radical and outspoken, and did not receive the
support it deserved. In 1854 his connection with it came to an end.

While connected with _The Leader_, Lewes had turned his attention to
Goethe, and made a thorough study of his life and opinions. After spending
many months in Weimar, and as a result of his studies in Germany, he
published in 1855 his _Life and Works of Goethe_. It was carefully
re-written in 1873, and the substance of it was given in an abbreviated
and more popular form a few years later. This has usually been accepted
as the best book about Goethe written in English. Mr. Anthony Trollope
expresses the usual opinion when he says, "As a critical biography of
one of the great heroes of literature it is almost perfect. It is short,
easily understood by common readers, singularly graphic, exhaustive, and
altogether devoted to the subject." On the other hand, Bayard Taylor
said that "Lewes's entertaining apology hardly deserves the name of a
biography." It is an opinionated book, controversial, egotistic, and
unnecessarily critical. It was written less with the purpose of
interpreting Goethe to the English reader than of giving expression
to Lewes's own views on many subjects. His chapters on Goethe's science
and on his realism are marked by an extreme dogmatism. The poetic and
religious side of Goethe's nature he was incapable of understanding, and
always misrepresents, as he did that side of his nature which allied Goethe
with Schiller and the other idealists. Lewes was always polemical, had some
theory to champion, some battle to fight. He did not write for the sake of
the subject, but because the subject afforded an arena of battle for the
theories to the advocacy of which he gave his life.

With the completion of his _Life of Goethe_, Lewes turned his attention
more than ever to physiological studies, though he had continued to give
them much attention in the midst of his other pursuits. In 1858 appeared
his _Seaside Studies_, in which he recorded the results of his original
investigations at Ilfracombe, Tenby, Scilly Isles and Jersey. This volume
is written in a plain descriptive style, containing many interesting
accounts of scenery and adventure, explanations of the methods of study of
animal life at the seashore, how experiments are carried on, the results of
these special studies, and much of controversy with other observers. It
combines science and description in a happy manner. Another result of his
physiological studies was a paper "On the Spinal Cord as a Centre of
Sensation and Volition," read before the British Association for the
Advancement of Science, in 1858. This was followed the next year by three
published addresses on "The Nervous System," in which he presented those
theories which were more carefully developed in his latest work, where he
gave a systematic account of his philosophy. From this time on to his death
the greater part of his energies were given to these studies, and to the
building up of a philosophy based on physiology. A popular work, in which
many of his theories are unfolded, and marked throughout by his peculiar
ideas in regard to the relations of body and mind, was published in 1858.
This was his _Physiology of Common Life_, a work of great value, and
written in a simple, comprehensive style, suited to the wants of the
general reader. In the first volume he wrote of hunger and thirst, food and
drink, digestion, structure and uses of the blood, circulation of the
blood, respiration and suffocation, and why we are warm and how we keep so.
The second treats of feeling and thinking, the mind and the brain, our
senses and sensations, sleep and dreams, the qualities we inherit from our
parents, and life and death. In 1860 he printed in _The Cornhill Magazine_
a series of six papers on animal life. They were reprinted in book form in
1861, under the title of _Studies in Animal Life_. More strictly scientific
than his _Seaside Studies_, they were even more popular in style, and
intended for the general reader. While these books were being published he
was at work on a more strictly scientific task, and one intended for the
thoughtful and philosophic reader. This was his _Aristotle: a Chapter from
the History of Science, including Analyses of Aristotle's Scientific
Writings_, which was completed early in 1862, but not published until 1864.
As in his previous works, Lewes is here mainly concerned with an exposition
of his theories of the inductive method, and he judges Aristotle from this
somewhat narrow position. He refuses Aristotle a place among scientific
observers, but says he gave a great impulse towards scientific study, while
in intellectual force he was a giant. The book contains no recognition of
Aristotle's value as a philosopher; indeed his metaphysics are treated with
entire distrust or indifference. His fame is pronounced to be justifiably
colossal, but it is said he did not lay the basis of any physical science.
It is a work of controversy rather than of unbiassed exposition, and its
method is dry and difficult.

Early in the year 1865, a few literary men in London conceived the project
of a new review, which should avoid what they conceived to be the errors of
the old ones. It was to be eclectic in its doctrinal position, contain only
the best literature, all articles were to be signed by the author's name,
and it was to be published by a joint-stock company. Lewes was invited to
become the editor of this new periodical, and after much urging he
consented. The first number of _The Fortnightly Review_ was published May
15,1865, It proved a financial failure, and was soon sold to a publishing
firm. The eclectic theory was abandoned, and the _Review_ became an
agnostic and radical organ under the management of its second editor, John
Morley. Lewes edited six volumes, when, in 1867, he was obliged, on account
of his health, to resign his position. He made the _Review_ an independent
and able exponent of current thought, and he kept it up to a very high
standard of literary excellence. His own contributions were among the best
things it contained, and give a good indication of the wide range of his
talent. In the first volume he published papers on "The Heart and the
Brain," and on the poetry of Robert Buchanan, as well as a series of four
very able and valuable papers on "The Principles of Success in Literature."
In the second volume he wrote about "Mr. Grote's Plato." In the third he
dealt with "Victor Hugo's Latest Poems," "Criticism in relation to Novels,"
and "Auguste Comte." In this volume he began a series of essays entitled
"Causeries," in which he treated, in a light vein, of the passing topics of
the day. He wrote of Spinoza in the fourth volume, and of "Comte and Mill"
in the sixth, contributing nothing to the fifth. After Morley became the
editor, in the ninth and tenth volumes, he published three papers on
Darwin's hypothesis, and in 1878 there was a paper of his on the "Dread and
Dislike of Science." He also had a criticism of Dickens in the July number
of 1872, full of his subtle power of analysis and literary insight.

Lewes in early life had a strong inclination to become an actor, and he did
go on the stage for a short time. He wrote and translated several plays,
one of his adaptations becoming very popular. He wrote dramatic criticisms
for the _Pall Mall Gazette_ and other journals, during many years. In 1875,
a volume of these papers was published with the title, _On Actors and the
Art of Acting_. It treated in a pleasant way, and with keen insight, of
Edmund Kean, Charles Kean, Rachel, Macready, Fan-en, Charles Matthews,
Frederic Lemaitre, the two Keeleys, Shakspere as actor and critic, natural
acting, foreign actors on our stage, the drama of Paris in 1865, Germany in
1867, and Spain in 1867, and of his first impressions of Salvini. Another
piece of work done by him was the furnishing, in 1867, of an explanatory
text to accompany Kaulbach's _Female Characters of Goethe_.

The last years of Lewes's life were devoted to the preparation of a
systematic exposition of his physiological philosophy. As early as the year
1858, he was at work on the nervous system, and, soon after, his studies
took a systematic shape. In his series of volumes on the _Problems of Life
and Mind_ he gave to the world a new theory of the mind and of knowledge.
In the first two volumes, published in 1874, and entitled _The Foundations
of a Creed_, he developed his views on the methods of philosophic research.
These were followed in 1877 by a third volume, on _The Physical Basis of
Life_. After his death his wife edited two small volumes on Psychology,
which included all the writing he left in a form ready for publication. His
work was left incomplete, but its publication had gone far enough to show
the methods to be followed and the main conclusions to be reached.

Concerning the work done by Lewes in philosophy, there will be much
difference of opinion. He did much through his various expositions to make
the public familiar with the inductive methods of inquiry and with the
conclusions of positive thought. He made his books readable, and even
popular, giving philosophy an exposition suited to the wants of the general
reader. At the same time, he was polemical and dogmatic, and more concerned
to be clever than to be exact in his interpretation. Into the meanings of
some of the greatest thinkers he had little clear insight, and he is seldom
to be implicitly trusted as an expositor of those whose systems were in any
way opposed to his own. His limitations have been well defined by Ribot, in
his _Contemporary English Psychology_.

"Mr. Lewes lacks the vocation of the scholar, which, indeed, is generally
wanting in original minds. His history resembles rather that of Hegel than
that of Ritter. His review of the labors of philosophers is rather occupied
with that which they have thought, than with their comparative importance.
He judges rather than expounds; his history is fastidious and critical. It
is the work of a clear, precise and elegant mind, always that of a writer,
often witty, measured, possessing no taste for declamation, avoiding
exclusive solutions, and making its interest profitable to the reader whom
he forces to think." Ribot speaks of the work again as being original but
dogmatic and critical. He says it belongs to that class of books which make
history a pretext for conflict. "The author is less occupied with the
exposition of facts than he is with his method of warfare; he thinks less
of being exact than of being clever.... He has evidently no taste, or, if
we prefer so to put it, he has not the virtue necessary to face these
formidable folios, these undigested texts of scholastic learning, which the
historian of philosophy ought to penetrate, however repulsive to his
positive and lucid mind."

On the other hand, Mr. Frederic Harrison has described the great success of
the _Biographical History of Philosophy_, and made it apparent what are its
chief merits. "This astonishing work was designed to be popular, to be
readable, to be intelligible. It was all of these in a singular degree. It
has proved to be the most popular account of philosophy of our time; it has
been republished, enlarged, and almost re-written, and each re-issue has
found new readers. It did what hardly any previous book on philosophy ever
did--it made philosophy readable, reasonable, lively, almost as exciting as
a good novel. Learners who had been tortured over dismal homilies on the
pantheism of Spinoza, and yet more dismal expositions of the pan-nihilism

Book of the day: