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Beacon Lights of History, Volume VII by John Lord

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America, what single novel ever equalled the success of "Uncle Tom's
Cabin"? What schools are better kept than those by women? And this is
only the beginning, since it is generally felt that women are better
educated than men, outside of the great professions. And why not, since
they have more leisure for literary pursuits than men? Who now sneers at
the intellect of a woman? Who laughs at blue-stockings? Who denies the
insight, the superior tact, the genius of woman? What man does not
accept woman as a fellow-laborer in the field of letters? And yet there
is one profession which they are more capable of filling than men,--that
of physicians to their own sex; a profession most honorable, and
requiring great knowledge, as well as great experience and insight.

Why may not women cope with men in the proudest intellectual
tournaments? Why should they not become great linguists, and poets, and
novelists, and artists, and critics, and historians? Have they not
quickness, brilliancy, sentiment, acuteness of observation, good sense,
and even genius? Do not well-educated women speak French before their
brothers can translate the easiest lines of Virgil? I would not put such
gentle, refined, and cultivated creatures,--these flowers of Paradise,
spreading the sweet aroma of their graces in the calm retreats from toil
and sin,--I would not push them into the noisy arena of wrangling
politics, into the suffocating and impure air of a court of justice, or
even make them professors in a college of unruly boys; but because I
would not do them this great cruelty, do I deny their intellectual
equality, or seek to dim the lustre of the light they shed, or hide
their talents under the vile bushel of envy, cynicism, or contempt? Is
it paying true respect to woman to seek to draw her from the beautiful
sphere which she adorns and vivifies and inspires,--where she is a
solace, a rest, a restraint, and a benediction,--and require of her
labors which she has not the physical strength to perform? And when it
is seen how much more attractive the wives and daughters of favored
classes have made themselves by culture, how much more capable they are
of training and educating their children, how much more dignified the
family circle may thus become,--every man who is a father will rejoice
in this great step which women have recently made, not merely in
literary attainments, but in the respect of men. Take away intellect
from woman, and what is she but a toy or a slave? For my part, I see no
more cheering signs of the progress of society than in the advancing
knowledge of favored women. And I know of no more splendid future for
them than to encircle their brows, whenever they have an opportunity,
with those proud laurels which have ever been accorded to those who have
advanced the interests of truth and the dominion of the soul,--which
laurels they have lately won, and which both reason and experience
assure us they may continue indefinitely to win.


Miss Luyster's Memoirs of Madame de Stael; Memoires Dix Annees d'Exil;
Alison's Essays; M. Shelly's Lives; Mrs. Thomson's Queens of Society;
Sainte-Beuve's Nouveaux Lundis; Lord Brougham on Madame de Stael; J.
Bruce's Classic Portraits; J. Kavanagh's French Women of Letters;
Biographic Universelle; North American Review, vols. x., xiv., xxxvii.;
Edinburgh Review, vols. xxi., xxxi., xxxiv., xliii.; Temple Bar, vols.
xl., lv.; Foreign Quarterly, vol. xiv.; Blackwood's Magazine, vols.
iii., vii., x.; Quarterly Review, 152; North British Review, vol. xx.;
Christian Examiner, 73; Catholic World, 18.


* * * * *

A. D. 1745-1833.


One of the useful and grateful tasks of historians and biographers is to
bring forward to the eye of every new generation of men and women those
illustrious characters who made a great figure in the days of their
grandfathers and grandmothers, yet who have nearly faded out of sight in
the rush of new events and interests, and the rise of new stars in the
intellectual firmament. Extraordinary genius or virtue or services may
be forgotten for a while, but are never permanently hidden. There is
always somebody to recall them to our minds, whether the interval be
short or long. The Italian historian Vico wrote a book which attracted
no attention for nearly two hundred years,--in fact, was forgotten,--but
was made famous by the discoveries of Niebuhr in the Vatican library,
and became the foundation of modern philosophical history. Some great
men pass out of view for a generation or two owing to the bitterness of
contemporaneous enemies and detractors, and others because of the very
unanimity of admirers and critics, leading to no opposition. We weary
both of praise and censure. And when either praise or censure stops, the
object of it is apparently forgotten for a time, except by the few who
are learned. Yet, I repeat, real greatness or goodness is never
completely hidden. It reappears with new lustre when brought into
comparison with those who are embarked in the same cause.

Thus the recent discussions on the education of women recall to our
remembrance the greatest woman who lived in England in the latter part
of the last century,--Hannah More,--who devoted her long and prosperous
and honorable life to this cause both by practical teaching and by
writings which arrested the attention and called forth the admiration of
the best people in Europe and America. She forestalled nearly everything
which has been written in our times pertaining to the life of woman,
both at school and in society. And she evinced in her writings on this
great subject an acuteness of observation, a good sense, a breadth and
catholicity of judgment, a richness of experience, and a high moral tone
which have never been surpassed. She reminds us of the wise Madame de
Maintenon in her school at St. Cyr; the pious and philanthropic Mary
Lyon at the Mount Holyoke Seminary; and the more superficial and
worldly, but truly benevolent and practical, Emma Willard at her
institution in Troy,--the last two mentioned ladies being the pioneers
of the advanced education for young ladies in such colleges as Vassar,
Wellesley, and Smith, and others I could mention. The wisdom, tact, and
experience of Madame de Maintenon--the first great woman who gave a
marked impulse to female education in our modern times--were not lost on
Hannah More, who seems to have laid down the laws best adapted to
develop the mind and character of woman under a high civilization.
England seems to have been a century in advance of America, both in its
wisdom and folly; and the same things in London life were ridiculed and
condemned with unsparing boldness by Hannah More which to-day, in New
York, have called out the vigorous protests of Dr. Morgan Dix. The
educators of our age and country cannot do better than learn wisdom from
the "Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education," as well as
the "Thoughts on the Manners of the Great," which appeared from the pen
of Hannah More in the latter part of the 18th century, in which she
appears as both moralist and teacher, getting inspiration not only from
her exalted labors, but from the friendship and conversation of the
great intellectual oracles of her age. I have not read of any one woman
in England for the last fifty years, I have not heard or known of any
one woman in the United States, who ever occupied the exalted position
of Hannah More, or who exercised so broad and deep an influence on the
public mind in the combined character of a woman of society, author, and
philanthropist. There have been, since her day, more brilliant queens of
fashion, greater literary geniuses, and more prominent philanthropists;
but she was enabled to exercise an influence superior to any of them, by
her friendship with people of rank, by her clear and powerful writings,
and by her lofty piety and morality, which blazed amid the vices of
fashionable society one hundred years ago.

It is well to dwell on the life and labors of so great and good a woman,
who has now become historical. But I select her especially as the
representative of the grandest moral movement of modern times,--that
which aims to develop the mind and soul of woman, and give to her the
dignity of which she has been robbed by paganism and "philistinism." I
might have selected some great woman nearer home and our own time, more
intimately connected with the profession of educating young ladies; but
I prefer to speak of one who is universally conceded to have rendered
great service to her age and country. It is doubly pleasant to present
Hannah More, because she had none of those defects and blemishes which
have often detracted from the dignity of great benefactors. She was
about as perfect a woman as I have read of; and her virtues were not
carried out to those extremes of fanaticism which have often marked
illustrious saints, from the want of common-sense or because of
visionary theories. Strict and consistent as a moralist, she was never
led into any extravagances or fanaticisms. Stern even as a
disciplinarian, she did not proscribe healthy and natural amusements.
Strong-minded,--if I may use a modern contemptuous phrase,--she never
rebelled against the ordinances of nature or the laws dictated by
inspiration. She was a model woman: beautiful, yet not vain; witty, yet
never irreverent; independent, yet respectful to authority; exercising
private judgment, yet admired by bishops; learned, without pedantry;
hospitable, without extravagance; fond of the society of the great, yet
spending her life among the poor; alive to the fascinations of society,
yet consecrating all her energies of mind and body to the good of those
with whom she was brought in contact; as capable of friendship as Paula,
as religious as Madame Guyon, as charming in conversation as Recamier,
as practical as Elizabeth, as broad and tolerant as Fenelon, who was
himself half woman in his nature, as the most interesting men of genius
are apt to be. Nothing cynical, or bitter, or extravagant, or
contemptuous appears in any of her writings, most of which were
published anonymously,--from humility as well as sensitiveness. Vanity
was a stranger to her, as well as arrogance and pride. Embarking in
great enterprises, she never went outside the prescribed sphere of
woman. Masculine in the force and vigor of her understanding, she was
feminine in all her instincts,--proper, amiable, and gentle; a woman
whom everybody loved and everybody respected, even to kings and queens.

Hannah More was born in a little village near Bristol, 1745, and her
father was the village schoolmaster. He had been well educated, and had
large expectations; but he was disappointed, and was obliged to resort
to this useful but irksome way of getting a living. He had five
daughters, of whom Hannah was the fourth. As a girl, she was very
precocious in mind, as well as beautiful and attractive in her person.
She studied Latin when only eight years of age. Her father, it would
seem, was a very sensible man, and sought to develop the peculiar
talents which each of his daughters possessed, without the usual
partiality of parents, who are apt to mistake inclination for genius.
Three of the girls had an aptitude for teaching, and opened a
boarding-school in Bristol when the oldest was only twenty. The school
was a great success, and soon became fashionable, and ultimately famous.
To this school the early labors of Hannah More were devoted; and she
soon attracted attention by her accomplishments, especially in the
modern languages, in which she conversed with great accuracy and
facility. But her talents were more remarkable than her
accomplishments; and eminent men sought her society and friendship, who
in turn introduced her to their own circle of friends, by all of whom
she was admired. Thus she gradually came to know the celebrated Dean
Tucker of Gloucester cathedral; Ferguson the astronomer, then lecturing
at Bristol; the elder Sheridan, also giving lectures on oratory in the
same city; Garrick, on the eve of his retirement from the stage; Dr.
Johnson, Goldsmith, Reynolds, Mrs. Montagu, in whose _salon_ the most
distinguished men of the age assembled as the headquarters of
fashionable society,--Edmund Burke, then member for Bristol in the House
of Commons; Gibbon; Alderman Cadell, the great publisher; Bishop
Porteus; Rev. John Newton; and Sir James Stonehouse, an eminent
physician. With all these stars she was on intimate terms, visiting them
at their houses, received by them all as more than an equal,--for she
was not only beautiful and witty, but had earned considerable reputation
for her poetry. Garrick particularly admired her as a woman of genius,
and performed one of her plays ("Percy") twenty successive nights at
Drury Lane, writing himself both the prologue and the epilogue. It must
be borne in mind that when first admitted to the choicest society of
London,--at the houses not merely of literary men, but of great
statesmen and nobles like Lord Camden, Lord Spencer, the Duke of
Newcastle. Lord Pembroke, Lord Granville, and others,--she was teaching
in a girls' school at Bristol, and was a young lady under thirty
years of age.

It was as a literary woman--when literary women were not so numerous or
ambitious as they now are--that Hannah More had the _entree_ into the
best society under the patronage of the greatest writers of the age. She
was a literary lion before she was twenty-five. She attracted the
attention of Sheridan by her verses when she was scarcely eighteen. Her
"Search after Happiness" went through six editions before the year 1775.
Her tragedy of "Percy" was translated into French and German before she
was thirty; and she realized from the sale of it L600. "The Fatal
Falsehood" was also much admired, but did not meet the same success,
being cruelly attacked by envious rivals. Her "Bas Bleu" was praised by
Johnson in unmeasured terms. It was for her poetry that she was best
known from 1775 to 1785, the period when she lived in the fashionable
and literary world, and which she adorned by her wit and brilliant
conversation,--not exactly a queen of society, since she did not set up
a _salon_, but was only an honored visitor at the houses of the great; a
brilliant and beautiful woman, whom everybody wished to know.

I will not attempt any criticism on those numerous poems. They are not
much read and valued in our time. They are all after the style of
Johnson and Pope;--the measured and artificial style of the eighteenth
century, in imitation of the ancient classics and of French poetry, in
which the wearisome rhyme is the chief peculiarity,--smooth, polished,
elaborate, but pretty much after the same pattern, and easily imitated
by school-girls. The taste of this age--created by Burns, Byron,
Wordsworth, Browning, Tennyson, Longfellow, and others--is very
different. But the poems of Hannah More were undoubtedly admired by her
generation, and gave her great _eclat_ and considerable pecuniary
emolument. And yet her real fame does not rest on those artificial
poems, respectable as they were one hundred years ago, but on her
writings as a moralist and educator.

During this period of her life--from 1775 to 1785--she chiefly resided
with her sisters in Bristol, but made long visits to London, and to the
houses of famous or titled personages. In a worldly point of view these
years were the most brilliant, but not most useful, period of her life.
At first she was intoxicated by the magnificent attentions she received,
and had an intense enjoyment of cultivated society. It was in these
years she formed the most ardent friendships of her life. Of all her
friends, she seems to have been most attached to Garrick,--the idol of
society, a general favorite wherever he chose to go, a man of
irreproachable morals and charming conversational powers; at whose
house and table no actor or actress was ever known to be invited, except
in one solitary instance; from which it would appear that he was more
desirous of the attentions of the great than of the sympathy and
admiration of the people of his own profession. It is not common for
actors to be gifted with great conversational powers, any more than for
artists, as a general thing, to be well-read people, especially in
history. Hannah More was exceedingly intimate with both Garrick and his
wife; and his death, in 1779, saddened and softened his great
worshipper. After his death she never was present at any theatrical
amusement. She would not go to the theatre to witness the acting of her
own dramas; not even to see Mrs. Siddons, when she appeared as so
brilliant a star. In fact, after Garrick's death Miss More partially
abandoned fashionable society, having acquired a disgust of its
heartless frivolities and seductive vices.

With the death of Garrick a new era opened in the life of Hannah More,
although for the succeeding five years she still was a frequent visitor
in the houses of those she esteemed, both literary lions and people of
rank. It would seem, during this period, that Dr. Johnson was her
warmest friend, whom she ever respected for his lofty moral nature, and
before whom she bowed down in humble worship as an intellectual
dictator. He called her his child. Sometimes he was severe on her, when
she differed from him in opinion, or when caught praising books which
he, as a moralist, abhorred,--like the novels of Fielding and Smollet;
for the only novelist he could tolerate was Richardson. Once when she
warmly expatiated in praise of the Jansenists, the overbearing autocrat
exclaimed in a voice of thunder: "Madam, let me hear no more of this!
Don't quote your popish authorities to me; I want none of your popery!"
But seeing that his friend was overwhelmed with the shock he gave her,
his countenance instantly changed; his lip quivered, and his eyes filled
with tears. He gently took her hand, and with the deepest emotion
exclaimed: "Child, never mind what I have said,--follow true piety
wherever you find it." This anecdote is a key to the whole character of
Johnson, interesting and uninteresting; for this rough, tyrannical
dogmatist was also one of the tenderest of men, and had a soul as
impressible as that of a woman.

The most intimate woman friend, it would seem, that Hannah ever had was
Mrs. Garrick, both before and after the death of her husband; and the
wife of Garrick was a Roman Catholic. Hannah More usually spent several
months with this accomplished and warm-hearted woman at her house in
Hampton, generally from March to July. This was often her home during
the London season, after which she resided in Bristol with her sisters,
who made a fortune by their boarding-school. After Hannah had entered
into the literary field she supported herself by her writings, which
until 1785 were chiefly poems and dramas,--now almost forgotten, but
which were widely circulated and admired in her day, and by which she
kept her position in fashionable and learned society. After the death of
Garrick, as we have said, she seemed to have acquired a disgust of the
gay and fashionable society which at one time was so fascinating. She
found it frivolous, vain, and even dull. She craved sympathy and
intellectual conversation and knowledge. She found neither at a
fashionable party, only outside show, gay dresses, and unspeakable
follies,--no conversation; for how could there be either the cultivation
of friendship or conversation in a crowd, perchance, of empty people for
the most part? "As to London," says she, "I shall be glad to get out of
it; everything is great and vast and late and magnificent and dull." I
very seldom go to these parties, and I always repent when I do. My
distaste of these scenes of insipid magnificence I have not words to
tell. Every faculty but the sight is starved, and that has a surfeit. I
like conversation parties of the right sort, whether of four persons or
forty; but it is impossible to talk when two or three hundred people are
continually coming in and popping out, or nailing themselves to a card
table. "Conceive," said she, "of the insipidity of two or three hundred
people,--all dressed in the extremity of fashion, painted as red as
bacchanals, poisoning the air with perfumes, treading on each other's
dresses, not one in ten able to get a chair when fainting with
weariness. I never now go to these things when I can possibly avoid it,
and stay when there as few minutes as I can." Thus she wrote as early as
1782. She went through the same experience as did Madame Recamier,
learning to prefer a small and select circle, where conversation was the
chief charm, especially when this circle was composed only of gifted men
and women. In this incipient disgust of gay and worldly society--chiefly
because it improved neither her mind nor her morals, because it was
stupid and dull, as it generally is to people of real culture and high
intelligence--she seems to have been gradually drawn to the learned
prelates of the English Church,--like Dr. Porteus, Bishop of Chester,
afterwards of London; the Bishop of St. Asaph; and Dr. Home, then Dean
of Canterbury. She became very intimate with Wilberforce and Rev. John
Newton, while she did not give up her friendship for Horace Walpole,
Pepys, and other lights of the social world.

About this time (1785) she retired to Cowslip Green, a pretty cottage
ten miles from Bristol, and spent her time in reading, writing, and
gardening. The country, with its green pastures and still waters, called
her back to those studies and duties which are most ennobling, and which
produce the most lasting pleasure. In this humble retreat she had many
visitors from among her illustrious friends. She became more and more
religious, without entirely giving up society; corresponding with the
eminent men and women she visited, especially Mrs. Montagu, Dr. Porteus,
Mrs. Boscawen, Mr. Pepys, and Rev. John Newton. In the charming
seclusion of Cowslip Green she wrote her treatise on the "Manners of the
Great;" the first of that series in which she rebuked the fashions and
follies of the day. It had an immense circulation, and was published
anonymously. This very popular work was followed, in 1790, by a volume
on an "Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World," which
produced a still deeper sensation among the great, and was much admired.
The Bishop of London (Porteus) was full of its praises; so was John
Newton, although he did not think that any book could wean the worldly
from their pleasures.

Thus far most of the associations of Hannah More had been with the
fashionable world, by which she was petted and flattered. Seeing clearly
its faults, she had sought to reform it by her writings and by her
conversation. But now she turned her attention to another class,--the
poor and ignorant,--and labored for them. She instituted a number of
schools for the poor in her immediate neighborhood, superintended them,
raised money for them, and directed them, as Madame de Maintenon did the
school of St. Cyr; only with this difference,--that while the
Frenchwoman sought to develop the mind and character of a set of
aristocratic girls to offset the practical infidelity that permeated the
upper walks of life, Hannah More desired to make the children of the
poor religious amid the savage profligacy which then marked the peasant
class. The first school she established was at Cheddar, a wild and
sunless hollow, amid yawning caverns, about ten miles from Cowslip
Green,--the resort of pleasure parties for its picturesque cliffs and
fissures. Around this weird spot was perhaps the most degraded peasantry
to be found in England, without even spiritual instruction,--for the
vicar was a non-resident, and his living was worth but L50 a year. In
her efforts to establish a school in such a barbarous and pagan locality
Hannah met with serious obstacles. The farmers and petty landholders
were hostile to her scheme, maintaining that any education would spoil
the poor, and make them discontented. Even the farmers themselves were
an ignorant and brutal class, very depraved, and with intense
prejudices. For a whole year she labored with them to disarm their
hostilities and prejudices, and succeeded at last in collecting two
hundred and fifty children in the schoolhouse which she had built. Their
instruction was of course only elemental, but it was religious.

From Cheddar, Hannah More was led to examine into the condition of
neighboring places. Thirteen contiguous parishes were without a resident
curate, and nine of these were furnished with schools, with over five
hundred scholars. Her theory was,--a suitable education for each, and a
Christian education for all. While she was much encouraged by her
ecclesiastical aristocratic friends, she still encountered great
opposition from the farmers. She also excited the jealousy of the
Dissenters for thus invading the territory of ignorance. All her
movements were subjected to prelates and clergymen of the Church of
England for their approval; for she put herself under their patronage.
And yet the brutal ignorance of the peasantry was owing in part to the
neglect of these very clergymen, who never visited these poor people
under their charge. As an excuse for them, it may be said that at that
time there were 4,809 parishes in England and Wales in which a clergyman
could not reside, if he would, for lack of a parsonage. At that time,
even in Puritan New England, every minister was supposed to live in a
parsonage. To-day, not one parish in ten is provided with that desirable

Not only were the labors of Hannah More extended to the ignorant and
degraded by the establishment of schools in her neighborhood, at an
expense of about L1,000 a year, part of which she contributed herself,
but she employed her pen in their behalf, writing, at the solicitation
of the Bishop of London, a series of papers or tracts for the times,
with special reference to the enlightenment of the lower classes on
those subjects that were then agitating the country. The whole land was
at this time inundated with pamphlets full of infidelity and discontent,
fanned by the French Revolution, then passing through its worst stages
of cruelty, atheism, and spoliation. Burke about the same time wrote his
"Reflections," which are immortal for their wisdom and profundity; but
he wrote for the upper classes, not merely in England, but in America
and on the continent of Europe. Hannah More wrote for the lower classes,
and in a style of great clearness and simplicity. Her admirable
dialogue, called "Village Politics," by Will Chip, a country carpenter,
exposed the folly and atrocity of the revolutionary doctrines then in
vogue. Its circulation was immense. The Government purchased several
thousand copies for distribution. It was translated into French and
Italian. Similar in spirit was the tract in reply to the infidel speech
of M. Dupont in the French Convention, in which he would divorce all
religion from education. The circulation of this tract was also very
great. These were followed, in 1795, by the "Cheap Repository," a
periodical designed for the poor, with religious tales, most of which
have since been published by Tract Societies, among them the famous
story of "The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain." The "Cheap Repository" was
continued for three years, and circulated in every village and hamlet of
England and America. It almost equalled the popularity of the "Pilgrim's
Progress." Two millions of these tracts were sold in the first year.

In 1799 Hannah More's great work entitled "Strictures on the Modern
System of Female Education" appeared, which passed through twenty
editions in a few years. It was her third ethical publication in prose,
and the most powerful of all her writings. Testimonies as to its value
poured in upon her from every quarter. Nothing was more talked about at
that time except, perhaps, Robert Hall's "Sermons." It was regarded as
one of the most perfect works of its kind that any country or age had
produced. It made as deep an impression on the English mind as the
"Emile" of Rousseau did on the French half a century earlier, but was
vastly higher in its moral tone. I know of no treatise on education so
full and so sensible as this. It ought to be reprinted, for the benefit
of this generation, for its author has forestalled all subsequent
writers on this all-important subject. There is scarcely anything said
by Rev. Morgan Dix, in his excellent Lenten Lectures, which was not said
by Hannah More in the last century. Herbert Spencer may be more
original, possibly more profound, but he is not so practical or clear or
instructive as the great woman who preceded him more than half
a century.

The fundamental principle which underlies all Hannah More's theories of
education is the necessity of Christian instruction, which Herbert
Spencer says very little about, and apparently ignores. She would not
divorce education from religion. Women, especially, owe their elevation
entirely to Christianity. Hence its influence should be paramount, to
exalt the soul as well as enlarge the mind. All sound education should
prepare one for the duties of life, rather than for the enjoyment of its
pleasures. What good can I do? should be the first inquiry. It is
Christianity alone that teaches the ultimate laws of morals. Hannah More
would subject every impulse and every pursuit and every study to these
ultimate laws as a foundation for true and desirable knowledge. She
would repress everything which looks like vanity. She would educate
girls for their homes, and not for a crowd; for usefulness, and not for
admiration; for that; period of life when external beauty is faded or
lost. She thinks more highly of solid attainments than of
accomplishments, and would incite to useful rather than unnecessary
works. She would have a girl learn the languages, though she deems them
of little value unless one can think in them. She would cultivate that
"sensibility which has its seat in the heart, rather than the nerves."
Anything which detracts from modesty and delicacy, and makes a girl
bold, forward, and pushing, she severely rebukes. She would check all
extravagance in dancing, and would not waste much time on music unless
one has a talent for it. She thinks that the excessive cultivation of
the arts has contributed to the decline of States. She is severe on that
style of dress which permits an indelicate exposure of the person, and
on all forms of senseless extravagance. She despises children's balls,
and ridicules children's rights and "Liliputian coquetry" with ribbons
and feathers. She would educate women to fulfil the duties of daughters,
wives, and mothers rather than to make them dancers, singers, players,
painters, and actresses. She maintains that when a man of sense comes to
marry, he wants a companion rather than a creature who can only dress
and dance and play upon an instrument. Yet she does not discourage
ornamental talent; she admits it is a good thing, but not the best thing
that a woman has. She would not cut up time into an endless
multiplicity of employments, She urges mothers to impress on their
daughters' minds a discriminating estimate of personal beauty, so that
they may not have their heads turned by the adulation that men are so
prone to lavish on those who are beautiful. While she deprecates
harshness, she insists on a rigorous discipline. She would stimulate
industry and the cultivation of moderate abilities, as more likely to
win in the long race of life,--even as a barren soil and ungenial
climate have generally produced the most thrifty people. She would
banish frivolous books which give only superficial knowledge, and even
those abridgments and compendiums which form too considerable a part of
ordinary libraries, and recommends instead those works which exercise
the reasoning faculties and stir up the powers of the mind. She
expresses great contempt for English sentimentality, French philosophy,
Italian poetry, and German mysticism, and is scarcely less severe on the
novels of her day, which stimulate the imagination without adding to
knowledge. She recommends history as the most improving of all studies,
both as a revelation of the ways of Providence and as tending to the
enlargement of the mind. She insists on accuracy in language and on
avoiding exaggerations. She inculcates co-operation with man, and not
rivalry or struggle for power. What she says about women's
rights--which, it seems, was a question that agitated even her age--is
worth quoting, since it is a woman, and not a man, who speaks:--

"Is it not more wise to move contentedly in the plain path which
Providence has obviously marked out for the sex, and in which custom has
for the most part rationally confirmed them, rather than to stray
awkwardly, unbecomingly, unsuccessfully, in a forbidden road; to be the
lawful possessors of a lesser domestic territory, rather than the
turbulent usurpers of a wider foreign empire; to be good originals,
rather than bad imitators; to be the best thing of one's kind, rather
than an inferior thing even if it were of a higher kind; to be excellent
women, rather than indifferent men? Let not woman view with envy the
keen satirist hunting vice through all the doublings and windings of the
heart; the sagacious politician leading senates and directing the fate
of empires; the acute lawyer detecting the obliquities of fraud, or the
skilful dramatist exposing the pretensions of folly; but let her
remember that those who thus excel, to all that Nature bestows and books
can teach must add besides that consummate knowledge of the world to
which a delicate woman has no fair avenues, and which, even if she could
attain, she would never be supposed to have come honestly by.... Women
possess in a high degree that delicacy and quickness of perception, and
that nice discernment between the beautiful and defective which comes
under the denomination of taste. Both in composition and action they
excel in details; but they do not so much generalize their ideas as
men, nor do their minds seize a great subject with so large a grasp.
They are acute observers, and accurate judges of life and manners, so
far as their own sphere of observation extends; but they describe a
smaller circle. And they have a certain tact which enables them to feel
what is just more instantaneously than they can define it. They have an
intuitive penetration into character bestowed upon them by Providence,
like the sensitive and tender organs of some timid animals, as a kind of
natural guard to warn of the approach of danger,--beings who are often
called to act defensively.

"But whatever characteristic distinctions may exist between man and
woman, there is one great and leading circumstance which raises woman
and establishes her equality with man. Christianity has exalted woman to
true and undisputed dignity. 'In Christ Jesus there is neither rich nor
poor, bond nor free, male nor female,' So that if we deny to women the
talents which lead them to excel as lawyers, they are preserved from the
peril of having their principles warped by that too indiscriminate
defence of right and wrong to which the professors of the law are
exposed. If we question their title to eminence as mathematicians, they
are exempted from the danger of looking for demonstration on subjects
which, by their very nature, are incapable of affording it. If they are
less conversant with the powers of Nature, the structure of the human
frame, and the knowledge of the heavenly bodies than philosophers,
physicians, and astronomers, they are delivered from the error into
which many of each of these have sometimes fallen, from the fatal habit
of resting on second causes, instead of referring all to the first. And
let women take comfort that in their very exemption from privileges
which they are sometimes disposed to envy, consist their security and
their happiness."

Thus spoke Hannah More at the age of fifty-four, with a wider experience
of society and a profounder knowledge of her sex than any Englishwoman
of the eighteenth century, and as distinguished for her intellectual
gifts and cultivation as she was for her social graces and charms,--the
pet and admiration of all who were great and good in her day, both among
men and women. Bear these facts in mind, ye obscure, inexperienced,
discontented, envious, ambitious seekers after notoriety or novelty!--ye
rebellious and defiant opponents of the ordinances of God and the laws
of Nature, if such women there are!--remember that the sentiments I have
just quoted came from the pen of a woman, and not of a man; of a woman
who was the best friend of her sex, and the most enlightened advocate of
their education that lived in the last century; and a woman who, if she
were living now, would undoubtedly be classed with those whom we call
strong-minded, and perhaps masculine and ambitious. She recognizes the
eternal distinction between the sphere of a man and the sphere of a
woman, without admitting any inferiority of woman to man, except in
physical strength and a sort of masculine power of generalization and
grasp. And _she_ would educate woman for her own sphere, not for the
sphere of man, whatever Christianity, or experience, or reason may
define that sphere to be. She would make woman useful, interesting,
lofty; she would give dignity to her soul; she would make her the friend
and helpmate of man, not his rival; she would make her a Christian
woman, since, with Christian virtues and graces and principles, she will
not be led astray.

But I would not dwell on ground which may be controverted, and which to
some may appear discourteous or discouraging to those noble women who
are doomed by dire and hard misfortunes, by terrible necessities, to
labor in some fields which have been assigned to man, and in which
departments they have earned the admiration and respect of men
themselves. This subject is only one in a hundred which Hannah More
discussed with clearness, power, and wisdom. She is equally valuable and
impressive in what she says of conversation,--a realm in which she had
no superior. Hear what she says about this gift or art:

"Do we wish to see women take a lead in metaphysical disquisitions,--to
plunge in the depths of theological polemics? Do we wish to enthrone
them in the chairs of our universities, to deliver oracles, harangues,
and dissertations? Do we desire to behold them, inflated with their
original powers, laboring to strike out sparks of wit, with a restless
anxiety to shine, and with a labored affectation to please, which never
pleases? All this be far from them! But we _do_ wish to see the
conversation of well-bred women rescued from vapid commonplaces, from
uninteresting tattle, from trite communications, from frivolous
earnestness, from false sensibility, from a warm interest about things
of no moment, and an indifference to topics the most important; from a
cold vanity, from the overflows of self-love, exhibiting itself under
the smiling mask of an engaging flattery; and from all the factitious
manners of artificial intercourse. We _do_ wish to see the time passed
in polished and intelligent society considered as the pleasant portion
of our existence, and not consigned to premeditated trifling and
systematic unprofitableness. Women too little live or converse up to
their understandings; and however we deprecate affectation and pedantry,
let it be remembered that both in reading and conversing, the
understanding gains more by stretching than stooping. The mind by
applying itself to objects below its level, contracts and shrinks itself
to the size of the object about which it is conversant. In the faculty
of speaking well, ladies have such a happy promptitude of turning their
slender advantages to account, that though never taught a rule of
syntax, they hardly ever violate one, and often possess an elegant
arrangement of style without having studied any of the laws of
composition, And yet they are too ready to produce not only pedantic
expressions, but crude notions and hackneyed remarks with all the vanity
of conscious discovery, and all from reading mere abridgments and scanty
sketches rather than exhausting subjects."

Equally forcible are her remarks on society:--

"Perhaps," said she, "the interests of friendship, elegant conversation,
and true social pleasure, never received such a blow as when fashion
issued the decree that _everybody must be acquainted with everybody_.
The decline of instructive conversation has been effected in a great
measure by the barbarous habit of assembly _en masse_, where one hears
the same succession of unmeaning platitudes, mutual insincerities, and
aimless inquiries. It would be trite, however, to dwell on the vapid
talk which must almost of necessity mark those who assemble in crowds,
and which we are taught to call society, which really cannot exist
without the free interchange of thought and sentiment. Hence society
only truly shines in small and select circles of people of high
intelligence, who are drawn together by friendship as well as

About two years after this work on education appeared,--education in the
broadest sense, pertaining to woman at home and in society as well as at
school,--Hannah More moved from her little thatched cottage, and built
Barley Wood,--a large villa, where she could entertain the increasing
circle of her friends, who were at this period only the learned, the
pious, and the distinguished, especially bishops like Porteus and
Horne, and philanthropists like Wilberforce. The beauty of this new
residence amid woods and lawns attracted her sisters from Bath, who
continued to live with her the rest of their lives, and to co-operate
with her in deeds of benevolence. In this charming retreat she wrote
perhaps the most famous of her books, "Coelebs in Search of a
Wife,"--not much read, I fancy, in these times, but admired in its day
before the great revolution in novel-writing was made by Sir Walter
Scott. Yet this work is no more a novel than the "Dialogues of Plato."
Like "Rasselas," it is a treatise,--a narrative essay on the choice of a
wife, the expansion and continuation of her strictures on education and
fashionable life. This work appeared in 1808, when the writer was
sixty-three years of age. As on former occasions, she now not only
assumed an anonymous name, but endeavored to hide herself under deeper
incognita,--all, however, to no purpose, as everybody soon knew, from
the style, who the author was. The first edition of this popular
work--popular, I mean, in its day, for no work is popular long, though
it may remain forever a classic on the shelves of libraries--was sold in
two weeks. Twelve thousand were published the first year, the profits of
which were L2,000. In this country the sale was larger, thirty thousand
copies being sold during the life of the author. It was also translated
into most of the modern languages of Europe. In 1811 appeared her work
on "Christian Morals," which had a sale of ten thousand; and in 1815 her
essay on the "Character and Practical Writings of Saint Paul," of which
seven thousand copies were sold. These works were followed by her "Moral
Sketches of Prevailing Opinions and Manners," of which ten thousand were
sold, and which realized a royalty of L3,000.

At the age of eighty, Hannah More wrote her "Spirit of Prayer," of which
nearly twenty thousand copies were printed; and with this work her
literary career virtually closed. Her later works were written amid the
pains of disease and many distractions, especially visits from
distinguished and curious people, which took up her time and sadly
interrupted her labors. At the age of eighty, though still receiving
many visitors, she found herself nearly alone in the world. All her most
intimate friends had died,--Mrs. Garrick at the age of ninety-eight; Sir
William Pepys (the Laelius of the "Bas Bleu"); Dr. Porteus, Bishop of
London; Dr. Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury; Bishop Horne, Bishop
Barrington; Dr. Andrew, Dean of Canterbury; and Lady Cremon, besides her
three sisters. The friends of her earlier days had long since passed
away,--Garrick, Johnson, Reynolds, Horace Walpole. Of those who started
in the race with her few were left. Still, visitors continued to throng
her house to the last, impelled by admiration or curiosity; and she was
obliged at length to limit her _levee_ to the hours between one
and three.

Hannah More lived at Barley Wood nearly thirty years in dignified
leisure, with an ample revenue and in considerable style, keeping her
carriage and horses, with a large number of servants, dispensing a
generous hospitality, and giving away in charities a considerable part
of her income. She realized from her pen L30,000, and her sisters also
had accumulated a fortune by their school in Bristol. Her property must
have been considerable, since on her death she bequeathed in charities
nearly L10,000, beside endowing a church. She spent about L900 a year in

The last few years of her residence at Barley Wood were disturbed by the
ingratitude and dishonesty of her servants. They deceived and robbed
her, especially those to whom she had been most kind and generous. She
was, at her advanced age, entirely dependent on these servants, so that
she could not reform her establishment. There was the most shameless
peculation in the kitchen, and money given in charity was appropriated
by the servants, who all combined to cheat her. Out of her sight, they
were disorderly: they gave nocturnal suppers to their friends, and drank
up her wines. So she resolved to discharge the whole of them, and sell
her beautiful place; and when she finally left her home, these servants
openly insulted her. She removed to a house in Clifton, where she had
equal comfort and fewer cares. In this house she spent the remaining
four years of her useful life, dispensing charities, and entertaining
the numerous friends who visited her, and the crowd who came to do her
honor. She died in September, 1833, at the age of eighty-eight,
retaining her intellectual faculties, like Madame de Maintenon, nearly
to the last. She was buried with great honors. A beautiful monument was
erected to her memory in the parish church where her mortal remains were
laid,--the subscription to this monument being five times greater than
the sum needed.

Hannah More was strongly attached to the Church of England, and upheld
the authority of the established religious institutions of the country.
She excited some hostility from the liberality of her views, for she
would occasionally frequent the chapels of the Dissenters and partake of
their communion. She was supposed by many to lean towards Methodism,--as
everybody was accused of doing in the last century, in England, who led
a strictly religious life. She was evangelical in her views, but was not
Calvinistic; nor was she a believer in instantaneous conversions, any
more than she was in baptismal regeneration. She contributed liberally
to religious and philanthropic societies. The best book, she thought,
that was ever published was Jeremy Taylor's "Holy Living and Dying;" but
her opinion was that John Howe was a greater man. She was a great
admirer of Shakspeare, whom she placed on the highest pedestal of human
genius. She also admired Sir Walter Scott's poetry, especially
"Marmion." She admitted the genius of Byron, but had such detestation of
his character that she would not read his poetry.

The best and greatest part of the life of Hannah More was devoted to the
education and elevation of her sex. Her most valuable writings were
educational and moral. Her popularity did not wane with advancing years.
No literary woman ever had warmer friends; and these she retained. She
never lost a friend except by death. She had to lament over no broken
friendships, since her friendships were based on respect and affection.
Her nature must have been very genial. For so strict a woman in her
religious duties, she was very tolerant of human infirmities. She was
faithful in reproof, but having once given her friendship she held on to
it with great tenacity; she clung to the worldly Horace Walpole as she
did to Dr. Johnson. The most intimate woman friend of her long life was
a Catholic. Hannah was never married, which was not her fault, for she
was jilted by the man she loved,--for whom, however, she is said to have
retained a friendly feeling to the last. Though unmarried, she was
addressed as Mrs., not Miss, More; and she seems to have insisted on
this, which I think was a weakness, since the dignity of her character,
her fame and high social position, needed no conventional crutch to make
her appear more matronly. As a mere fashionable woman of society, her
name would never have descended to our times; as a moralist she is
immortal, so far as any writer can be. As an author, I do not regard her
as a great original genius; but her successful and honorable career
shows how much may be done by industry and perseverance. Her memory is
kept especially fresh from the interest she took in the education of her
sex, and from her wise and sage counsels, based on religion and a wide
experience. No woman ever had better opportunities for the study of her
sex, or more nobly improved them. She was the most enlightened advocate
of a high education for women that her age and even her
century produced.

Now, what is meant by a high education for women? for in our times the
opinions of people in regard to this matter are far from being
harmonious. Indeed, on no subject is there more disagreement; there is
no subject which provokes more bitter and hostile comments; there is no
subject on which both men and women wrangle with more acerbity, even
when they are virtually agreed,--for the instincts of good women are
really in accord with the profoundest experience and reason of men.

In the few remarks to which I am now limited I shall not discuss the
irritating and disputed question of co-education of the sexes, which can
only be settled by experience. On this subject we have not yet
sufficient facts for a broad induction. On the one hand, it would seem
that so long as young men and women mingle freely together in
amusements, at parties and balls, at the theatre and opera, in the
lecture-room, in churches, and most public meetings, it is not probable
that any practical evils can result from educational competition of the
two sexes in the same class-rooms, especially when we consider that many
eminent educators have given their testimony in its favor, so far as it
has fallen under their observation and experience. But, on the other
hand, the co-education of the sexes may imply that both girls and boys,
by similarity of studies, are to be educated for the same sphere. Boys
study the higher mathematics not merely for mental discipline, but in
order to be engineers, astronomers, surveyors, and the like; so, too,
they study chemistry, in its higher branches, to be chemists and
physicians and miners. If girls wish to do this rough work, let them
know that they seek to do men's work. If they are to do women's work, it
would seem that they should give more attention to music, the modern
languages, and ornamental branches than boys do, since few men pursue
these things as a business.

The question is, Is it wise for boys and girls to pursue the same
studies in the more difficult branches of knowledge? I would withhold no
study from a woman on the ground of assumed intellectual inferiority. I
believe that a woman can grasp any subject as well as a man can, so far
and so long as her physical strength will permit her to make exhaustive
researches. There are some studies which task the physical strength of
men to its utmost tension. If any woman has equal physical power with
men to master certain subjects, let her pursue them; for success, even
with men, depends upon physical endurance as well as brain-power. And
thus the question is one of physical strength and endurance; and women
must settle for themselves whether they can run races with men in
studies in which only the physically strong can hope to succeed.

Then, again, I would educate women with reference to the sphere in which
they must forever move,--a sphere settled by the eternal laws of Nature
and duty, against which it is folly to rebel. Does any one doubt or deny
that the sphere of women _is_ different from the sphere of men? Can it
be questioned that a class of studies pursued by women who are confined
for a considerable period of life to domestic duties,--like the care of
children, and the details of household economy, and attendance on the
sick, and ornamental art labors,--should not be different from those
pursued by men who undertake the learned professions, and the government
of the people, and the accumulation of wealth in the hard drudgeries of
banks and counting-houses and stores and commercial travelling? There is
no way to get round this question except by maintaining that men should
not be exempted from the cares and duties which for all recorded ages
have been assigned to women; and that women should enter upon the
equally settled sphere of man, and become lawyers, politicians,
clergymen, members of Congress and of State legislatures, sailors,
merchants, commercial travellers, bankers, railway conductors, and
steamship captains. I once knew the discontented wife of an eminent
painter, with a brilliant intellect, who insisted that her husband
should leave his studio and spend five hours a day in the drudgeries of
the nursery and kitchen to relieve her, and that she should spend the
five hours in her studio as an amateur,--that they thus might be on an
equality! The husband died in a mad-house, after dying for a year with a
broken heart and a crushed ambition. He was obliged to submit to his
wife's demand, or fight from morning to night and from night to morning;
and as he was a man of peace, he quietly yielded up his prerogative. Do
you admire the one who prevailed over him? She belonged to that class
who are called strong-minded; but she was perverted, as some noble minds
are, by atheistic and spiritualistic views, and thought to raise women
by lifting them out of the sphere which God has appointed.

If, then, there be distinct spheres, divinely appointed, for women and
for men, and an education should be given to fit them for rising in
their respective spheres, the question arises, What studies shall woman
pursue in order to develop her mind and resources, and fit her for
happiness and usefulness? This question is only to be answered by those
who have devoted their lives to the education of young ladies. I would
go into no details; I would only lay down the general proposition that a
woman should be educated to be interesting both to her own sex and to
men; to be useful in her home; to exercise the best influence on her
female and male companions; to have her affections as well as intellect
developed; to have her soul elevated so as to be kindled by lofty
sentiments, and to feel that there is something higher than the
adornment of the person, or the attracting of attention in those noisy
crowds which are called society. She should be taught to become the
friend and helpmate of man,--never his rival She is to be invested with
those graces which call out the worship of man, which cause her to shine
with the radiance of the soul, and with those virtues which men rarely
reach,--a superior loftiness of character, a greater purity of mind, a
heavenlike patience and magnanimity. She is not an angel, but a woman;
yet she should shine with angelic qualities and aspire to angelic
virtues, and prove herself, morally and spiritually, to be so superior
to man, that he will render to her an instinctive deference; not a mock
and ironical deference, because she is supposed to be inferior and weak,
but a real deference, a genuine respect on which all permanent
friendship rests,--and even love itself, which every woman, as well as
every man, craves from the bottom of the soul, and without which life
has no object, no charm, and no interest.

Is woman necessarily made a drudge by assuming those domestic duties
which add so much to the unity and happiness of a family, and which a
man cannot so well discharge as he can the more arduous labors of
supporting a family? Are her labors in directing servants or educating
her children more irksome than the labors of a man, in heat and cold,
often among selfish and disagreeable companions? Is woman, in
restricting herself to her sphere, thereby debarred from the pleasures
of literature and art? As a rule, is she not already better educated
than her husband? However domestic she may be, cannot she still paint
and sing, and read and talk on the grandest subjects? Is she not really
more privileged than her husband or brother, with more time and less
harassing cares and anxieties? Would she really exchange her graceful
labors for the rough and turbulent work of men?

But here I am stopped with the inquiry, What will you do with those
women who are unfortunate, who have no bright homes to adorn, no means
of support, no children to instruct, no husbands to rule: women cast out
of the sphere where they would like to live, and driven to hard and
uncongenial labors, forced to run races with men, or starve? To such my
remarks do not apply; they are exceptions, and not the rule. To them I
would say, Do cheerfully what Providence seems to point out for _you_;
do the best you can, even in the sphere into which you are forced. If
you are at any time thrown upon your own resources, and compelled to
adopt callings which task your physical strength, accept such lot with
resignation, but without any surrender of your essentially feminine and
womanly qualities; do not try to be like men, for men are lower than you
in their ordinary tastes and occupations. And I would urge all women,
rich and poor, to pursue some one art,--like music, or painting, or
decoration,--not only for amusement, but with the purpose to carry it so
far that in case of misfortune they can fall back upon it and get a
living; for proficiency in these arts belongs as much to the sphere of
women as of men, since it refines and cultivates them.

But again some may say,--not those who are unfortunate, and seemingly
driven from the glories and beatitudes of woman's sphere, but those who
are peculiarly intellectual and aspiring, and in some respects very
interesting,--Why should not we embark in some of those callings which
heretofore have been assigned to or usurped by man, and become
physicians, and professors in colleges, and lawyers, and merchants, not
because we are driven to get a living, but because we prefer them; and
hence, in order to fit ourselves for these departments, why should we
not pursue the highest studies which task the intellect of man? To such
I would reply, Do so, if you please; there is no valid reason why you
should not try. Nor will you fail unless your frailer bodies fail, as
fail they will, in a long race,--for do what you will to strengthen and
develop your physical forces for a million of years, you will still be
women, and physically weaker than men; that is, your nervous system
cannot stand the strain of that long-continued and intense application
which all professional men are compelled to exert in order to gain
success. But if you have in any individual case the physical strength of
a man, do what you please, so long as you preserve the delicacy and
purity of womanhood,--practise medicine or law, keep school, translate
books, keep boarders, go behind a counter; yea, keep a shop, set types,
keep accounts, give music and French lessons, sing in concerts and
churches,--do whatever you can do as well as men. You have that right;
nobody will molest you or slander you. If you must, or if you choose to,
labor so, God help you!

So, then, the whole question of woman's education is decided by physical
limitations, concerning which there is no dispute, and against which it
is vain to rebel; and we return to the more agreeable task of pointing
out the supreme necessity of developing in woman those qualities which
will make her a guide and a radiance and a benediction in that sphere to
which Nature and Providence and immemorial custom would appear to have
assigned her. Let her become great as a woman, not as a man. Let her
maintain her rights; but in doing so, let her not forget her duties. The
Bible says nothing at all about the former, and very much about the
latter. Let her remember that she is the complement of a man, and hence
that what is most feminine about her is most interesting to man and
useful to the world. God made man and woman of one flesh, yet unlike.
And who can point out any fundamental inferiority or superiority between
them? The only superiority lies in the superior way in which each
discharges peculiar trusts and responsibilities. It is in this light
alone that we see some husbands superior to their wives, and some wives
superior to their husbands. No sensible person would say that a girl is
superior to her brother because she has a greater aptness for
mathematics than he, but because she excels in the queen-like attributes
and virtues and duties peculiar to her own sex and belonging to her own
sphere,--that sphere so beautiful, that when she abdicates it, it is
like being expelled from Paradise; for, once lost, it can never be
regained. That education is best even for a great woman,--great in
intellect as in soul,--which best develops the lofty ideal of womanhood;
which best makes her a real woman, and not a poor imitation of man, and
gives to her the dignity and grace of a queen over her household, and
brings out that moral beauty by which she reigns over her husband's
heart, and inspires the reverence which children ought to feel. Do we
derogate from the greatness of women when we seek to kindle the
brightness of that moral beauty which outshines all the triumphs of mere
intellectual forces? Should women murmur because they cannot be superior
in everything, when it is conceded that they are superior in the best
thing? Nor let her clutch what she can neither retain nor enjoy. In the
primeval Paradise there was one tree the fruit of which our mother Eve
was forbidden to touch or to eat. There is a tree which grows in our
times, whose fruit, when eaten by some, produces unrest, discontent,
rebellion against God, unsatisfied desires, a revelation of unrealized
miseries, the mere contemplation of which is enough to drive to madness
and moral death. Yet of all the other trees of life's garden may woman
eat,--those trees that grow in the boundless field which modern
knowledge and enterprise have revealed to woman, and which, if she
confine herself thereto, will make her a blessing and a glory forever to
fallen and afflicted humanity.


Life of Hannah More, by H.C. Knight; Memoirs, by W. Roberts; Literary
Ladies of England, by H.K. Elwood; Literary Women, by J. Williams;
Writings of Hannah More; Letters to Zachary Macaulay; Edinburgh Review,
vol. xiv.; Christian Observer, vol. xxxv.; Gentleman's Magazine, vol.
xxv.; American Quarterly, vol. lii.; Fraser's Magazine, vol. x.


* * * * *

A.D. 1819-1880.


Since the dawn of modern civilization, every age has been marked by some
new development of genius or energy. In the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries we notice Gothic architecture, the rise of universities, the
scholastic philosophy, and a general interest in metaphysical inquiries.
The fourteenth century witnessed chivalric heroism, courts of love,
tournaments, and amorous poetry. In the fifteenth century we see the
revival of classical literature and Grecian art. The sixteenth century
was a period of reform, theological discussions, and warfare with
Romanism. In the seventeenth century came contests for civil and
religious liberty, and discussions on the theological questions which
had agitated the Fathers of the Church. The eighteenth century was
marked by the speculations of philosophers and political economists,
ending in revolution. The nineteenth century has been distinguished for
scientific discoveries and inventions directed to practical and
utilitarian ends, and a wonderful development in the literature of
fiction. It is the age of novelists, as the fifteenth century was the
age of painters. Everybody now reads novels,--bishops, statesmen,
judges, scholars, as well as young men and women. The shelves of
libraries groan with the weight of novels of every description,--novels
sensational, novels sentimental, novels historical, novels
philosophical, novels social, and novels which discuss every subject
under the sun. Novelists aim to be teachers in ethics, philosophy,
politics, religion, and art; and they are rapidly supplanting lecturers
and clergymen as the guides of men, accepting no rivals but editors and

This extraordinary literary movement was started by Sir Walter Scott,
who made a revolution in novel-writing, introducing a new style, freeing
romances from bad taste, vulgarity, insipidity, and false sentiment. He
painted life and Nature without exaggerations, avoided interminable
scenes of love-making, and gave a picture of society in present and past
times so fresh, so vivid, so natural, so charming, and so true, and all
with such inimitable humor, that he still reigns without a peer in his
peculiar domain. He is as rich in humor as Fielding, without his
coarseness; as inventive as Swift, without his bitterness; as moral as
Richardson, without his tediousness. He did not aim to teach ethics or
political economy directly, although he did not disguise his opinions.
His chief end was to please and instruct at the same time, stimulating
the mind through the imagination rather than the reason; so healthful
that fastidious parents made an exception of his novels among all others
that had ever been written, and encouraged the young to read them. Sir
Walter Scott took off the ban which religious people had imposed on

Then came Dickens, amazingly popular, with his grotesque descriptions of
life, his exaggerations, his impossible characters and improbable
incidents: yet so genial in sympathies, so rich in humor, so indignant
at wrongs, so broad in his humanity, that everybody loved to read him,
although his learning was small and his culture superficial.

Greatly superior to him as an artist and a thinker was Thackeray, whose
fame has been steadily increasing,--the greatest master of satire in
English literature, and one of the truest painters of social life that
any age has produced; not so much admired by women as by men; accurate
in his delineation of character, though sometimes bitter and fierce;
felicitous in plot, teaching lessons in morality, unveiling shams and
hypocrisy, contemptuous of all fools and quacks, yet sad in his
reflections on human life.

In the brilliant constellation of which Dickens and Thackeray were the
greater lights was Bulwer Lytton,--versatile; subjective in genius;
sentimental, and yet not sensational; reflective, yet not always sound
in morals; learned in general literature, but a charlatan in scientific
knowledge; worldly in his spirit, but not a pagan; an inquisitive
student, seeking to penetrate the mysteries of Nature as well as to
paint characters and events in other times; and leaving a higher moral
impression when he was old than when he was young.

Among the lesser lights, yet real stars, that have blazed in this
generation are Reade, Kingsley, Black, James, Trollope, Cooper, Howells,
Wallace, and a multitude of others, in France and Germany as well as
England and America, to say nothing of the thousands who have aspired
and failed as artists, yet who have succeeded in securing readers and in
making money.

And what shall I say of the host of female novelists which this age has
produced,--women who have inundated the land with productions both good
and bad; mostly feeble, penetrating the cottages of the poor rather than
the palaces of the rich, and making the fortunes of magazines and
news-vendors, from Maine to California? But there are three women
novelists, writing in English, standing out in this group of mediocrity,
who have earned a just and wide fame,--Charlotte Bronte, Harriet
Beecher Stowe, and Marian Evans, who goes by the name of George Eliot.

It is the last of these remarkable women whom it is my object to
discuss, and who burst upon the literary world as a star whose light has
been constantly increasing since she first appeared. She takes rank with
Dickens, Thackeray, and Bulwer, and some place her higher even than Sir
Walter Scott. Her fame is prodigious, and it is a glory to her sex;
indeed, she is an intellectual phenomenon. No woman ever received such
universal fame as a genius except, perhaps, Madame de Stael; or as an
artist, if we except Madame Dudevant, who also bore a _nom de
plume_,--Georges Sand. She did not become immediately popular, but the
critics from the first perceived her remarkable gifts and predicted her
ultimate success. For vivid description of natural scenery and rural
English life, minute analysis of character, and psychological insight
she has never been surpassed by men; while for learning and profundity
she has never been equalled by women,--a deep, serious, sad writer,
without vanity or egotism or pretension; a great but not always sound
teacher, who, by common consent and prediction, will live and rank among
the classical authors in English literature.

Marian Evans was born in Warwickshire, about twenty miles from
Stratford-on-Avon,--the county of Shakspeare, one of the most fertile
and beautiful in England, whose parks and lawns and hedges and
picturesque cottages, with their gardens and flowers and thatched roofs,
present to the eye a perpetual charm. Her father, of Welsh descent, was
originally a carpenter, but became, by his sturdy honesty, ability, and
abiding sense of duty, land agent to Sir Roger Newdigate of Arbury Hall.
Mr. Evans's sterling character probably furnished the model for Adam
Bede and Caleb Garth.

Sprung from humble ranks, but from conscientious and religious parents,
who appreciated the advantage of education, Miss Evans was allowed to
make the best of her circumstances. We have few details of her early
life on which we can accurately rely. She was not an egotist, and did
not leave an autobiography like Trollope, or reminiscences like Carlyle;
but she has probably portrayed herself, in her early aspirations, as
Madame de Stael did, in the characters she has created. The less we know
about the personalities of very distinguished geniuses, the better it is
for their fame. Shakspeare might not seem so great to us if we knew his
peculiarities and infirmities as we know those of Voltaire, Rousseau,
and Carlyle; only such a downright honest and good man as Dr. Johnson
can stand the severe scrutiny of after times and "destructive

It would appear that Miss Evans was sent to a school in Nuneaton before
she was ten, and afterwards to a school in Coventry, kept by two
excellent Methodist ladies,--the Misses Franklin,--whose lives and
teachings enabled her to delineate Dinah Morris. As a school-girl we are
told that she had the manners and appearance of a woman. Her hair was
pale brown, worn in ringlets; her figure was slight, her head massive,
her mouth large, her jaw square, her complexion pale, her eyes
gray-blue, and her voice rich and musical. She lost her mother at
sixteen, when she most needed maternal counsels, and afterwards lived
alone with her father until 1841, when they removed to Foleshill, near
Coventry. She was educated in the doctrines of the Low or Evangelical
Church, which are those of Calvin,--although her Calvinism was early
modified by the Arminian views of Wesley. At twelve she taught a class
in a Sunday-school; at twenty she wrote poetry, as most bright girls do.
The head-master of the grammar school in Coventry taught her Greek and
Latin, while Signor Brizzi gave her lessons in Italian, French, and
German; she also played on the piano with great skill. Her learning and
accomplishments were so unusual, and gave such indication of talent,
that she was received as a friend in the house of Mr. Charles Bray, of
Coventry, a wealthy ribbon-merchant, where she saw many eminent literary
men of the progressive school, among whom were James Anthony Froude and
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

At what period the change in her religious views took place I have been
unable to ascertain,--probably between the ages of twenty-one and
twenty-five, by which time she had become a remarkably well-educated
woman, of great conversational powers, interesting because of her
intelligence, brightness, and sensibility, but not for her personal
beauty. In fact, she was not merely homely, she was even ugly; though
many admirers saw great beauty in her eyes and expression when her
countenance was lighted up. She was unobtrusive and modest, and retired
within herself.

At this period she translated from the German the "Life of Jesus," by
Strauss, Feuerbach's "Essence of Christianity," and one of Spinoza's
works. Why should a young woman have selected such books to translate?
How far the writings of rationalistic and atheistic philosophers
affected her own views we cannot tell; but at this time her progressive
and advanced opinions irritated and grieved her father, so that, as we
are told, he treated her with intolerant harshness. With all her
paganism, however, she retained the sense of duty, and was devoted in
her attentions to her father until he died, in 1849. She then travelled
on the Continent with the Brays, seeing most of the countries of Europe,
and studying their languages, manners, and institutions. She resided
longest in a boarding-house near Geneva, amid scenes renowned by the
labors of Gibbon, Voltaire, and Madame de Stael, in sight of the Alps,
absorbed in the theories of St. Simon and Proudhon,--a believer in the
necessary progress of the race as the result of evolution rather than of
revelation or revolution.

Miss Evans returned to England about the year 1857,--the year of the
Great Exhibition,--and soon after became sub-editor of the "Westminster
Review," at one time edited by John Stuart Mill, but then in charge of
John Chapman, the proprietor, at whose house, in the Strand, she
boarded. There she met a large circle of literary and scientific men of
the ultra-liberal, radical school, those who looked upon themselves as
the more advanced thinkers of the age, whose aim was to destroy belief
in supernaturalism and inspiration; among whom were John Stuart Mill,
Francis Newman, Herbert Spencer, James Anthony Froude, G.H. Lewes, John
A. Roebuck, and Harriet Martineau,--dreary theorists, mistrusted and
disliked equally by the old Whigs and Tories, high-churchmen, and
evangelical Dissenters; clever thinkers and learned doubters, but
arrogant, discontented, and defiant.

It was then that the friendly attachment between Miss Evans and Mr.
Lewes began, which ripened into love and ended in a scandal. Mr. Lewes
was as homely as Wilkes, and was three years older than Miss Evans,--a
very bright, witty, versatile, learned, and accomplished man; a
brilliant talker, novelist, playwright, biographer, actor, essayist, and
historian, whose "Life of Goethe" is still the acknowledged authority in
Germany itself, as Carlyle's "Frederic the Great" is also regarded. But
his fame has since been eclipsed by that of the woman he pretended to
call his wife, and with whom (his legal wife being still alive) he lived
in open defiance of the seventh Commandment and the social customs of
England for twenty years. This unfortunate connection, which saddened
the whole subsequent life of Miss Evans, and tinged all her writings
with the gall of her soul, excluded her from that high conventional
society which it has been the aim of most ambitious women to enter. But
this exclusion was not, perhaps, so great an annoyance to Miss Evans as
it would have been to Hannah More, since she was not fitted to shine in
general society, especially if frivolous, and preferred to talk with
authors, artists, actors, and musical geniuses, rather than with
prejudiced, pleasure-seeking, idle patricians, who had such attractions
for Addison, Pope, Mackintosh, and other lights of literature, who
unconsciously encouraged that idolatry of rank and wealth which is one
of the most uninteresting traits of the English nation. Nor would those
fashionable people, whom the world calls "great," have seen much to
attract them in a homely and unconventional woman whose views were
discrepant with the established social and religious institutions of the
land. A class that would not tolerate such a genius as Carlyle, would
not have admired Marian Evans, even if the stern etiquette of English
life had not excluded her from envied and coveted _reunions_; and she
herself, doubtless, preferred to them the brilliant society which
assembled in Mr. Chapman's parlors to discuss those philosophical and
political theories of which Comte was regarded as the high-priest, and
his positivism the essence of all progressive wisdom.

How far the gloomy materialism and superficial rationalism of Lewes may
have affected the opinions of Miss Evans we cannot tell. He was her
teacher and constant companion, and she passed as his wife; so it is
probable that he strengthened in her mind that dreary pessimism which
appeared in her later writings. Certain it is that she paid the penalty
of violating a fundamental moral law, in the neglect of those women
whose society she could have adorned, and possibly in the silent
reproaches of conscience, which she portrayed so vividly in the
characters of those heroines who struggled ineffectually in the conflict
between duty and passion. True, she accepted the penalty without
complaint, and labored to the end of her days, with masculine strength,
to enforce a life of duty and self-renunciation on her readers,--to live
at least for the good of humanity. Nor did she court notoriety, like
Georges Sand, who was as indifferent to reproach as she was to shame.
Miss Evans led a quiet, studious, unobtrusive life with the man she
loved, sympathetic in her intercourse with congenial friends, and
devoted to domestic duties. And Mr. Lewes himself relieved her from many
irksome details, that she might be free to prosecute her intense
literary labors.

In this lecture on George Eliot I gladly would have omitted all allusion
to a mistake which impairs our respect for this great woman. But defects
cannot be unnoticed in an honest delineation of character; and no candid
biographers, from those who described the lives of Abraham and David, to
those who have portrayed the characters of Queen Elizabeth and Oliver
Cromwell, have sought to conceal the moral defects of their subjects.

Aside from the translations already mentioned, the first literary
efforts of Miss Evans were her articles in the "Westminster Review," a
heavy quarterly, established to advocate philosophical radicalism. In
this Review appeared from her pen the article on Carlyle's "Life of
Sterling," "Madame de la Sabliere," "Evangelical Teachings," "Heine,"
"Silly Novels by Lady Novelists," "The Natural History of German Life,"
"Worldliness and Unworldliness,"--all powerfully written, but with a
vein of bitter sarcasm in reference to the teachers of those doctrines
which she fancied she had outgrown. Her connection with the "Review"
closed in 1853, when she left Mr. Chapman's home and retired to a small
house in Cambridge Terrace, Hyde Park, on a modest but independent
income. In 1854 she revisited the Continent with Mr. Lewes, spending her
time chiefly in Germany.

It was in 1857 that the first tales of Miss Evans were published in
"Blackwood's Magazine," when she was thirty-eight, in the full maturity
of her mind.

"The Sad Fortunes of Amos Barton" was the first of the series called
"Scenes of Clerical Life" which appeared. Mr. Blackwood saw at once the
great merit of the work, and although it was not calculated to arrest
the attention of ordinary readers he published it, confident of its
ultimate success. He did not know whether it was written by a man or by
a woman; he only knew that he received it from the hand of Mr. Lewes, an
author already well known as learned and brilliant. It is fortunate for
a person in the conventional world of letters, as of society, to be well

This story, though gloomy in its tone, is fresh, unique, and
interesting, and the style good, clear, vivid, strong. It opens with a
beautiful description of an old-fashioned country church, with its high
and square pews, in which the devout worshippers could not be seen by
one another, nor even by the parson. This functionary went to church in
top-boots, and, after his short sermon of platitudes, dined with the
squire, and spent the remaining days of the week in hunting or fishing,
and his evenings in playing cards, quietly drinking his ale, and smoking
his pipe. But the hero of the story--Amos Barton--is a different sort of
man from his worldly and easy rector. He is a churchman, and yet
intensely evangelical and devoted to his humble duties,--on a salary of
L80, with a large family and a sick wife. He is narrow, but truly
religious and disinterested. The scene of the story is laid in a retired
country village in the Midland Counties, at a time when the Evangelical
movement was in full force in England, in the early part of last
century, contemporaneous with the religious revivals of New England;
when the bucolic villagers had little to talk about or interest them,
before railways had changed the face of the country, or the people had
been aroused to political discussions and reforms. The sorrows of the
worthy clergyman centered in an indiscreet and in part unwilling
hospitality which he gave to an artful, needy, pretentious, selfish
woman, but beautiful and full of soft flatteries; which hospitality
provoked scandal, and caused the poor man to be driven away to another
parish. The tragic element of the story, however, centres in Mrs.
Barton, who is an angel, radiant with moral beauty, affectionate,
devoted, and uncomplaining, who dies at last from overwork and
privations, and the cares of a large family of children.

There is no plot in this story, but its charm and power consist in a
vivid description of common life, minute but not exaggerated, which
enlists our sympathy with suffering and misfortune, deeply excites our
interest in commonplace people living out their weary and monotonous
existence. This was a new departure in fiction,--a novel without
love-scenes or happy marriages or thrilling adventures or impossible
catastrophes. But there is great pathos in this homely tale of sorrow;
with no attempts at philosophizing, no digressions, no wearisome
chapters that one wishes to skip, but all spontaneous, natural, free,
showing reserved power,--the precious buds of promise destined to bloom
in subsequent works, till the world should be filled with the aroma of
its author's genius. And there is also great humor in this clerical
tale, of which the following is a specimen:--

"'Eh, dear,' said Mrs. Patten, falling back in her chair and lifting up
her withered hands, 'what would Mr. Gilfil say if he was worthy to know
the changes as have come about in the church in these ten years? I don't
understand these new sort of doctrines. When Mr. Barton comes to see me
he talks about my sins and my need of marcy. Now, Mr. Hackett, I've
never been a sinner. From the first beginning, when I went into service,
I've al'ys did my duty to my employers. I was as good a wife as any in
the country, never aggravating my husband. The cheese-factor used to say
that my cheeses was al'ys to be depended upon.'"

To describe clerical life was doubtless the aim which Miss Evans had in
view in this and the two other tales which soon followed. In these, as
indeed in all her novels, the clergy largely figure. She seems to be
profoundly acquainted with the theological views of the different sects,
as well as with the social habits of the different ministers. So far as
we can detect her preference, it is for the Broad Church, or the
"high-and-dry" clergy of the Church of England, especially those who
were half squires and half parsons in districts where conservative
opinions prevailed; for though she was a philosophical radical, she was
reverential in her turn of mind, and clung to poetical and consecrated
sentiments, always laying more stress on woman's _duties_ than on
her _rights_.

The second of the Clerical series--"Mr. Gilfil's Love Story"--is not so
well told, nor is it so interesting as the first, besides being more
after the fashion of ordinary stories. We miss in it the humor of good
Mrs. Patten; nor are we drawn to the gin-and-water-drinking parson,
although the description of his early unfortunate love is done with a
powerful hand. The story throughout is sad and painful.

The last of the series, "Janet's Repentance," is, I think, the best. The
hero is again a clergyman, an evangelical, whose life is one long
succession of protracted martyrdoms,--an expiation to atone for the
desertion of a girl whom he had loved and ruined while in college. Here
we see, for the first time in George Eliot's writings, that inexorable
fate which pursues wrong-doing, and which so prominently stands out in
all her novels. The singular thing is that she--at this time an advanced
liberal--should have made the sinning young man, in the depth of his
remorse, to find relief in that view of Christianity which is expounded
by the Calvinists. But here she is faithful and true to the teaching of
those by whom she was educated; and it is remarkable that her art
enables her apparently to enter into the spiritual experiences of an
evangelical curate with which she had no sympathy. She does not mock or
deride, but seems to respect the religion which she had herself

And the same truths which consoled the hard-working, self-denying curate
are also made to redeem Janet herself, and secure for her a true
repentance. This heroine of the story is the wife of a drunken, brutal
village doctor, who dies of delirium tremens; she also is the slave of
the same degrading habit which destroys her husband, but, unlike him, is
a victim of remorse and shame. In her despair she seeks advice and
consolation from the minister whom she had ridiculed and despised; and
through him she is led to seek that divine aid which alone enables a
confirmed drunkard to conquer what by mere force of will is an
unconquerable habit. And here George Eliot--for that is the name she now
goes by--is in accord with the profound experience of many.

The whole tale, though short, is a triumph of art and abounds with acute
observations of human nature. It is a perfect picture of village life,
with its gossip, its jealousies, its enmities, and its religious
quarrels, showing on the part of the author an extraordinary knowledge
of theological controversies and the religious movements of the early
part of the nineteenth century. So vivid is her description of rural
life, that the tale is really an historical painting, like the Dutch
pictures of the seventeenth century, to be valued as an accurate
delineation rather than a mere imaginary scene. Madonnas, saints, and
such like pictures which fill the churches of Italy and Spain, works of
the old masters, are now chiefly prized for their grace of form and
richness of coloring,--exhibitions of ideal beauty, charming as
creations, but not such as we see in real life; George Eliot's novels,
on the contrary, are not works of imagination, like the frescos in the
Sistine Chapel, but copies of real life, like those of Wilkie and
Teniers, which we value for their fidelity to Nature. And in regard to
the passion of love, she does not portray it, as in the old-fashioned
novels, leading to fortunate marriages with squires and baronets; but
she generally dissects it, unravels it, and attempts to penetrate its
mysteries,--a work decidedly more psychological than romantic or
sentimental, and hence more interesting to scholars and thinkers than to
ordinary readers, who delight in thrilling adventures and exciting

The "Scenes of Clerical Life" were followed the next year by "Adam
Bede," which created a great impression on the cultivated mind of
England and America. It did not create what is called a "sensation." I
doubt if it was even popular with the generality of readers, nor was the
sale rapid at first; but the critics saw that a new star of
extraordinary brilliancy had arisen in the literary horizon. The unknown
author entered, as she did in "Janet's Repentance," an entirely new
field, with wonderful insight into the common life of uninteresting
people, with a peculiar humor, great power of description, rare felicity
of dialogue, and a deep undertone of serious and earnest reflection. And
yet I confess, that when I first read "Adam Bede," twenty-five years
ago, I was not much interested, and I wondered why others were. It was
not dramatic enough to excite me. Many parts of it were tedious. It
seemed to me to be too much spun out, and its minuteness of detail
wearied me. There was no great plot and no grand characters; nothing
heroic, no rapidity of movement; nothing to keep me from laying the book
down when the dinner-bell rang, or when the time came to go to bed. I
did not then see the great artistic excellence of the book, and I did
not care for a description of obscure people in the Midland Counties of
England,--which, by the way, suggests a reason why "Adam Bede" cannot be
appreciated by Americans as it is by the English people themselves, who
every day see the characters described, and hear their dialect, and know
their sorrows, and sympathize with their privations and labors. But
after a closer and more critical study of the novel I have come to see
merits that before escaped my eye. It is a study, a picture of humble
English life, painted by the hand of a master, to be enjoyed most by
people of critical discernment, and to be valued for its rare fidelity
to Nature. It is of more true historical interest than many novels which
are called historical,--even as the paintings of Rembrandt are more
truly historical than those of Horace Vernet, since the former painted
life as it really was in his day. Imaginative pictures are not those
which are most prized by modern artists, or those pictures which make
every woman look like an angel and every man like a hero,--like those of
Gainsborough or Reynolds,--however flattering they may be to those who
pay for them.

I need not dwell on characters so well known as those painted in "Adam
Bede." The hero is a painstaking, faithful journeyman carpenter,
desirous of doing good work. Scotland and England abound in such men,
and so did New England fifty years ago. This honest mechanic falls in
love with a pretty but vain, empty, silly, selfish girl of his own
class; but she had already fallen under the spell of the young squire of
the village,--a good-natured fellow, of generous impulses, but
essentially selfish and thoughtless, and utterly unable to cope with his
duty. The carpenter, when he finds it out, gives vent to his wrath and
jealousy, as is natural, and picks a quarrel with the squire and knocks
him down,--an act of violence on the part of the inferior in rank not
very common in England. The squire abandons his victim after ruining her
character,--not an uncommon thing among young aristocrats,--and the girl
strangely accepts the renewed attentions of her first lover, until the
logic of events compels her to run away from home and become a vagrant.
The tragic and interesting part of the novel is a vivid painting of the
terrible sufferings of the ruined girl in her desolate wanderings, and
of her trial for abandoning her infant child to death,--the inexorable
law of fate driving the sinner into the realms of darkness and shame.
The story closes with the prosaic marriage of Adam Bede to Dinah
Morris,--a Methodist preacher, who falls in love with him instead of his
more pious brother Seth, who adores her. But the love of Adam and Dinah
for one another is more spiritualized than is common,--is very
beautiful, indeed, showing how love's divine elements can animate the
human soul in all conditions of life. In the fervid spiritualism of
Dinah's love for Adam we are reminded of a Saint Theresa seeking to be
united with her divine spouse. Dinah is a religious rhapsodist, seeking
wisdom and guidance in prayer; and the divine will is in accordance with
her desires. "My soul," said she to Adam, "is so knit to yours that it
is but a divided life if I live without you."

The most amusing and finely-drawn character in this novel is a secondary
one,--Mrs. Poyser,--but painted with a vividness which Scott never
excelled, and with a wealth of humor which Fielding never equalled. It
is the wit and humor which George Eliot has presented in this inimitable
character which make the book so attractive to the English, who enjoy
these more than the Americans,--the latter delighting rather in what is
grotesque and extravagant, like the elaborate absurdities of "Mark
Twain." But this humor is more than that of a shrewd and thrifty
English farmer's wife; it belongs to human nature. We have seen such
voluble sharp, sagacious, ironical, and worldly women among the
farm-houses of New England, and heard them use language, when excited or
indignant, equally idiomatic, though not particularly choice. Strike out
the humor of this novel and the interest we are made to feel in
commonplace people, and the story would not be a remarkable one.

"Adam Bede" was followed in a year by "The Mill on the Floss," the scene
of which is also laid in a country village, where are some well-to-do
people, mostly vulgar and uninteresting. This novel is to me more
powerful than the one which preceded it,--having more faults, perhaps,
but presenting more striking characters. As usual with George Eliot, her
plot in this story is poor, involving improbable incidents and
catastrophes. She is always unfortunate in her attempts to extricate her
heroes and heroines from entangling difficulties. Invention is not her
forte; she is weak when she departs from realistic figures. She is
strongest in what she has seen, not in what she imagines; and here she
is the opposite of Dickens, who paints from imagination. There was never
such a man as Pickwick or Barnaby Rudge. Sir Walter Scott created
characters,--like Jeannie Deans,--but they are as true to life as Sir
John Falstaff.

Maggie Tulliver is the heroine of this story, in whose intellectual
developments George Eliot painted herself, as Madame De Stael describes
her own restless soul-agitations in "Delphine" and "Corinne." Nothing in
fiction is more natural and life-like than the school-days of Maggie,
when she goes fishing with her tyrannical brother, and when the two
children quarrel and make up,--she, affectionate and yielding; he,
fitful and overbearing. Many girls are tyrannized over by their
brothers, who are often exacting, claiming the guardianship which
belongs only to parents. But Maggie yields to her obstinate brother as
well as to her unreasonable and vindictive father, governed by a sense
of duty, until, with her rapid intellectual development and lofty
aspiration, she breaks loose in a measure from their withering
influence, though not from technical obligations. She almost loves
Philip Wakem, the son of the lawyer who ruined her father; yet out of
regard to family ties she refuses, while she does not yet repel, his
love. But her real passion is for Stephen Gurst, who was betrothed to
her cousin, and who returned Maggie's love with intense fervor.

"Why did he love her? Curious fools, be still!
Is human love the fruit of human will?"

She knows she ought not to love this man, yet she combats her
passion with poor success, allows herself to be compromised in her
relations with him, and is only rescued by a supreme effort of
self-renunciation,--a principle which runs through all George Eliot's
novels, in which we see the doctrines of Buddha rather than those of
Paul, although at times they seem to run into each other. Maggie erred
in not closing the gate of her heart inexorably, and in not resisting
the sway of a purely "physiological law." The vivid description of this
sort of love, with its "strange agitations" and agonizing ecstasies,
would have been denounced as immoral fifty years ago. The _denouement_
is an improbable catastrophe on a tidal river, in the rising floods of
which Maggie and her brother are drowned,--a favorite way with the
author in disposing of her heroes and heroines when she can no longer
manage them.

The secondary characters of this novel are numerous, varied,
and natural, and described with great felicity and humor. None
of them are interesting people; in fact, most of them are very
uninteresting,--vulgar, money-loving, material, purse-proud, selfish,
such as are seen among those to whom money and worldly prosperity are
everything, with no perception of what is lofty and disinterested, and
on whom grand sentiments are lost,--yet kind-hearted in the main, and in
the case of the Dobsons redeemed by a sort of family pride. The moral of
the story is the usual one with George Eliot,--the conflict of duty with
passion, and the inexorable fate which pursues the sinner. She brings
out the power of conscience as forcibly as Hawthorne has done in his
"Scarlet Letter."

The "Mill on the Floss" was soon followed by "Silas Marner," regarded by
some as the gem of George Eliot's novels, and which certainly--though
pathetic and sad, as all her novels are--does not leave on the mind so
mournful an impression, since in its outcome we see redemption. The
principal character--the poor, neglected, forlorn weaver--emerges at
length from the Everlasting Nay into the Everlasting Yea; and he emerges
by the power of love,--love for a little child whom he has rescued from
the snow, the storm, and death. Driven by injustice to a solitary life,
to abject penury, to despair, the solitary miser, gloating over his gold
pieces,--which he has saved by the hardest privation, and in which he
trusts,--finds himself robbed, without redress or sympathy; but in the
end he is consoled for his loss in the love he bestows on a helpless
orphan, who returns it with the most noble disinterestedness, and lives
to be his solace and his pride. Nothing more touching has ever been
written by man or woman than this short story, as full of pathos as
"Adam Bede" is full of humor.

What is remarkable in this story is that the plot is exactly similar to
that of "Jermola the Potter," the masterpiece of a famous Polish
novelist,--a marvellous coincidence, or plagiarism, difficult to be
explained. But Shakspeare, the most original of men, borrowed some of
his plots from Italian writers; and Mirabeau appropriated the knowledge
of men more learned than he, which by felicity of genius he made his
own; and Webster, too, did the same thing. There is nothing new under
the sun, except in the way of "putting things."

After the publication of the various novels pertaining to the rural and
humble life of England, with which George Eliot was so well acquainted,
into which she entered with so much sympathy, and which she so
marvellously portrayed, she took a new departure, entering a field with
which she was not so well acquainted, and of which she could only learn
through books. The result was "Romola," the most ambitious, and in some
respects the most remarkable, of all her works. It certainly is the most
learned and elaborate. It is a philosophico-historical novel, the scene
of which is laid in Florence at the time of Savonarola,--the period
called the Renaissance, when art and literature were revived with great
enthusiasm; a very interesting period, the glorious morning, as it were,
of modern civilization.

This novel, the result of reading and reflection, necessarily called
into exercise other faculties besides accurate observation,--even
imagination and invention, for which she is not pre-eminently
distinguished. In this novel, though interesting and instructive, we
miss the humor and simplicity of the earlier works. It is overloaded
with learning. Not one intelligent reader in a hundred has ever heard
even the names of many of the eminent men to whom she alludes. It is
full of digressions, and of reflections on scientific theories. Many of
the chapters are dry and pedantic. It is too philosophical to be
popular, too learned to be appreciated. As in some of her other stories,
highly improbable events take place. The plot is not felicitous, and the
ending is unsatisfactory. The Italian critics of the book are not, on
the whole, complimentary. George Eliot essayed to do, with prodigious
labor, what she had no special aptitude for. Carlyle in ten sentences
would have made a more graphic picture of Savonarola. None of her
historical characters stand out with the vividness with which Scott
represented Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, or with which even
Bulwer painted Rienzi and the last of the Barons.

Critics do not admire historical novels, because they are neither
history nor fiction. They mislead readers on important issues, and they
are not so interesting as the masterpieces of Macaulay and Froude. Yet
they have their uses. They give a superficial knowledge of great
characters to those who will not read history. The field of history is
too vast for ordinary people, who have no time for extensive reading
even if they have the inclination.

The great historical personage whom George Eliot paints in "Romola" is
Savonarola,--and I think faithfully, on the whole. In the main she
coincides with Villani, the greatest authority. In some respects I
should take issue with her. She makes the religion of the Florentine
reformer to harmonize with her notions of self-renunciation. She makes
him preach the "religion of humanity," which was certainly not taught in
his day. He preached duty, indeed, and appealed to conscience; but he
preached duty to God rather than to man. The majesty of a personal God,
fearful in judgment and as represented by the old Jewish prophets, was
the great idea of Savonarola's theology. His formula was something like
this: "Punishment for sin is a divine judgment, not the effect of
inexorable laws. Repentance is a necessity. Unless men repent of their
sins, God will punish them. Unless Italy repents, it will be desolated
by His vengeance." Catholic theology, which he never departed from, has
ever recognized the supreme allegiance of man to his Maker, because _He_
demands it. Even among the Jesuits, with their corrupted theology, the
motto emblazoned on their standard was, _Ad majorem dei gloriam_. But
the great Dominican preacher is made by George Eliot to be "the
spokesman of humanity made divine, not of Deity made human." "Make your
marriage vows," said he to Romola, "an offering to the great work by
which sin and sorrow are made to cease."

But Savonarola is only a secondary character in the novel. He might as
well have been left out altogether. The real hero and heroine are Romola
and Tito; and they are identified with the life of the period, which is
the Renaissance,--a movement more Pagan than Christian. These two
characters may be called creations. Romola is an Italian woman, supposed
to represent a learned and noble lady four hundred years ago. She has
lofty purposes and aspirations; she is imbued with the philosophy of
self-renunciation; her life is devoted to others,--first to her father,
and then to humanity. But she is as cold as marble; she is the very
reverse of Corinne. Even her love for Tito is made to vanish away on the
first detection of his insincerity, although he is her husband. She
becomes as hard and implacable as fate; and when she ceases to love her
husband, she hates him and leaves him, and is only brought back by a
sense of duty. Yet her hatred is incurable; and in her wretched
disappointment she finds consolation only in a sort of stoicism. How far
George Eliot's notions of immortality are brought out in the spiritual
experiences of Romola I do not know; but the immortality of Romola is
not that which is brought to light by the gospel: it is a vague and
indefinite sentiment kindred to that of Indian sages,--that we live
hereafter only in our teachings or deeds; that we are absorbed in the
universal whole; that our immortality is the living in the hearts and
minds of men, not personally hereafter among the redeemed To quote her
own fine thought,--

"Oh, may I join the choir invisible
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
For miserable aims that end in self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And, with their mild persistence, urge man's search
To vaster issues!"

Tito is a more natural character, good-natured, kind-hearted, with
generous impulses. He is interesting in spite of his faults; he is
accomplished, versatile, and brilliant. But he is inherently selfish,
and has no moral courage. He gradually, in his egotism, becomes utterly
false and treacherous, though not an ordinary villain. He is the
creature of circumstances. His weakness leads to falsehood, and
falsehood ends in crime; which crime pursues him with unrelenting
vengeance,--not the agonies of remorse, for he has no conscience, but
the vindictive and persevering hatred of his foster father, whom he
robbed. The vengeance of Baldassare is almost preternatural; it
surpasses the wrath of Achilles and the malignity of Shylock. It is the
wrath of a demon, from which there is no escape; it would be tragical if
the subject of it were greater. Though Tito perishes in an improbable
way, he is yet the victim of the inexorable law of human souls.

But if "Romola" has faults, it has remarkable excellences. In this book
George Eliot aspires to be a teacher of ethics and philosophy. She is
not humorous, but intensely serious and thoughtful. She sometimes
discourses like Epictetus:--

"And so, my Lillo," says she at the conclusion, "if you mean to act
nobly, and seek to know the best things God has put within reach of man,
you must learn to fix your mind on that end, and not on what will happen
to you because of it. And remember, if you were to choose something
lower, and make it the rule of your life to seek your own pleasure and
escape what is disagreeable, calamity might come just the same; and it
would be a calamity falling on a base mind,--which is the one form of
sorrow that has no balm in it, and that may well make a man say, 'It
would have been better for me if I had never been born.'"

Three years elapsed between the publication of "Romola" and that of
"Felix Holt," which shows to what a strain the mind of George Eliot had
been subjected in elaborating an historical novel. She now returns to
her own peculiar field, in which her great successes had been made, and
with which she was familiar; and yet even in her own field we miss now
the genial humanity and inimitable humor of her earlier novels. In
"Felix Holt" she deals with social and political problems in regard to
which there is great difference of opinion; for the difficult questions
of political economy have not yet been solved. Felix Holt is a political
economist, but not a vulgar radical filled with discontent and envy. He
is a mechanic, tolerably educated, and able to converse with
intelligence on the projected reforms of the day, in cultivated
language. He is high-minded and conscientious, but unpractical, and gets
himself into difficulties, escaping penal servitude almost by miracle,
for the crime of homicide. The heroine, Esther Lyon, is supposed to be
the daughter of a Dissenting minister, who talks theology after the
fashion of the divines of the seventeenth century; unknown to herself,
however, she is really the daughter of the heir of large estates, and
ultimately becomes acknowledged as such, but gives up wealth and social
position to marry Felix Holt, who had made a vow of perpetual poverty.
Such a self-renunciation is not common in England. Even a Paula would
hardly have accepted such a lot; only one inspired with the philosophy
of Marcus Aurelius would be capable of such a willing sacrifice,--very
noble, but very improbable.

The most powerful part of the story is the description of the remorse
which so often accompanies an illicit love, as painted in the proud,
stately, stern, unbending, aristocratic Mrs. Transome. "Though youth has
faded, and joy is dead, and love has turned to loathing, yet memory,
like a relentless fury, pursues the gray-haired woman who hides within
her breast a heavy load of shame and dread." Illicit love is a common
subject with George Eliot; and it is always represented as a mistake or
crime, followed by a terrible retribution, sooner or later,--if not
outwardly, at least inwardly, in the sorrows of a wounded and
heavy-laden soul.

No one of George Eliot's novels opens more beautifully than "Felix
Holt," though there is the usual disappointment of readers with the
close. And probably no description of a rural district in the Midland
Counties fifty years ago has ever been painted which equals in graphic
power the opening chapter. The old coach turnpike, the roadside inns
brilliant with polished tankards, the pretty bar-maids, the repartees of
jocose hostlers, the mail-coach announced by the many blasts of the
bugle, the green willows of the water-courses, the patient cart-horses,
the full-uddered cows, the rich pastures, the picturesque milkmaids, the
shepherd with his slouching walk, the laborer with his bread and bacon,
the tidy kitchen-garden, the golden corn-ricks, the bushy hedgerows
bright with the blossoms of the wild convolvulus, the comfortable
parsonage, the old parish church with its ivy-mantled towers, the
thatched cottage with double daisies and geraniums in the
window-seats,--these and other details bring before our minds a rural
glory which has passed away before the power of steam, and may never
again return.

"Felix Holt" was published in 1866, and it was five years before
"Middlemarch" appeared,--a very long novel, thought by some to be the
best which George Eliot has written; read fifteen times, it is said, by
the Prince of Wales. In this novel the author seems to have been
ambitious to sustain her fame. She did not, like Trollope, dash off
three novels a year, and all alike. She did not write mechanically, as a
person grinds at a mill. Nor was she greedy of money, to be spent in
running races with the rich. She was a conscientious writer from first
to last. Yet "Middlemarch," with all the labor spent upon it, has more
faults than any of her preceding novels. It is as long as "The History
of Sir Charles Grandison;" it has a miserable plot; it has many tedious
chapters, and too many figures, and too much theorizing on social
science. Rather than a story, it is a panorama of the doctors and
clergymen and lawyers and business people who live in a provincial town,
with their various prejudices and passions and avocations. It is not a
cheerful picture of human life. We are brought to see an unusual number
of misers, harpies, quacks, cheats, and hypocrites. There are but few
interesting characters in it: Dorothea is the most so,--a very noble
woman, but romantic, and making great mistakes. She desires to make
herself useful to somebody, and marries a narrow, jealous, aristocratic
pedant, who had spent his life in elaborate studies on a dry and
worthless subject. Of course, she awakes from her delusion when she
discovers what a small man, with great pretensions, her learned husband
is; but she remains in her dreariness of soul a generous, virtuous, and
dutiful woman. She does not desert her husband because she does not love
him, or because he is uncongenial, but continues faithful to the end.
Like Maggie Tulliver and Romola, she has lofty aspirations, but marries,
after her husband's death, a versatile, brilliant, shallow Bohemian, as
ill-fitted for her serious nature as the dreary Casaubon himself.

Nor are we brought in sympathy with Lydgate, the fashionable doctor with
grand aims, since he allows his whole scientific aspirations to be
defeated by a selfish and extravagant wife. Rosamond Vincy is, however,
one of the best drawn characters in fiction, such as we often
see,--pretty, accomplished, clever, but incapable of making a sacrifice,
secretly thwarting her husband, full of wretched complaints, utterly
insincere, attractive perhaps to men, but despised by women. Caleb Garth
is a second Adam Bede; and Mrs. Cadwallader, the aristocratic wife of
the rector, is a second Mrs. Poyser in the glibness of her tongue and
in the thriftiness of her ways. Mr. Bullstrode, the rich banker, is a
character we unfortunately sometimes find in a large country town,--a
man of varied charities, a pillar of the Church, but as full of cant as
an egg is of meat; in fact, a hypocrite and a villain, ultimately
exposed and punished.

The general impression left on the mind from reading "Middlemarch" is
sad and discouraging. In it is brought out the blended stoicism,
humanitarianism, Buddhism, and agnosticism of the author. She paints the
"struggle of noble natures, struggling vainly against the currents of a
poor kind of world, without trust in an invisible Rock higher than
themselves to which they could entreat to be lifted up."

In another five years George Eliot produced "Daniel Deronda," the last
and most unsatisfactory of her great novels, written in feeble health
and with exhausted nervous energies, as she was passing through the
shadows of the evening of her life. In this work she doubtless essayed
to do her best; but she could not always surpass herself, any more than
could Scott or Dickens. Nor is she to be judged by those productions
which reveal her failing strength, but by those which were written in
the fresh enthusiasm of a lofty soul. No one thinks the less of Milton
because the "Paradise Regained" is not equal to the "Paradise Lost."
Many are the immortal poets who are now known only for two or three of
their minor poems. It takes a Michael Angelo to paint his grandest
frescos after reaching eighty years of age; or a Gladstone, to make his
best speeches when past the age of seventy. Only people with a wonderful
physique and unwasted mental forces can go on from conquering to
conquer,--people, moreover, who have reserved their strength, and lived
temperate and active lives.

Although "Daniel Deronda" is occasionally brilliant, and laboriously
elaborated, still it is regarded generally by the critics as a failure.
The long digression on the Jews is not artistic; and the subject itself
is uninteresting, especially to the English, who have inveterate
prejudices against the chosen people. The Hebrews, as they choose to
call themselves, are doubtless a remarkable people, and have
marvellously preserved their traditions and their customs. Some among
them have arisen to the foremost rank in scholarship, statesmanship, and
finance. They have entered, at different times, most of the cabinets of
Europe, and have held important chairs in its greatest universities. But
it was a Utopian dream that sent Daniel Deronda to the Orient to collect
together the scattered members of his race. Nor are enthusiasts and
proselytes often found among the Jews. We see talent, but not visionary
dreamers. To the English they appear as peculiarly practical,--bent on
making money, sensual in their pleasures, and only distinguished from
the people around them by an extravagant love of jewelry and a proud and
cynical rationalism. Yet in justice it must be confessed, that some of
the most interesting people in the world are Jews.

In "Daniel Deronda" the cheerless philosophy of George Eliot is fully
brought out. Mordecai, in his obscure and humble life, is a good
representative of a patient sufferer, but "in his views and aspirations
is a sort of Jewish Mazzini." The hero of the story is Mordecai's
disciple, who has discovered his Hebrew origin, of which he is as proud
as his aristocratic mother is ashamed The heroine is a spoiled woman of
fashion, who makes the usual mistake of most of George Eliot's heroines,
in violating conscience and duty. She marries a man whom she knows to be
inherently depraved and selfish; marries him for his money, and pays the
usual penalty,--a life of silent wretchedness and secret sorrow and
unavailing regret. But she is at last fortunately delivered by the
accidental death of her detested husband,--by drowning, of course.
Remorse in seeing her murderous wishes accomplished--though not by her
own hand, but by pursuing fate--awakens a new life in her soul, and she
is redeemed amid the throes of anguish and conscious guilt.

"Theophrastus Such," the last work of George Eliot, is not a novel, but
a series of character sketches, full of unusual bitterness and withering
sarcasm. Thackeray never wrote anything so severe. It is one of the most
cynical books ever written by man or woman. There is as much difference
in tone and spirit between it and "Adam Bede," as between "Proverbs" and
"Ecclesiastes;" as between "Sartor Resartus" and the "Latter-Day
Pamphlets." And this difference is not more marked than the difference
in style and language between this and her earlier novels. Critics have
been unanimous in their admiration of the author's style in "Silas
Marner" and "The Mill on the Floss,"--so clear, direct, simple, natural;
as faultless as Swift, Addison, and Goldsmith, those great masters of
English prose, whose fame rests as much on their style as on their
thoughts. In "Theophrastus Such," on the contrary, as in some parts of
"Daniel Deronda," the sentences are long, involved, and often almost

In presenting the works of George Eliot, I have confined myself to her
prose productions, since she is chiefly known by her novels. But she
wrote poetry also, and some critics have seen considerable merit in it.
Yet whatever merit it may have I must pass without notice. I turn from
the criticism of her novels, as they successively appeared, to allude
briefly to her closing days. Her health began to fail when she was
writing "Middlemarch," doubtless from her intense and continual studies,
which were a severe strain on her nervous system. It would seem that she
led a secluded life, rarely paying visits, but receiving at her house
distinguished literary and scientific men. She was fond of travelling on
the Continent, and of making short visits to the country. In
conversation she is said to have been witty, tolerant, and sympathetic.
Poetry, music, and art absorbed much of her attention. She read very
little contemporaneous fiction, and seldom any criticisms on her own
productions. For an unbeliever in historical Christianity, she had great
reverence for all earnest Christian peculiarities, from Roman Catholic
asceticism to Methodist fervor. In her own belief she came nearest to
the positivism of Comte, although he was not so great an oracle to her
as he was to Mr. Lewes, with whom twenty years were passed by her in
congenial studies and labors. They were generally seen together at the
opening night of a new play or the _debut_ of a famous singer or actor,
and sometimes, within a limited circle, they attended a social or
literary reunion.

In 1878 George Eliot lost the companion of her literary life. And yet
two years afterward--at the age of fifty-nine--she surprised her friends
by marrying John Walter Cross, a man much younger than herself. No one
can fathom that mystery. But Mrs. Cross did not long enjoy the
felicities of married life. In six months from her marriage, after a
pleasant trip to the Continent, she took cold in attending a Sunday
concert in London; and on the 22d of December, 1880, she passed away
from earth to join her "choir invisible," whose thoughts have enriched
the world.

It is not extravagant to say that George Eliot left no living competitor
equal to herself in the realm of fiction. I do not myself regard her as
great a novelist as Scott or Thackeray; but critics generally place her
second only to those great masters in this department of literature. How
long her fame will last, who can tell? Admirers and rhetoricians say,
"as long as the language in which her books are written." She doubtless
will live as long as any English novelist; but do those who amuse live
like those who save? Will the witty sayings of Dickens be cherished like
the almost inspired truths of Plato, of Bacon, of Burke? Nor is
popularity a sure test of posthumous renown.

The question for us to settle is, not whether George Eliot as a writer
is immortal, but whether she has rendered services that her country and
mankind will value. She has undoubtedly added to the richness of English
literature. She has deeply interested and instructed her generation.
Thousands, and hundreds of thousands, owe to her a debt of gratitude for
the enjoyment she has afforded them. How many an idle hour has she not
beguiled! How many have felt the artistic delight she has given them,
like those who have painted beautiful pictures! As already remarked, we
read her descriptions of rural character and life as we survey the
masterpieces of Hogarth and Wilkie.

It is for her delineation of character, and for profound psychological
analysis, that her writings have permanent value. She is a faithful
copyist of Nature. She recalls to our minds characters whom everybody of
large experience has seen in his own village or town,--the conscientious
clergyman, and the minister who preaches like a lecturer; the angel who
lifts up, and the sorceress who pulls down. We recall the misers we have
scorned, and the hypocrites whom we have detested. We see on her canvas
the vulgar rich and the struggling poor, the pompous man of success and
the broken-down man of misfortune; philanthropists and drunkards, lofty
heroines and silly butterflies, benevolent doctors and smiling
politicians, quacks and scoundrels and fools, mixed up with noble men
and women whose aspirations are for a higher life; people of kind
impulses and weak wills, of attractive personal beauty with meanness of
mind and soul. We do not find exaggerated monsters of vice, or faultless
models of virtue and wisdom: we see such people as live in every
Christian community. True it is that the impression we receive of human
life is not always pleasant; but who in any community can bear the
severest scrutiny of neighbors? It is this fidelity to our poor humanity
which tinges the novels of George Eliot with so deep a gloom.

But the sadness which creeps over us in view of human imperfection is
nothing to that darkness which enters the soul when the peculiar
philosophical or theological opinions of this gifted woman are
insidiously but powerfully introduced. However great she was as a
delineator of character, she is not an oracle as a moral teacher. She
was steeped in the doctrines of modern agnosticism. She did not believe
in a personal God, nor in His superintending providence, nor in
immortality as brought to light in the gospel. There are some who do not
accept historical Christianity, but are pervaded with its spirit. Even
Carlyle, when he cast aside the miracles of Christ and his apostles as
the honest delusions of their followers, was almost a Calvinist in his
recognition of God as a sovereign power; and he abhorred the dreary
materialism of Comte and Mill as much as he detested the shallow atheism
of Diderot and Helvetius. But George Eliot went beyond Carlyle in
disbelief. At times, especially in her poetry, she writes almost like a
follower of Buddha. The individual soul is absorbed in the universal
whole; future life has no certainty; hope in redemption is buried in a
sepulchre; life in most cases is a futile struggle; the great problems
of existence are invested with gloom as well as mystery. Thus she
discourses like a Pagan. She would have us to believe that Theocritus
was wiser than Pascal; that Marcus Aurelius was as good as Saint Paul.

Hence, as a teacher of morals and philosophy George Eliot is not of much
account. We question the richness of any moral wisdom which is not in
harmony with the truths that Christian people regard as fundamental, and
which they believe will save the world. In some respects she has taught
important lessons. She has illustrated the power of conscience and the
sacredness of duty. She was a great preacher of the doctrine that
"whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." She showed that
those who do not check and control the first departure from virtue will,
in nine cases out of ten, hopelessly fall.

These are great certitudes. But there are others which console and
encourage as well as intimidate. The _Te Domine Speravi_ of the dying
Xavier on the desolate island of Sancian, pierced through the clouds of
dreary blackness which enveloped the nations he sought to save.
Christianity is full of promises of exultant joy, and its firmest
believers are those whose lives are gilded with its divine radiance.
Surely, it is not intellectual or religious narrowness which causes us
to regret that so gifted a woman as George Eliot--so justly regarded as
one of the greatest ornaments of modern literature--should have drifted
away from the Rock which has resisted the storms and tempests of nearly
two thousand years, and abandoned, if she did not scorn, the faith which
has animated the great masters of thought from Augustine to Bossuet.
"The stern mournfulness which is produced by most of her novels gives us
the idea of one who does not know, or who has forgotten, that the stone
was rolled away from the heart of the world on the morning when Christ
arose from the tomb."


Miss Blind's Life of George Eliot. Mr. Cross's Life of George Eliot, I
regret to say, did not reach me until after the foregoing pages had gone
to press. But as this lecture is criticism rather than history, the few
additional facts that might have been gained would not be important;
while, after tracing in that _quasi_-autobiography the development of
her mental and moral nature, I see no reason to change my conclusions
based on the outward facts of her life and on her works. The Nineteenth
Century, ix.; London Quarterly Review, lvii. 40; Contemporary Review,
xx. 29, 39; The National Review, xxxi. 23, 16; Blackwood's Magazine,
cxxix. 85-100, 112, 116, 103; Edinburgh Review, ex. 144, 124, 137, 150;

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