The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
The book of the season is the "Life of George Eliot," by her husband, Mr. Cross.
Mary Ann Evans, professionally known as George Eliot, was brought up in one of the Midland Counties, where she accumulated a large stock of observation on rustic life, low and high. Her religious views, as a young lady, were profoundly evangelical. She gradually became enlightened or corrupted, as the case may be put. A residence in London with John Chapman, of the Westminster Review, contributed to her emancipation. She translated Strauss' "Life of Jesus." In this she took up the work of a young lady who began it, but received an effective marriage offer, which diverted her attention.page 69
In regard to marital relations a woman can do as she pleases if she has money, and genius almost absolves her. Miss Evans became the wife of Mr. Lewes, who had a wife living. It did not signify. A George Sand or a George Eliot is outside the common rule. Indignation is confined to the women who have no money or genius. Another reading of "What in the captain is but a choleric word, in the soldier is rank blasphemy." George Eliot teaches the teachers who expatiate on the poor fallen woman.
This is a sort of thing we care not to write about, but the humbug is so transparent.
We were thinking over the books of the century, in England, and ranged them thus:—"Marmion," "Childe Harold," "Waverley," "Pickwick," "Sartor Resartus," "Macaulay's History of England," and then come a cluster almost in one batch: Buckle's "History of Civilization," "The Origin of Species," "Colenso on the Pentateuch," "Tom Brown's School Days," and "Adam Bede." These five outweigh all the rest. They were flung out almost in one burst of a rocket, about a quarter of a century ago.
The depth of Miss Evans' affection for Mr. Lewes was evinced by her quick marriage to Mr. Cross. There is something unpleasant about the purely intellectual air of these marriages. It is not heavenly. It is a sort of soul cremation. But neither on this will we linger.
Miss Evans had the same kind of absurd admiration for Mr. Lewes that John Stuart Mill had for Mrs. Taylor, afterwards Mrs. Mill. Yet Lewes is credited with having recommended his "wife" to try fiction. She sent the first of her "Scenes of Clerical Life" to Mr. Blackwood, who soon perceived that it was a trump card for his magazine. "Adam Bede" followed, and achieved a prodigious eclat "The Mill on the Floss" was somewhat of a falling off "Silas Marner" was more of a success, and is considered by some critics to be the best of George Eliot's novels. "Felix Holt, the Radical," did not reach a high standard.
Opinions vary greatly on "Romola." We found it unreadable. The current of criticism appears to be settling upon it as a good chip of history, but an indifferent novel. We relished "Middle-march" in its day better than anything of George Eliot's. With "Daniel Deronda," again, we could not meddle. The style is insufferable. However, it is impossible to fix a criterion of taste with the novel as you do with painting. Mrs. Cross's poetry was all below par.
Like George Sand, she was amiable and modest, and did not shine in society—unless she chose. She was passionately fond of classic music, and played the piano well.
Quite unusual preparations are being made for reviewing Mr. Cross's biography, in all the periodicals. We must give the cream in another article.