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They make us feel that every step they common interest of the intellectual ranks follow has a certain moral direction. most widely separated. She had a voice We are, at every development in the to reach the many and words to arrest drama, led nearer to a moral goal. the few. She afforded the liveliest enThere is no mere play of life and char- tertainment to the ordinary novel-reader acter. And the same may be said of and the deepest speculation to many who many poets who, though standing lower never looked into another novel. Her in the scale, yet occupy no mean place influence was as wide as it was profound. in it. Byron owes a large part of his This attempt at an appreciation of her force to being distinctively the poet of influence is made by one in whom, to the conscience. Shelley is, above all, a the influence felt by the many, was addprotestant against tyranny. If we quit- ed the enlightening power of such an ted the heights of literature we could add acquaintance as any of them might have many names to the list of those who gained, had chance thrown it in their have given us their best from the point way; and the criticism which follows of view of the artist, and whose works embodies reminiscences, which as they are yet filled with a moral atmosphere. were not associated with the gratifying In literature, as elsewhere, many are mark of peculiar confidence, so they are called and few chosen ; and not a few not entangled by anything that has to failures may be reckoned here, as else- be sifted away before they can be shared where, but the failure is not in the aim. by the public. So much the more are That the great name of George Eliot they characteristic of what was best in must be added to the list will not, we George Eliot. For in reviewing the presume, be disputed by any one. whole impression thus made on the There is nothing impartial about her mind, and seeking out first, as is fitting genius. It is the claim of her countless and natural, its legacy of gratitude, we admirers, and the indictment of her few would fix on the wonderful degree to mere critics, that she is a moral teacher, which she has lighted up the life of comnot merely as every true artist is a moral monplace, unheroic humanity. If to teacher, but as are those whose delinea- any of her admirers we seem to lower tions are colored by sympathy, and her place in literature by representing it shadowed by disapproval. Indeed, a as something that all could appreciate, large part of her immense popularity is such a feeling would have found no symtraceable to the didactic element in her pathy from her. There was no taint of works. It is a mistake, though a very intellectual aristocracy in her sympacommon one, to suppose that preaching thies. She once said, in referring to is a form of utterance unpopular with Mendelssohn's visit to England, that the the hearer. We believe a good actor musician's power to move the crowd with does not acquire an audience so readily a visible thrill of enthusiasm would have as a good preacher. Didactic fiction been the object of her aspiration, had we consider the most popular form of she been allowed her choice of the form literature ; and that a first-rate genius her genius might have taken. The should take it in hand in our day has yearning seemed an expression of that been a piece of extraordinary good for- respectfulness for ordinary mankind tune for that mass of intelligent medioc- which embodied itself in portraiture that rity which supplies the staple of ordi- all could appreciate. Nothing recurs nary readers. In reading her books, more emphatically to the memory which that numerous class which hankers after seeks to gather up its records of her, originality found two of the strongest lit- than her vehement recoil from that spirit erary tastes gratified at once--the liveli- which identifies what is excellent with est fiction held in solution by the most what is exceptional. The sacredness of eloquent preaching. The latter element humdrum work was one of the strongest can be ignored by no one. No preacher convictions, bearing on practical life, of our day, we believe, has done so much which she ever thus expressed, and it to mould the moral aspirations of her must have been a large deduction from contemporaries as she has, for none the happiness of her fame that it so often other had both the opportunity and the imposed on her (in common, we prepower. In losing her we have lost the sume, with all persons of genius) the
duty of checking the aspirations of that of her, but most of all for the precelarge mass of average mankind that dence which it gives the ordinary human seeks an escape from the vocation which bonds beyond all that is given to the she felt so lofty a one. This spirit finds élite of mankind. We can recall no fuller expression in her works, we be- other writer who, with the needful power, lieve, than in those of any other great has taken so little pains to depict the writer of fiction. Almost all her most life of genius. Both the sister spirits loving creations are of those men and we should place by her side, for inwomen who would not, in actual life, stance, have spent their most elaborate be marked off from the crowd by any efforts in depicting a woman of genius, commanding gifts of intellect or charac- but “ Aurora Leigh ” and “ Consuelo" ' ter.
She seems to us either never to have no pendant in the gallery of George have attempted to portray such an ex- Eliot (for the exquisite sketch of “ Armceptional being or to have failed in gart" seems to us too slight to be called doing so. No sketch of hers seems to one). We do not name this as any deus so shadowy, so unrememberable, as ficiency in her works ; it seems to us, that of the ideal Jew who is supposed to indeed, that art is not altogether a favorbe the most impressive person in the fic- able subject for itself. But we note it tion where he figures, and next in dini- neither for praise nor blame from a litness and lifelessness we should place that erary point of view, but as an important portrait which ought to have occupied indication of the nature of her moral the very focus of her artistic power sympathies. They were rich and variSavonarola. The world, perhaps, has ous, and no defining limits could be not lost so much by her failure to carry pointed out which would not probably out a plan once named to the writer-to suggest many exceptions; we have mengive the world an ideal portrait of an tioned one, but on the whole they apactual character in history, whom she did pear to us to embody all that is best, all not name, but to whom she alluded as that is pure, in the ideal of Democracy. an object of possible reverence
We pay a great tribute to any writer of mingled with disappointment – as by such powers as hers, in saying that her some possible successor of Mrs. Peyser teaching impresses on the mind the exor Caleb Garth. The sketch of Zarca cellence of patient work, of simple duty, seems to us, it is true, one of her very of cheerful unselfishness. So great that finest creations, and unquestionably it is we can allow that she failed to inspire that of an exceptional and aspiring equal sympathy with aspiration, that she being. Still, her brightest coloring, on painted reverence sometimes the whole, is kept for the simple homely sciously and sometimes, it seems to us, beings who seek to get honestly through without intending it—as generally misthe day's work and make those they love taken, and still feel our debt of gratitude happy. Her genius is always most to her immense. In a world where restcharacteristically exercised in discover- less vanity is so active, and where we ing the pathos and grandeur that lie hid are all, more or less, tempted into the in average humanity. The writer once scramble for pre-eminence, we owe much felt vividly how, even among her peers, to one who taught us, in unforgettable what she most valued was that which words, to prize the lowly path of obthey shared with average humanity, on scure duty. In words, we are obliged hearing her say of one of her few con- to say, for, in recalling her life, the temporaries whose genius was equal to recollection of what looks like a claim her own, “ I always think of him as the either to exceptional immunity from the husband of the dead wife.” The dis- laws that bind ordinary human beings, tinction of eminent powers paled in her or else to an exceptional right to form a eyes before that of a faithful love-pro- judgment on their scope, forces itself found, indeed, and deathless, but not in
But no plodding this respect superior to many a one that moralist could have more abhorred such lurks behind the curtain of utter dumb- a claim than she did. On one occasion ness, or even of trite words and hum- she expressed, almost with indignation, drum reflections. In many ways the her sense of the evil of a doctrine which speech recurs as especially characteristic compounded for moral deficiency in
consideration of intellectual wealth, and of life obtained as large a share of her her hearer failed to make her concede compassion as its sorrows. A writer in even that amount of truth in it which the Spectator has noted, as a sign of the surely no deliberate view of human diffi- greatness of her dramatic genius, that culties and limitations could ultimately she portrayed the characters most unlike withhold, and which seems to us illus- her own with the utmost intellectual trated by her own life. She was no sympathy. We should hardly have sindoubt responsible for the fact that Eng. gled out this power for special noticeJish public opinion, in its idolatry of it surely takes the minimum of dramatic her, left in abeyance some of its most power to bring out the enjoyment that cherished principles ; but her reverence all feel in characters unlike their own-for human bonds and her abhorrence of but certainly the remark sets one on the a self-pleasing choice as against a dutiful trace of what was felt remarkable in loyalty have been set forth with such personal intercourse with her. It was eloquent conviction and varied force of not only those whose experience conillustration in her books that we believe tained some germ of instruction for the the testimony has outweighed even the dramatic painter who felt the full glow counteraction of what was adversé to it of her sympathy. It was granted in unin her own career. She was one of the stinted measure to those who could not few whose words are mightier than their give in return even the contribution by actions.
which an imagination is enriched. And how much in her demeanor, her Doubtless she was beset by many appersonal aspect, repeated the lesson of peals for encouragement and guidance, her books ! Not quite all, but almost and her response was necessarily brief. all that one memory, at all events, can But it was not contemptuous or impagather up from the past. From one tient, even where it must have been repoint of view she appeared as the hum- luctant. Her inherent respect for averblest of human beings. "Do not, pray, age humanity made itself felt, perhaps think that I would dream of comparing somewhat exaggerated, where it was the myself to she once said, with un- only respect she could feel. Few know questionable earnestness, mentioning an how much is meant in saying this. author whom most people would con- There are not many from whom we sider as infinitely her inferior. And the could bear the humiliation of confrontslow careful articulation and low voice ing mere respect for the humanity in suggested, at times, something almost each one of us, apart from all that is perlike diffidence. Nevertheless, mingled sonal. We say almost as much of her with this diffidence was a great con- heart as has ever been said of her genius sciousness of power, and one sometimes when we say that this was possible with felt with her as if in the presence of roy- her. alty, while of course there were moments Her aspirations to become a permanent when one felt that exalted genius has source of joy and peace to mankind have some temptations in common with ex- been set forth in lines which, although alted rank. But they were only they seem to us rather fine rhetoric than moments. How strong was the current poetry, have already become almost of her sympathy in the direction of all classic. The wish to console and cheer humble effort, how reluctantly she was indeed rooted in the most vital part checked presumption ! Possibly she of her nature. The writer remembers her may sometimes have had to reproach asking a person whose society gave her herself with failing to check it. Surely no pleasure, and who was not unlikely the most ordinary and uninteresting of to have abused the position thus accordher friends must feel that had they ed, to come to her at any time that her known nothing of her but her rapid in- society might be felt as consolatory, at sight into and quick response to their a time of trouble. It was about the inmost feelings she would still have been same time that she spoke of the sense of a memorable personality to them. This a load of possible achievement threatened sympathy was extended to the sorrows by the shortening span of life with a most unlike anything she could ever by deep sadness which, in recalling the conany possibility have known---the failures versation, seems like a prophecy. Any one who knows the wonderful unselfish- may be far more complete than resignaness in the offer will feel that we could tion, for it is hard to creatures such as hardly give a more convincing example we are to conceive of Will that is at once of her strong impulse toward " binding loving and inexorable ; but to call these up the broken in heart.” And yet none two things by the same name because of these recollections recurs to the pres- they both prevent useless wishes, seems ent writer with such a rush of pathos as to us as irrational as it would be to cona few words that any one might have fuse frost and fire because they are both spoken, describing what she felt in dis- foes to moisture. We regret the atregarding an appeal for alms in the tempts made by some of the admirers of street. She was much distressed, and this noble woman to conceal, from them(if the writer may judge from very slight selves or others, the vacuum at the cenindications) much surprised to hear her tre of her faith. There is this excuse works called depressing. She almost for such confusion, that her works, invariably, we believe, avoided reading more than any others of our day, though any notices of them ; but her rule could it is true of so many, embody the moralnot have been quite invariable, for we ity that centres in the faith of Christ, recall a quaint and pathetic little out- apart from this centre. She once said burst of disappointment that the result to the writer that in conversation with of perusing her works should produce on the narrowest and least cultivated Evansome critic or other“ a tendency toward gelical she could feel more sympathy black despair" (or some such expression, than divergence ; and it was impossible which, if our memory serves, she quoted to doubt the fulness of meaning in her with a touch of humorous exaggeration). words. But there is no
reason that Perhaps we shall appear merely to echo those who reverenced her should try to the judgment of this critic when we give veil or dilute her convictions. She it as a record of the impression she pro- made no secret of them, though the glow duced that one of the greatest duties of of feelings, always hitherto associated life was that of resignation. Nothing in with their opposites, may have confused the intercourse here recalled was more their outline to many of her disciples. impressive, as exhibiting the power of She was, we believe, the greatest oppofeelings to survive the convictions which nent to all belief in the true source of gave them birth, than the earnestness strength and elevation for the lowly that with which she dwelt on this as the great literature ever elicited, but among the and real remedy for all the ills of life. multitude of her admirers there were One instance in which she appeared to many who never penetrated into the reapply it to herself, in speaking of the gion where this opposition was manifest, short span of life that lay before her, and there was nothing wanting to her and the large amount of achievement appreciation of the faith of the humble that must be laid aside as impossible to and the poor but a sense of its reasoncompress into it, has been mentioned, ableness. At least that was her account and the sad gentle tones in which the of the matter, and doubtless it was as word resignation was on that occasion true of her as it is of any one. “Deuttered, still vibrate the ear. ism," she once said, seems to me the Strange, that it should be thought pos- most incoherent of all systems, but to sible to transfer all that belongs to Christianity I feel no objection but its allegiance to the Will that ordains our want of evidence." Doubtless the fate except a belief in the existence of writer who conveyed to so many unsuch a Will! Still more wonderful that thinking minds the poetic beauty that the imagination of genius did actualiy lies in the faith of a Dinah impressed achieve this transference to some extent. on one here and there the force which The prudent husbandry of desire, the was transmitted by her glowing sympaself-control that guards all openings for thies, and to which her keen intellect the escape of that moral energy which was an absolute non-conductor. But it wastes itself in regret, may be as com: is idle, and worse than idle, it is perniplete as the obedience of spirit that bows cious, to confuse sympathy with convicbefore a holy Will. We believe, indeed, tion. This is the temptation of gerius ; that this acceptance of the inevitable let it be left to those who take the gain
with the loss. And let it not be thought den flooding of life with joy that comes that those who honestly mistake the of its certainty ; the quiet conjugal resympathies for the convictions which pose of two hearts that have added long they seem to imply are therefore shel- familiarity to the first vivid love without tered from the influence of those con- dimming it; the irresistible rush of a victions which they do imply. As guilty passion and the strange delights water must carry with it whatever it that are hidden in its horror-all these holds in solution, so must influence. she has so painted that her imagination
To the present writer this influence has interpreted to many a loving heart appears to tell on her art. She sympa- its own experience. But we think most thizes with the love of man to man, we of her readers will agree with us in the should say, in proportion as it is unlike conclusion that, with few exceptions, the love of man to God. There was human love is interesting in her pages in much in her writings—there must be inverse proportion as it bears the impress much in the utterance of all lofty and of what is divine. We linger over the imaginative spirits—which tells against relation between a heartless and shallow this description. In the relation of the girl and an enthusiastic student of scihuman spirit to the Father of spirits lies ence whose life she spoils, with absorbhid the germ of every hurnan relation ; ing interest, and we yawn over the courtthere is none which does not, dimly and ship of a shadowy hero and heroine who feebly, foreshadow that which lies at the seem each to have been intended as root of all. And least inadequately, a type of all that is worthy of reverence. least vaguely is this foreshadowed in We are riveted by the description of a that love which gathers up the whole be- wife's anguish as she recognizes the ing—that love which, while it is felt in false heart behind the fair face, or the some sense by the whole animal creation, cold heart behind the seeming profundity is yet that which, in its highest form, of thought, but we find the love of the most opens to man the true meaning of graceful maiden for the virtuous Radical a spiritual world. The love of man to not greatly above the level of ordinary woman, and woman to man, is the one circulating library interest. Almost profound and agitating emotion which is always where love looks downward, known to ordinary human hearts, and whether for good or for evil, her power its portraiture, therefore, attempted by is at its highest. Where it looks upward, a thousand ineffectual chroniclers, is the with few exceptions, her power seems to most trite and commonplace of all ebb, and sometimes (so we at least feel themes of fiction. But when a writer in the love of Deronda and Myra) arises who can hold up a mirror to this altogether to depart. With few exceppart of our being, he or she opens to us tions we have said, we mean in fact with something of the infinite ; for the most one exception, but that is certainly a shallow and borné nature, so far as it has significant one. If there is an emotion partaken in this great human experience, which brings the heart into close neighhas a window whence it may gaze toward borhood with that region where man all that is eternal. And it must always finds intercourse with God, it is that seem false to speak of one who has the which unites man and woman by a love power of recalling an emotion in which that lacks nothing of passion but its exman is lifted above and beyond the lim- clusiveness. This love is a commoner its of his individual being as wanting in thing than is supposed, but its delineasympathy with that impulse which lifts tion is rarer, we believe, than itself, and him above those limits most completely. two passages in George Eliot's novels This reservation we would make most contain more adequate suggestion of fully, but the very gradation of interest what some have found the most elevatin George Eliot's painting of human love ing of human communion than we know seems to us explained and completed by in the whole of fiction besides. One of that vacuum which it surrounds. There these is the description of the last conis no grade of this emotion that she has versation between Gwendoline and not touched more or less slightly—the Deronda, the other is the intercourse strange stirrings of heart at a first between the broken-hearted heroine and glimpse of the goal; the wondrous sud- the consumptive clergyman, in “ Janet's