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into his poultry-yard, to be the companion voluptuousness passing into treachery, of a tame one he had long kept there ; but Rosamond's tender susceptibility and the tame stork disliking a rival, fell upon heartless vanity. She herself was pains. the poor stranger, and beat him so un- taking, even beyond the point up to which inercifully, that he was compelled to take genius is truly defined as the power of wing, and escaped with difficulty. About taking pains. She often took too much four months afterwards, however, the pains. Her greatest stories lose in force latter returned to the poultry-yard, in by their too wide reflectiveness, and es. company with three other storks, who no pecially by an engrafted mood of artificial sooner alighted, than they fell upon the reflectiveness not suitable to her genius. tame stork and killed him.''
She grew up under Thackeray's spell, and it is clear that Thackeray's satirical vein had too much influence over her from first to last, but especially in some of
those earlier tales into which she threw a From The Spectator. GEORGE ELIOT.
greater power of passion, than any which
she had to spare for the two great efforts ENGLAND has suddenly lost the great of the last ten years. “Adam Bede," est writer among English women of this or which might otherwise be the greatest of any other age. There can be no doubt all English novels, – many, no doubt, that George Eliot touched the highest really think it so, - is gravely injured by point which, in a woman, has been reached those heavy satirical asides to the reader, in our literature, — that the genius of Mrs. in which you recognize the influence exBrowning, for instance, though it cer- erted over her mind by the genius of tainly surpasses George Eliot's in lyrical Thackeray, – asides, however, which are sweetness, cannot even be compared with by no means in keeping with the large, hers in general strength and force. The placid, and careful drawing of her own remarkable thing about George Eliot's magnificent, and on the whole tranquil, genius is, that though there is nothing at rural cartoons. The present writer, at all unfeminine in it, — if we except a cer- least, never takes up these earlier stories tain touch of scientific pedantry which is – “Silas Marner” excepted – without a not pedantry in motive, but due only to a certain sense of irritation at the discreprather awkward manipulation of some ancy between the strong, rich, and free what unfeminine learning, - its greatest drawing of the life they contain, and the qualities are not in the least the qualities somewhat falsetto tone of many of the in which women have usually surpassed light reflections interspersed. George men, but rather the qualities in which, Eliot had no command of Thackeray's till George Eliot's time, women had always literary stiletto, and her substitute for it been notably deficient. Largeness of is unwieldy. Even in the “Scenes from mind, largeness of conception was her Clerical Life” this jars upon us. For first characteristic, as regards both mat- example, this sentence in “Janet's Reters of reason and matters of imagination. pentance : " When a man is happy She had far more than many great men's enough to win the affections of a sweet power of conceiving the case of an oppo- girl, who can soothe his cares with crochet, nent, and something approaching to and respond to all his most cherished Shakespeare's power of imagining the ideas with braided urn-rugs and chairscenery of minds quite opposite in type to covers in German wool, he has at least a her own. There was nothing swift, lively, guarantee of domestic comfort, whatever shallow, or flippant about her; and yet trials may await him out of doors,” does she could draw swift, lively, shallow, and not please an ear accustomed to the happy flippant people with admirable skill and bitterness of Thackeray's caustic irony. vivacity, as, for example, Mrs. Poyser, It is heavy, not to say elephantine; and Mrs. Cadwallader, and many more. Her this heavy raillery rather increased upon own nature was evidently sedate and George Eliot in “Adam Bede” and “ The rather slow-moving, with a touch of Mil Mill on the Floss." One is annoyed to tonic stateliness in it, and a love of elabo- have so great a painter of the largest ration at times even injurious to her human life turning aside to warn us ibat genius. Yet no characters she ever drew “when Tityrus and Meliboeus happen to were more powerfully drawn than those at | be on the same farm, they are not sentithe very opposite pole to her own, for mentally polite to each other;" or that a example, Hetty's childish, empty self. | High Church curate, considered abstractindulgence, Tito's smooth and gliding Iedly, “is nothing more than a sleek, bi
manous animal, in a white neckcloth, with shackled and overpowered the life of his views niore ci Less Anglican, and fur- imagination. It would not be true to say tively addicted to the flute." These sar- that George Eliot failed in like fashion casms are not good in themselves, and with Savonarola. No doubt her picture still less are they good in their connec- of the great Italian reformer is fine, and tion, where they spoil a most catholic- up to a certain point effective. But in minded and marvellous picture. George looking back on the story, Savonarola Eliot's literary judgment was not equal to fades away from the scene. It is Bardo, her reason and her imagination, and she the old enthusiast for the Greek learning, took a great deal too much pains with the or the fitfully vindictive gleam of Baldasdiscursive parts of her books.
sarre's ebbing intellect as flashes of his Imaginatively, we hardly recognize any old power return to him, or the supple defect in this great painter, except that Greek's crafty ambition, which stands there is too little movement in her stories; out in one's memory, while the devout tbey wholly want dash, and sometimes and passionate Dominican is all but for. want even a steady current. No novo gotten. elist, however, in the whole series of No one can deny that the moral tone English novelists, has combined so much of George Eliot's books -"Felix Holt" power of painting external life on a being, perhaps, a doubtful exception - is broad canvas with so wonderful an in- of the noblest and purest kind, nor that sight into the life of the soul. Her En: the tone of feeling which prevails in them glish butchers, farriers, auctioneers, and goes far in advance even of their direct parish clerks, are at least as vigorously moral teaching. We should say, for indrawn as Sir Walter Scott's bailies, peas. stance, that in regard to marriage, the ants, serving.men, and beggars; while her spirit of George Eliot's books conveys an pictures of the inward conflicts, whether almost sacramental conception of its bindof strong or of feeble natures, are far ing sacredness, though, unfortunately, of more powerful than any which Sir Walter course, her career did much to weaken Scott ever attempted. Such a contrast as the authority of the teaching implied in that between Hetty and Dinah, such a her books. But the total effect of her picture as that of Mr. Casaubon's mental books is altogether ennobling, though the and moral limitation and consusion, such profoundly sceptical reflections with which a study as that of Gwendolen's moral they are penetrated may counteract, to suffering under the torture administered some extent, the tonic effect of the high by Grandcourt, was as much beyond the moral feeling with which they are colored. sphere of Sir Walter Scott, as his histori- Before or after most of the noblest scenes, cal pictures of Louis XI., Mary Stuart, we come to thoughts in which it is almost Balfour of Burley, Claverhouse, or James as impossible for the feelings delineated 1. are beyond the sphere of George Eliot. to live any intense or hopeful life, as it is On the only occasion on which George for human lungs to breathe in the vacuum Eliot attempted anything of the nature of of an air-pump. After she has breathed historical portraiture, - in " Romola," a noble spirit into a great scene, she too the purely imaginative part of the story is often proceeds to exhaust the air which far more powerful than the historical. is the very life-breath of great actions, so The ideas of the time when the revival that the reflective element in her books of learning took place had quite pos- undermines the ground beneath the feet sessed themselves of George Eliot's mind, of her noblest characters. In " Adam and had stirred her into a wonderful Bede," she eventually justifies her hero's imaginative effort. But her conceptions secularistic coldness of nature, and makes of the purely imagined figures, of you feel that Dinah was an enthusiast, Bardo, of Baldassarre, and of Tito, are who could not justify what she taught. far greater than her study of Savonarola. In “Janet's Repentance," again, she exThe genius for historical portraiture, for presses in a few sentences the relief with gathering up into a single locus the hints which the mind turns away from the of clironiclers and historians, is some- search for convictions calculated to urge thing distinct from that of mere creation, the mind to a life of beneficent self-sacriand demands apparently a subtler mix- fice, to those acts of self-sacrifice them. ture of interpreting with creating power, selves : than most great creators possess. Even No wonder the sick-room and the lazaretto Sir Walter Scott failed with Napoleon, have so often been a refuge from the tossings where he had not free movement enough, of intellectual doubt, – a place of repose for and the wealth of historical material | the worn and wounded spirit. Here is a duty
about which all creeds and all philosophies to Sir Walter Scom, and second to him are at one: here, at least, the conscience will only because her imagination, though it not be dogged by doubt, the benign impulse penetrates far deeper, had neither the will not be checked by adverse theory; here same splendid vigor of movement, nor the you may begin to act, without settling one pre: same bright serenity of tone. Her stories liminary question. To moisten the sufferer's parched lips through the long night-watches, are, on the whole, richer than Fielding's, to bear up the drooping head, to lift the help- as well as far nobler, and vastly less artiless limbs, to divine the want that can find no ficial than Richardson's. They cover so utterance beyond the feeble motion of the much larger a breadth and deeper a depth hand, or beseeching glance of the eye, — these of life than Miss Austen's, that though are offices that demand no self-questionings, they are not perhaps so exquisitely finno casuistry, no assent to propositions, no ished, they belong to an altogether higher weighing of consequences. Within the four kind of world. walls where the stir and glare of the world are and less Rembrandt - like than Miss
They are stronger, freer, shut out, and every voice is subdued, where a human being lies prostrate, thrown on the ten
Brontë's; and are not mere photographs der mercies of his fellow, the moral relation of social man, like Trollope's. They are of man to man is reduced to its utmost clear: patient and powerful studies of individual ness and simplicity ; bigotry cannot confuse it, human beings, in an appropriate setting of theory cannot pervert it, passion, awed into social manners, from that of the dumbest quiescence, can neither pollute nor perturb it. provincial life, to that of life of the highest As we bend over the sick-bed, all the forces of self-knowledge. And yet the reflections our nature rush towards the channels of pity, by which they are pervaded, subtle and of patience, and of love, and sweep down the often wise as they are, to some extent in. miserable, choking drift of our quarrels, our debates, our would-be wisdom, and our clam: jure the art of the pictures by their satiric orous, selfish desires. This blessing of serene tone, or if they do not do that, take superfreedom from the importunities of opinion lies fluous pains to warn you how very doubt. in all simple, direct acts of mercy, and is one ful and insecure is the spiritual' footing source of that sweet calm which is often felt on which the highest excellence plants its by the watcher in the sick-room, even when tread. the duties there are of a hard and terrible kind. And this, too, is still more the fault of
her poems, which, in spite of an almost There speaks the true George Eliot, and Miltonic stateliness, reflect too much the we may clearly say of her that in fiction it monotonous cadences of her own musical is her great aim, while illustrating what but over.regulated voice.
The poems she believes to be the true facts and laws want inspiration. And the speculative of human life, to find a fit stage for ideal melancholy, which only slightly injured feelings nobler than any which seem to her ber prose, predominates fatally in her to be legitimately bred by those facts and verse. Throughout her poems she is laws.
But she too often finds herself always plumbing the deep waters for an compelled to injure her own finest moral anchorage, and reporting " no soundings." effects by the sceptical atmosphere with The finest of her poems, " The Legend of which she permeates them. She makes Jubal,” tries to affirm, indeed, that death, the high-hearted heroine of her " Mill on the loss of all conscious existence, is a the Floss” all but yield to the physiolog, sort of moral gain, as though the loss ical attraction of a poor sort of man of of self were the loss of selfishness, which science. She makes the enthusiastic it not only is not, but never could be, since Dorothea, in Middlemarch,” decline selfishness can only be morally extinupon a poor creature like Ladishaw, who guished in a living self
, — but the lesson is has earned her regard chiefly by being the so obviously a moral gloss put on the face object of Mr. Casaubon's jealousy. She of a bad business, that there, at least, no takes religious patriotism for the subject anchorage is found. Andin" The Spanish of her last great novel, but is at some Gypsy" the speculative despair is even pains to show that her hero may be relig- worse, while the failure of the imaginative ious without any belief in God, and patri- portraiture is more conspicuous, because otic without any but an ideal country. the portraiture itself is more ainbitious. This reflective vacuum which she pumps It will be by her seven or eight great fic. out behind all noble action, gives to the tions that George Eliot will live, not by workings of her great imagination a gen- her poems, and still less by her essays. eral effect of supreme melancholy. But all these, one perhaps excepted, will
We should rank George Eliot second long continue to be counted the greatest only in her own proper field — which is achievements of an English woman's, and not the field of satire, Thackeray's field perhaps even of any woman's brain.
Fifth Series, Volume XXXIII.
No. 1912. – February 5, 1881.
323 344 354
CONTENTS. I. BENVENUTO CELLINI,
Blackwood's Magazine, . II. Visited on the Children. Pari viii.,
All The Year Round,
Fraser's Magazine, VI. THE ANTS AS FARMERS,
Spectator, VII. SUICIDAL MANIA,
Contemporary Review, . VIII. GEORGE Eliot's EARLY LIFE,
Pall Mall Gazette, IX. AN APOSTLE OF THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION, Pall Mall Gazette,
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Nor to us only art thou dear
Whoʻmourn thee in thine English home;
Thou hast thine absent master's tear,
Dropt by the far Australian foam.
Thy mernory lasts both here and there, Only four years those winning ways,
And thou shalt live as long as we. Which make me for thy presence yearn,
And after that thou dost not care !
In us was all the world to thee.
Yet, fondly zealous for thy fame,
Even to a date beyond our own To run their course, and reach their goal,
We strive to carry down thy name, And read their homily to man?
By mounded turf, and graven stone.
Yet would we keep thee in our heart-
And so there rise these lines of verse
We stroke thy broad brown paws again,
["I threw magic-lantern portraits of different persons
on the top of one another, on the same screen, and
view, September, 1880.]
hide, Shall blend, and shape the perfect man at last. Spectator.
M. W. M.
We see the flaps of thy large ears
* Sunt lacrime reruni!