Selections from George Eliot's Letters by Gordon S Haight - review by John Bayley

John Bayley

The Florence Nightingale of Fiction

Selections from George Eliot's Letters

By

Yale University Press 585pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

In May 1860 George Eliot wrote to Major Blackwood, proprietor with his brother of the famous magazine, commenting on a review in The Times of The Mill on the Floss, just published. The reviewer, E S Dallas, the author of one of the best and currently most neglected Victorian books on critical theory, The Gay Science, praised the novel warmly but made disparaging comments on some of the characters in passing, which upset their creator. 'So far as my own feeling and intention are concerned, no one class of person or form of character is held up to reprobation or to exclusive admiration. Tom is painted with as much love and pity as Maggie...'

In these days of warmth, caring and compassion, or at least of the indiscriminate use of such words by politicians and the socially concerned, the impartial display of love and pity in a novel seems fair enough. Many young and not so young women novelists today, who studied George Eliot

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