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philosophies, of the solid literature which dous web of human life, so wonderful in discourses on life, and the imaginative its pattern, so mysterious in its convoluliterature which attempts to pourtray it. tions, and of which—most solemn

It were idle to reason how the thing thought of all-warp, woof and loom, has come about; but, undeniably, the are in the hands of the Maker of the modern novel is one of the most impor- universe alone. tant moral agents of the community. Yet this the true novel-writer essays The essayist may write for his hundreds;

and he has a right to do it. the preacher preach to his thousands ; He is justified in weaving his imabut the novelist counts his audience ginary web side by side with that by millions. His power is three- which he sees perpetually and invisibly fold-over heart, reason, and fancy. woven around him, of which he has The orator we hear eagerly, but as his deeply studied the apparent plan, so as voice fades from us its lessons depart: to see the under threads that guide the the moral philosopher we read and di- pattern, keener perhaps than other gest, by degrees, in a serious, ponderous

He has learned to deduce motives way: but the really good writer of from actions, and to evolve actions fiction takes us altogether by storm. from motives : he has seen that from Young and old, grave and gay, learned certain characters (and in a less degree or imaginative, who of us is safe from certain circumstances) such and such his influence? He creeps innocently on results, which appear accidental, become our family-table in the shapes of those in reality as inevitable as the laws which three well-thumbed library volumes— govern the world. Laws physical and sits for days after, invisibly at our fire- moral, with which no Deus ex machina side, a provocative of incessant discus- can interfere, else the whole working of sion : slowly but surely, either by admi- the universe would be disturbed. ration or aversion, his opinions, ideas, Enough has been said, we trust, to feelings, impress themselves upon us, indicate the serious position held by which impression remains long after we what used to be thought “a mere wrihave come to that age, if we ever reach ter of fiction." Fiction forsooth ! It is it, which all good angels forbid ! when at the core of all the truths of this we “don't read novels."

world ; for it is the truth of life itself. The amount of new thoughts scattered He who dares to reproduce it is a Probroadcastover society within one month of metheus who has stolen celestial fire : the appearance of a really popular novel, let him beware that he uses it for the the innumerable discussions it creates, benefit of his fellow-mortals. Otherand the general influence which it exer- wise one can imagine no vulture fiercer cises in the public mind, form one of the an remorse which would gnaw most remarkable facts of our day. For the heart of such a writer, on the clearthe novelist has ceased to be a mere visioned mountain-top of life's ending, story-teller or romancist.

He—we use

if he began to suspect he had written a the superior pronoun in a general sense, book which would live after him to the even as an author should be dealt with

irremediable injury of the world. as a neutral being, to be judged solely by We do not refer to impure or immoral “its” work,-he buckles to his task in books. There can be but one opinion solemn earnest. For what is it to “write concerning them—away with them to a novel ?” Something which the multi- the Gehenna from which they come. tude of young contributors to magazines, We speak of those works, blameless in or young people who happen to have plan and execution, yet which fall short nothing to do but weave stories, little -as great works only can—of the dream of. If they did, how they would highest ideal: the moral ideal, for which, shrink from the awfulness of what they beyond any intellectual perfection, a have taken into their innocent, foolish great author ought to strive. For he is hands; even a piece out of the tremen- not like other men, or other writers.

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His very power makes him the more and exacts, and here undoubtedly finds. dangerous. His uncertainties, however Ours is more an appeal than a criticisni small, shake to their ruin hundreds of -an appeal which any one of an audilesser minds, and

ence has a right to make, if he thinks

he sees what the speaker, in the midst “When he falls, he falls like Lucifer, of all his eloquence, does not see“ Never to rise again.”

“The little pitted speck in garnered If a mountebank at a fair mouths his fruit, antics of folly or foulness, we laugh, or "That, rotting inward, slowly moulpass by-he is but a mountebank: he ders all.” can do little harm : but when a hierophant connives at a false miracle, or Of “The Mill on the Floss,” in a an eloquent, sincere apostle goes about literary point of view, there can be preaching a bewildering lie, we shrink, but one opinion—that, as a work of' we grieve, we tremble. By and by, art, it is as perfect as the novel we take courage openly to denounce, can well be made : superior even to not the teacher but the teaching.


“ Adam Bede.” For the impression are an earnest man-doubtless, a true it gives of power, evenly cultivated and man—but your doctrine is not true. clear sighted, the power of creation, We, who cannot speak, but only feel- amalgamating real materials into a forewe feel that it is not true.

planned ideal scheme; the power of treading dangerous ground. You have selection, able to distinguish at once raised a ghost you cannot lay, you have the fit and the unfit, choosing the thrown down a city which you cannot one and rejecting the other, so as to rebuild. You are the very Prometheus, make every part not only complete as to carrying the stolen fire. See that it does itself, but as to its relation with a wellnot slip from your unwary hands, and go

balanced whole--the “Mill on the Floss" blasting and devastating the world." is one of the finest imaginative works in

Thoughts somewhat like these must our language. In its diction, too : how have passed through the mind of many magnificently rolls on that noble Saxon a reader of a novel, the readers of which English-terse and clear, yet infinitely have been millions. Probably the whole harmonious, keeping in its most simple history of fiction does not present an in- common-place flow a certain majesty and stance of two such remarkable books fol- solemnity which reminds one involuntalowing one another within so short a rily of the deep waters of the Floss. time as “Adam Bede,” and “ The Mill The fatal Floss, which runs through the on the Floss." All the world has read whole story like a Greek fate or a Gothic them; and though some may prefer one, destiny-ay, from the very second chapand some the other, and, in a moral

ter, when point of view, some may admire and

“Maggie, Maggie," continued the mother, in some condemn-all the world grants

a tone of half-coaxing fretfulness, as this small their wonderful intellectual power, and mistake of nature entered the room, "where's is so familiar with the details of them the use o' my telling you to keep away from

the water? You'll tumble in and be drownded that literary analysis becomes unneces

some day, an' then you'll be sorry you didn't do sary.

as mother told you." Nor do we desire to attempt it. The question which these books, and especially This is

mere chance specimen of the the latter, have suggested, is quite a dif- care over small things—the exquisite ferent thing. It is a question with which polish of each part, that yet never interliterary merit has nothing to do. Nor, feres with the breadth of the wholein one sense, literary morality,—the ex- which marks this writer as one of the ternal morality which, thank heaven, truest artists, in the highest sense, of


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Another impression made strongly A very simple story. A girl of remarkby the first work of “George Eliot," ” able gifts--mentally, physically, and and repeated by “his” (we prefer to morally ; born, like thousands more, of respect the pseudonym) second, is the parents far inferior to herself—struggles earnestness, sincerity, and heart-nobility through a repressed childhood, a hopeof the author. Though few books are less youth : brought suddenly out of freer from that morbid intrusion of self this darkness into the glow of a first in which many writers of fiction indulge, passion for a man who, ignoble as he may no one can lay down “The Mill on the be, is passionately in earnest with regard Floss ” without a feeling of having held to her : she is tempted to treachery, and commune with a mind of rare individu- sinks into a great error, her extrication ality, with a judgment active and clear, out of which, without involving certain and with a moral nature, conscientious, misery and certain wrong to most or all generous, religious, and pure. It is to around her, is simply an impossibility. 'this moral nature, this noblest half of The author cuts the Gordian knot by all literary perfectness, in our author, as creating a flood on the Floss, which in all other authors, that we now make wafts this poor child out of her troubles appeal.

and difficulties into the other world. George Eliot,” or any other consci- Artistically speaking, this end is very entious novelist, needs not to be told fine. Towards it the tale has gradually that he who appropriates this strange climaxed. From such a childhood as phantasmagoria of human life, to re- that of Tom and Maggie Tulliver, nopaint and re-arrange by the light of his thing could have come but the youth own imagination, takes materials not his Tom and the girl Maggie, as we find own, nor yet his reader's. He deals with them throughout that marvellous third mysteries which, in their entirety, be- volume: changed indeed, but still keeplong alone to the Maker of the universe. ing the childish images of little Tom and By the force of his intellect, the quick little Maggie, of Dorlcote Mill. Ay, even sympathies of his heart, he may pierce to the hour, when with that sense of the into them a little way-farther, perhaps, terrible exalted into the sublime, which than most people—but at best only a only genius can make us feel—we see

He will be continually them go down to the deeps of the Floss stopped by things he cannot understand “in an embrace never to be parted: -matters too hard for him, which make "living through again, in one supreme him feel, the more deeply and humbly “ moment, the days when they had as he grows more wise, how we are, at clasped their little hands in love, and best,

“roamed through the daisied fields to“Like infants crying in the dark,

"gether." “And with no language but a cry.”

So far as exquisite literary skill, in

formed and vivified by the highest order If by his dimly-beheld, one-sided, frag- of imaginative power, can go, this story mentary representations, which mimic

is perfect. But take it from another untruly the great picture of life, this point of view. Ask, what good will it cry, either in his own voice, or in the do ?--whether it will lighten any burinvoluntary utterance of his readers, dened heart, help any perplexed spirit, rises into an accusation against God, comfort the sorrowful, succour the temphow awful is his responsibility, how ted, or bring back the erring into the tremendous the evil that he may origi- way of peace ; and what is the answer? nate!

Silence. We doubt not, the author of the Let us reconsider the story, not artist“ Mill on the Floss” would shudder at ically, but morally. the suspicion of this sort of involuntary Here is a human being, placed during blasphemy, and yet such is the tendency her whole brief life—her hapless nineof the book and its story.

teen years—under circumstances the

little way.

16 The

hardest and most fatal that could be- In the whole history of this fascinafal one of her temperament. She has ting Maggie there is a picturesque all the involuntary egotism and selfish- piteousness which somehow confuses ness of a nature that, while eagerly crav- one's sense of right and wrong. Yet ing for love, loves ardently and imagi- • what-we cannot help asking-what is natively rather than devotedly; and the to become of the hundreds of clever only love that might have at once hum- girls, born of uncongenial parents, hembled and raised her, by showing her how med in with unsympathising kindred of far nobler it was than her own-Philip's the Dodson sort, blest with no lover on -is taken from her in early girlhood. whom to bestow their strong affections, Her instincts of right, true as they are, no friend to whom to cling for guidance have never risen into principles; her and support? They must fight their way, temptations to vanity, and many other heaven help them ! alone and unaided, faults, are wild and fierce; yet no human through cloud and darkness, to the light. help ever comes near her to strengthen And, thank heaven, hundreds of them the one or subdue the other. This may do, and live to hold out a helping hand be true to nature, and yet we think it is afterwards to thousands more. not. Few of us, calmly reviewing our middle-aged” (says “George Eliot,” in past, can feel that we have ever been this very book), “who have lived left so long and so utterly without either “through their strongest emotions, but outward aid, or the inner voice-never are yet in the time when memory is silent in a heart like poor Maggie's. It “still half-passionate and not merely is, in any case, a perilous doctrine to "contemplative, should surely be a sort preach-the doctrine of overpowering " of natural priesthood, whom life has circumstances.

disciplined and consecrated to be the Again, notwithstanding the author's refuge and rescue of early stumblers evident yearning over Maggie, and dis- “and victims of self-despair.” dain for Tom, we cannot but feel that if Will it help these—such a picture as people are to be judged by the only Maggie, who, with all her high aspirafair human judgment, of how far they tions and generous qualities, is, throughact up to what they believe in, Tom, so out her poor young life, a stay and comfar as his light goes, is a finer charac- fort to no human being, but, on the conter than his sister. He alone has the

trary, a source of grief and injury to self-denial to do what he does not like, every one connected with her ? If we for the sake of doing right ; he alone are to judge character by results-not. has the self-command to smother his by grand imperfect essays, but by humhopeless love, and live on, a brave, hard- bler fulfilments-of how much more working life; he, except in his injustice use in the world were even fond, shalto poor Maggie, has at least the merit of low Lucy, and narrow-minded l'om, than having made no one else miserable. this poor Maggie, who seems only just to Perfectly true is what he says, though he have caught hold of the true meaning says it in a Pharisaical way, “Yes, I and beauty of existence in that last pa“have had feelings to struggle with, but


life is to be long, I conquered them. I have had a let me live to bless and comfort,” when “harder life than you have had, but she is swept away out of our sight and “ I have found my comfort in doing my

love for ever. “duty.” Nay, though perhaps scarcely True this is, as we have said, a magintended, Bob Jakin's picture of the soli- nificent ending for the book; but is it for tary lad, “as close as an iron biler," the life—the one human life which this who “sits by himself so glumpish, a- author has created so vividly and power“ knittin' his brow, an' a-lookin' at the fully, that we argue concerning it as if “fire of a night," is in its way as pa- we had actually known it? Will it inthetic as Maggie's helpless cry to Dr. fluence for good any other real lives —

thetic prayer,


of temptation never conquered, or just gloomy life, might have softened and so far that we see its worst struggle as made a thoroughly good man of him. but beginning; of sorrows which teach The author ought to have satisfied us nothing, or teach only bitterness; of entirely as to the radical change in both; love in its most delicious, most deadly • else we fall back upon the same dreary phase ; love blind, selfish, paramount, creed of overpowering circumstances : seeing no future but possession, and, of human beings struggling for ever in that hope gone, no alternative but death a great quagmire of unconquerable -death, welcomed as the solution of all temptations, inevitable and hopeless difficulties, the escape from all pain?

A creed more fatal to every Is this right ? Is it a creed worthy of noble effort, and brave self-restraintan author who has pre-eminently what above all to that humble faith in the all novelists should have, “the brain of a superior Will which alone should govern man and the heart of a woman,” united ours—can hardly be conceived. It is with what we may call a sexless intelli- true that there occur sometimes in life gence, clear and calm, able to observe, positions so complex and overwhelmand reason, and guide mortal passions, as ing, that plain right and wrong become those may, who have come out of the confused; until the most righteous and turmoil of the flesh into the region of religious man is hardly able to judge ministering spirits, “ayyeloi," messen- clearly or act fairly. But to meet such gers between God and man? What if positions is one thing, to invent them is the messenger testify falsely? What if another. It becomes a serious question the celestial trumpet give forth an un- whether any author—who, great as his certain sound ?

genius may be, sees no farther than Yet let us be just. There are those mortal intelligence can—is justified in who argue that this perhaps the finest leading his readers into a labyrinth, the ending, artistically, of any modern way out of which he does not, first, novel, is equally fine in a moral sense : see clearly himself, and next, is able to that the death of Maggie and Tom is a make clear to them, so as to leave them glorious Euthanasia, showing that when mentally and morally at rest, free from even at the eleventh hour, temptation is all perplexity and uncertainty. conquered, error atoned, and love re- Now, uncertainty is the prevailing conciled, the life is complete; its lesson impression with which we close "the

“ has been learnt, its work done; there Mill on the Floss." We are never quite is nothing more needed but the vade in satisfied in our detestation of the Dodson pacem to an immediate heaven. This family, the more odious because so if the author so meant it, was an idea dreadfully natural that we feel we all grand, noble, Christian : as Christian are haunted by some of the race, could (be it said with reverence) as the doc- name them among our own connections, trine preached by the Divine Pardoner perhaps have even received kindnesses of all sinners to the sinner beside whom


Mrs. Pullet, a Mrs. Glegg, or a He died—“To-day shalt thou be with Mrs. Tulliver. We are vexed with ourme in paradise." But the conception

But the conception selves for being so angry with stern, ought to have been worked out so honest, upright, business-like Tomso plainly that no reader could mistake it. contemptuously indifferent to gentle We should not have been left to feel, as unsuspicious Lucy, with her universal we do feel, undecided whether this kindness, extending from “the more death was a translation or an escape :

“ familiar rodents” to her silly aunt whether if they had not died, Maggie Tulliver. We question much whether would not have been again the same such a generous girl as Maggie would Maggie, always sinning and always re- have fallen in love with Stephen at all; penting ; and Tom the same Tom, hard whether she would not from the first have and narrow-minded, though the least regarded him simply as her cousin's ray of love and happiness cast over his lover, and if his passion won anything


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