George Meredith: The Critical Heritage

By Ioan Willams | Go to book overview

be sure to win and keep the attention of an audience. As a mere brochure for Christmas, this volume may be accepted; but the author designed something more than a book for the season, which has failed only because he has attempted that in which nobody has ever yet succeeded. Even burlesque comedy cannot be endured through so many pages.


7.

George Eliot, Leader

vii, 5 January 1856

Like G. H. Lewes (see below, No. 8), George Eliot probably got to know Meredith through his contributions to the Leader. Later Meredith took over the ‘Belles Lettres’ section of the Westminster Review, which had been written previously by Eliot. She disliked the tone of Meredith’s reviews, which she called ‘flippant and journalistic’, and wrote to John Chapman, Editor of the Westminster, urging that he replace Meredith. In their early years the two novelists must have been familiar. Later, however, they showed little awareness of each other’s work.

No art of religious symbolism has a deeper root in nature than that of turning with reverence towards the East. For almost all our good things —our most precious vegetables, our noblest animals, our loveliest flowers, our arts, our religious and philosophical ideas, our very nursery tales and romances, have travelled to us from the East. In an historical as well as in a physical sense, the East is the Land of the Morning. Perhaps the simple reason of this may be, that when the earth first began to move on her axis her Asiatic side was towards the sun—her Eastern cheek first blushed under his rays. And so this priority of sunshine, like the first move in chess, gave the East the precedence though not the pre-eminence in all things; just as the garden slope that fronts the morning sun yields the earliest seedlings, though those seedlings may attain a hardier and more luxuriant growth by being transplanted. But we leave this question to wiser heads—

‘Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas. ’1

1 Virgil, Georgics, ii. 490: ‘Happy he who can discern the causes of things. ’

-40-

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