Narrative in the Professional Age: Transatlantic Readings of Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Eliot, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

By Jennifer Cognard-Black | Go to book overview

Chapter Three

"A More Living Interest"

George Eliot's Daniel Deronda and the Politics of American Reception

FROM FEBRUARY TO SEPTEMBER OF 1876, BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE IN ENGLAND and Harper's New Monthly Magazine in America carried simultaneous installments of George Eliot's last novel, Daniel Deronda. By the time of Deronda's publication, Eliot was one of England's most celebrated fiction writers and was equally esteemed in America, as evidenced by the widespread sale and discussion of her work, especially Adam Bede. 1 But with the advent of Deronda, her new novel quickly became her most anticipated, debated, and lucrative. 2 Each installment was closely observed by the media. Periodicals on both sides of the ocean (e.g., The Athenaeum, The Atlantic Monthly, The Spectator) followed each monthly episode with a commentary or a review, in recognition that their readers were taking part in what one reviewer, Edwin Whipple, called "an important literary event" (31); and The Edinburgh Review captured the tenor of the "universal extension of interest" in Deronda by detailing "the anxiety of critics who have not even waited for its completion, but have discussed it piecemeal as an object of national interest" (450). 3 Put simply, Daniel Deronda was the transatlantic talk of the town.

In fact, Daniel Deronda was the talk of many towns, securing international attention; the novel was translated into German, French, and Hebrew and sold in Australia and Holland as well as in America and England. Yet this widespread interest was strikingly split into what Stowe termed the novel's "two heads-English life & Jewish life." 4 On one hand the first Hebrew translation of Deronda excised the Gentile portions of the novel and focused on Mordecai's pronouncements at the Red Lion Club. Among nineteenth-century Jewish readers, this edition initiated a heated debate in England and Germany on Deronda's implicit sanction of Jewish nationalism and the proto-Zionist movement. 5 On the other hand, most Christians were bored, frustrated, embarrassed, or even angered by the novels depiction of Jewish life, and many nineteenth-century American readers believed that the Jewish subjects should be cut out entirely and the novel retitled Gwendolen Harleth. 6 "I

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Narrative in the Professional Age: Transatlantic Readings of Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Eliot, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • List of Cited Collections xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter One - "You Are as Thoroughly Woman as You Are English" 27
  • Chapter Two - "The Wild and Distracted Call for Proof" 63
  • Chapter Three - "A More Living Interest" 87
  • Chapter Four - "Proclaiming the Royal Lineage to the Average Mind" 117
  • Afterword 149
  • Notes 151
  • Bibliography 193
  • Index 205
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