Women-Writers of the Nineteenth Century

By Marjory A. Bald | Go to book overview

GEORGE ELIOT 1819-1880

I
INTRODUCTORY

THERE are several ways of approaching the work of George Eliot. One would be to regard her as "heir of all the ages," accumulating within her mind the tradition, wisdom and experience of the race from Aristotle to Jane Austen; then we would have to consider how far she lay passive under her wealth, and to what extent she turned it to active initiative and purpose. The chief objection to this method is its overpowering vastness. All her life she read books, and for a part of her life she wrote them; beyond that she did little else. There is something oppressive in the figure of this lonely student caught in a dense crowd of the immortals. We watch it, wishing it could beat its way out of the throng, and escape to some more exhilarating solitude; or else we lose sight of the single figure, as we surrender ourselves to the magnetic appeal of greater personalities.

Again, we might adopt the usual method of chronology. But there is no occasion to repeat what has been done, and done finely, by Sir Leslie Stephen. Moreover there is something in the chronological method, which, in this case certainly, does not yield complete satisfaction. It would be to put ourselves in the position of a man studying contemporary life from the daily papers. Every day, unless for some unexampled crisis, there are headlines of the same type; and the normal reader is, of necessity, unprepared for that crisis. Possibly, weeks ago, he passed rapidly over some apparent trifle -- the cause of this great effect. How was he to know that it was going to be a cause? If at the end of a certain period he wants to know what has been happening, and why it has happened, he has to go back over the old ground, adjusting his vision to a truer focus, supplying missing con-

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Women-Writers of the Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Jane Austen 1775-1817 1
  • I - The Utilisation of Small Resources 1
  • II - Elements of Her Appeal -- Cheerfulness And Moderation 9
  • III - The Study of Human Temperament 17
  • The Brontes 28
  • I - General Introduction. Family Characteristics 28
  • II - Anne Bronte, 1820-1849 35
  • III - Charlotte Bronte, 1816-1855 38
  • IV - Emily Bronte, 1818-1848 77
  • Mrs E. C. Gaskell 1810-1865 100
  • I - Introductory 100
  • II - Atmosphere and Setting 103
  • III - Humour 107
  • IV - Pathos 122
  • V - The Woman's Point of View 136
  • VI - The Social Problem 145
  • VII - Moral Theory or Moral Effect 151
  • George Eliot 1819-1880 162
  • I - Introductory 162
  • II - The Expression of Temperament 166
  • III - The Impersonal Artist 184
  • Mrs Browning 209
  • I - The Negative Approach 209
  • II - The Positive Approach 221
  • Christina Rossetti 1830-1894 233
  • I - Personal Experience Reflected On Her Poetry 233
  • II - Sources 239
  • III - Symbol, Allegory, and Dream 254
  • IV - Emotional Quality 260
  • V - General Considerations 267
  • Conclusion 275
  • Index 285
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