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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

George Eliot

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"My life has deepened unspeakably during the last year: I feel a greater capacity for moral and intellectual enjoyment, a more acute sense of my deficiencies in the past, a more solemn desire to be faithful to coming duties."

For Scenes of Clerical Life she received six hundred dollars for the first edition, and much more after her other books appeared.

And now another work, a longer one, was growing in her mind, Adam Bede, the germ of which, she says, was an anecdote told her by her aunt, Elizabeth Evans, the Dinah Morris of the book. A very ignorant girl had murdered her child, and refused to confess it. Mrs. Evans, who was a Methodist preacher, stayed with her all night, praying with her, and at last she burst into tears and confessed her crime. Mrs. Evans went with her in the cart to the place of execution, and ministered to the unhappy girl till death came.

When the first pages of Adam Bede were shown to Mr. Blackwood, he said, "That will do." George Eliot and Mr. Lewes went to Munich, Dresden, and Vienna for rest and change, and she prepared much of the book in this time. When it was finished, she wrote on the manuscript, Jubilate. "To my dear husband, George Henry Lewes, I give the Ms. of a work which would never have been written but for the happiness which his love has conferred on my life."

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For this novel she received four thousand dollars for the copyright for four years. Fame had actually come. All the literary world were talking about it. John Murray said there had never been such a book. Charles Reade said, putting his finger on Lisbeth's account of her coming home with her husband from their marriage, "the finest thing since Shakespeare." A workingman wrote: "Forgive me, dear sir, my boldness in asking you to give us a cheap edition. You would confer on us a great boon. I can get plenty of trash for a few pence, but I am sick of it." Mr. Charles Buxton said, in the House of Commons: "As the farmer's wife says in Adam Bede, 'It wants to be hatched over again and hatched different.'" This of course greatly helped to popularize the book.

To George Eliot all this was cause for the deepest gratitude. They were able now to rent a home at Wandworth, and move to it at once. The poverty and the drudgery of life seemed over. She said: "I sing my magnificat in a quiet way, and have a great deal of deep, silent joy; but few authors, I suppose, who have had a real success, have known less of the flush and the sensations of triumph that are talked of as the accompaniments of success. I often think of my dreams when I was four or five and twenty. I thought then how happy fame would make me.... I am assured now that Adam Bede was worth writing,--worth living through those long years to write. But now it seems impossible that I shall ever write anything so good and true again." Up to this time the world did not know who George Eliot was; but as a man by the name of Liggins laid claim to the authorship, and tried to borrow money for his needs because Blackwood would not pay him, the real name of the author had to be divulged.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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