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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

George Eliot

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In 1844, when Miss Evans was twenty-five years old, she began the translation of Strauss' Life of Jesus. The lady who was to marry Miss Hennell's brother had partially done the work, and asked Miss Evans to finish it. For nearly three years she gave it all the time at her command, receiving only one hundred dollars for the labor.

It was a difficult and weary work. "When I can work fast," she said, "I am never weary, nor do I regret either that the work has been begun or that I have undertaken it. I am only inclined to vow that I will never translate again, if I live to correct the sheets for Strauss." When the book was finished, it was declared to be "A faithful, elegant, and scholarlike translation ... word for word, thought for thought, and sentence for sentence." Strauss himself was delighted with it.

The days passed as usual in the quiet home. Now she and her father, the latter in failing health, visited the Isle of Wight, and saw beautiful Alum Bay, with its "high precipice, the strata upheaved perpendicularly in rainbow,--like streaks of the brightest maize, violet, pink, blue, red, brown, and brilliant white,--worn by the weather into fantastic fretwork, the deep blue sky above, and the glorious sea below." Who of us has not felt this same delight in looking upon this picture, painted by nature?

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Now Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as other famous people, visited the Bray family. Miss Evans writes: "I have seen Emerson,--the first man I have ever seen." High praise indeed from our "great, calm soul," as he called Miss Evans. "I am grateful for the Carlyle eulogium (on Emerson). I have shed some quite delicious tears over it. This is a world worth abiding in while one man can thus venerate and love another."

Each evening she played on the piano to her admiring father, and finally, through months of illness, carried him down tenderly to the grave. He died May 31, 1849.

Worn with care, Miss Evans went upon the Continent with the Brays, visiting Paris, Milan, the Italian lakes, and finally resting for some months at Geneva'. As her means were limited, she tried to sell her Encyclopaedia Britannica at half-price, so that she could have money for music lessons, and to attend a course of lectures on experimental physics, by the renowned Professor de la Rive. She was also carefully reading socialistic themes, Proudhon, Rousseau, and others. She wrote to friends: "The days are really only two hours long, and I have so many things to do that I go to bed every night miserable because I have left out something I meant to do.... I take a dose of mathematics every day to prevent my brain from becoming quite soft."

On her return to England, she visited the Brays, and met Mr. Chapman, the editor of the Westminster Review, and Mr. Mackay, upon whose Progress of the Intellect she had just written a review. Mr. Chapman must have been deeply impressed with the learning and ability of Miss Evans, for he offered her the position of assistant editor of the magazine,--a most unusual position for a woman, since its contributors were Froude, Carlyle, John Stuart Mill, and other able men.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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