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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

George Eliot

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Miss Evans accepted, and went to board with Mr. Chapman's family in London. How different this from the quiet life at Foleshill! The best society, that is, the greatest in mind, opened wide its doors to her. Herbert Spencer, who had just published Social Statics, became one of her best friends. Harriet Martineau came often to see her. Grote was very friendly.

The woman-editor was now thirty-two; her massive head covered with brown curls, blue-gray eyes, mobile, sympathetic mouth, strong chin, pale face, and soft, low voice, like Dorothea's in Middlemarch,--"the voice of a soul that has once lived in an Aeolian harp." Mr. Bray thought that Miss Evans' head, after that of Napoleon, showed the largest development from brow to ear of any person's recorded.

She had extraordinary power of expression, and extraordinary psychological powers, but her chief attraction was her universal sympathy. "She essentially resembled Socrates," says Mathilde Blind, "in her manner of eliciting whatsoever capacity for thought might be latent in the people she came in contact with; were it only a shoemaker or day-laborer, she would never rest till she had found out in what points that particular man differed from other men of his class. She always rather educed what was in others than impressed herself on them; showing much kindliness of heart in drawing out people who were shy. Sympathy was the keynote of her nature, the source of her iridescent humor, of her subtle knowledge of character, of her dramatic genius." No person attains to permanent fame without sympathy.

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Miss Evans now found her heart and hands full of work. Her first article was a review of Carlyle's Life of John Sterling. She was fond of biography. She said: "We have often wished that genius would incline itself more frequently to the task of the biographer, that when some great or good person dies, instead of the dreary three-or-five volume compilation of letter and diary and detail, little to the purpose, which two-thirds of the public have not the chance, nor the other third the inclination, to read, we could have a real 'life,' setting forth briefly and vividly the man's inward and outward struggles, aims, and achievements, so as to make clear the meaning which his experience has for his fellows.

"A few such lives (chiefly autobiographies) the world possesses, and they have, perhaps, been more influential on the formation of character than any other kind of reading.... It is a help to read such a life as Margaret Fuller's. How inexpressibly touching that passage from her journal, 'I shall always reign through the intellect, but the life! the life! O my God! shall that never be sweet?' I am thankful, as if for myself, that it was sweet at last."

The great minds which Miss Evans met made life a constant joy, though she was frail in health. Now Herbert Spencer took her to hear William Tell or the Creation. She wrote of him: "We have agreed that we are not in love with each other, and that there is no reason why we should not have as much of each other's society as we like. He is a good, delightful creature, and I always feel better for being with him.... My brightest spot, next to my love of old friends, is the deliciously calm, new friendship that Herbert Spencer gives me. We see each other every day, and have a delightful camaraderie in everything. But for him my life would be desolate enough."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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