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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

George Eliot

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George Eliot met Liszt, and "for the first time in her life beheld real inspiration,--for the first time heard the true tones of the piano." Rauch, the great sculptor, called upon them, and "won our hearts by his beautiful person and the benignant and intelligent charm of his conversation."

Both writers were hard at work. George Eliot was writing an article on Weimar for Fraser, on Cumming for Westminster, and translating Spinoza's Ethics. No name was signed to these productions, as it would not do to have it known that a woman wrote them. The education of most women was so meagre that the articles would have been considered of little value. Happily Girton and Newnham colleges are changing this estimate of the sex. Women do not like to be regarded as inferior; then they must educate themselves as thoroughly as the best men are educated.

Mr. Lewes was not well. "This is a terrible trial to us poor scribblers," she writes, "to whom health is money, as well as all other things worth having." They had but one sitting-room between them, and the scratching of another pen so affected her nerves, as to drive her nearly wild. Pecuniarily, life was a harder struggle than ever, for there were four more mouths to be fed,--Mr. Lewes' three sons and their mother.

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"Our life is intensely occupied, and the days are far too short," she writes. They were reading in every spare moment, twelve plays of Shakespeare, Goethe's works, Wilhelm Meister, Goetz von Berlichingen, Hermann and Dorothea, Iphigenia, Wanderjahre, Italianische Reise, and others; Heine's poems; Lessing's Laocooen and Nathan the Wise; Macaulay's History of England; Moore's Life of Sheridan; Brougham's Lives of Men of Letters; White's History of Selborne; Whewell's History of Inductive Sciences; Boswell; Carpenter's Comparative Physiology; Jones' Animal Kingdom; Alison's History of Europe; Kahnis' History of German Protestantism; Schrader's German Mythology; Kingsley's Greek Heroes; and the Iliad and Odyssey in the original. She says, "If you want delightful reading, get Lowell's My Study Windows, and read the essays called My Garden Acquaintances and Winter." No wonder they were busy.

On their return from Germany they went to the sea-shore, that Mr. Lewes might perfect his Sea-side Studies. George Eliot entered heartily into the work. "We were immensely excited," she says, "by the discovery of this little red mesembryanthemum. It was a crescendo of delight when we found a 'strawberry,' and a fortissimo when I, for the first time, saw the pale, fawn-colored tentacles of an Anthea cereus viciously waving like little serpents in a low-tide pool." They read here Gosse's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast, Edward's Zoology, Harvey's sea-side book, and other scientific works.

And now at thirty-seven George Eliot was to begin her creative work. Mr. Lewes had often said to her, "You have wit, description, and philosophy--those go a good way towards the production of a novel." "It had always been a vague dream of mine," she says, "that sometime or other I might write a novel ... but I never went further toward the actual writing than an introductory chapter, describing a Staffordshire village, and the life of the neighboring farm-houses; and as the years passed on I lost any hope that. I should ever be able to write a novel, just as I desponded about everything else in my future life. I always thought I was deficient in dramatic power, both of construction and dialogue, but I felt I should be at my ease in the descriptive parts."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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