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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

George Eliot

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After she had written a portion of Amos Barton in her Scenes of Clerical Life, she read it to Mr. Lewes, who told her that now he was sure she could write good dialogue, but not as yet sure about her pathos. One evening, in his absence, she wrote the scene describing Milly's death, and read it to Mr. Lewes, on his return. "We both cried over it," she says, "and then he came up to me and kissed me, saying, 'I think your pathos is better than your fun!'"

Mr. Lewes sent the story to Blackwood, with the signature of "George Eliot,"--the first name chosen because it was his own name, and the last because it pleased her fancy. Mr. Lewes wrote that this story by a friend of his, showed, according to his judgment, "such humor, pathos, vivid presentation, and nice observation as have not been exhibited, in this style, since the Vicar of Wakefield."

Mr. John Blackwood accepted the story, but made some comments which discouraged the author from trying another. Mr. Lewes wrote him the effects of his words, which he hastened to withdraw, as there was so much to be said in praise that he really desired more stories from the same pen, and sent her a check for two hundred and fifty dollars.

This was evidently soothing, as Mr. Gilfil's Love Story and Janet's Repentance were at once written. Much interest began to be expressed about the author. Some said Bulwer wrote the sketches. Thackeray praised them, and Arthur Helps said, "He is a great writer." Copies of the stories bound together, with the title Scenes of Clerical Life, were sent to Froude, Dickens, Thackeray, Tennyson, Ruskin, and Faraday. Dickens praised the humor and the pathos, and thought the author was a woman.

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Jane Welch Carlyle thought it "a human book, written out of the heart of a live man, not merely out of the brain of an author, full of tenderness and pathos, without a scrap of sentimentality, of sense without dogmatism, of earnestness without twaddle--a book that makes one feel friends at once and for always with the man or woman who wrote it." She guessed the author was "a man of middle age, with a wife, from whom he has got those beautiful feminine touches in his book, a good many children, and a dog that he has as much fondness for as I have for my little Nero."

Mr. Lewes was delighted, and said, "Her fame is beginning." George Eliot was growing happier, for her nature had been somewhat despondent. She used to say, "Expecting disappointments is the only form of hope with which I am familiar." She said, "I feel a deep satisfaction in having done a bit of faithful work that will perhaps remain, like a primrose-root in the hedgerow, and gladden and chasten human hearts in years to come." "'Conscience goes to the hammering in of nails' is my gospel," she would say. "Writing is part of my religion, and I can write no word that is not prompted from within. At the same time I believe that almost all the best books in the world have been written with the hope of getting money for them."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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