By F. B. Pinion
This serious survey of George Eliot's works contains a biographical advent and a quick account of the ancient occasions that performed an element in her fiction. various quotations from her letters make sure that the main necessary features of Eliot's idea are effectively conveyed. An appendix dwells on Eliot's effect on Thomas Hardy.
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She had declined a marriage proposal from a young artist, a picture-restorer, whom she met and admired at Baginton. She had not fallen in love, but her decision not to accept an engagement was made with much emotional reluctance and not without subsequent regret. Relief came at intervals, and she enjoyed giving Mary Sibree weekly German lessons at Bird Grove. In April 1845 Harriet Martineau was a guest at Atherstone Hall; Mary Ann dined with her, and found her charming, full of the marvels of mesmerism.
After a month with George in Normandy and Brittany, she returned to Felix Holt, but found the legalities of its sub-plot so complex that she lost faith in her ability to solve them without expert advice. On 9 January, Professors Huxley and Beesly (a leading Positivist), Frederic Burton (the artist), and Herbert Spencer dined at the Priory; Frederic Harrison, an eminent lawyer and Positivist, was invited for the evening, in the hope, it seems, that he would come to Marian's assistance. He agreed, read the manuscript with admiration, worked out possibilities at considerable length, and provided the assurance she needed to prosecute her work.
Barbara Leigh Smith travelled to Tenby to sketch and renew Marian's acquaintance; she looked older and sadder. The previous year she had expressed her intention to live with Chapman, but her father had speedily put an end to the affair. The Leweses spent three months from home, and Marian never felt fitter in mind and body than she did towards the end of this period. She had written one of her finest articles, on Riehl; more important, she had thought of the story that became 'The Sad Fortunes of the Rev.