Sunday, April 20, 2014

Back to Eliot, at least briefly

Last week's cross-temporal hunt for emoticons and the many pages I need to read as a judge for the fiction category of the Daphnes has put me behind both my reading and my blogging schedule for Daniel Deronda. Rather than leave you (and my co-Derondan, Maggie Bandur) in the lurch entirely, I'll stall a day or two by offering a brief bit from George Eliot: Interviews and Recollections, a volume edited by K. K. Collins that gathers contemporary reports of encounters with George Eliot. It's not as rich or quotable as the comparable book about Henry James, The Legend of the Master, but it's well worth having alongside when reading or thinking about Eliot.

Tonight I'll just share two anecdotes. First, a short, secondhand impression, via James T. Fields, published in his Biographical Notes and Personal Sketches in 1881:
[Dickens gave] an excellent description of Mr. and Mrs. Lewes. The latter he finds most interesting "with her shy manner of saying brilliant things."
And then this one, also secondhand, published in James Adderley's In Slums and Society: Reminiscences of Old Friends in 1916:
I have been told that George Eliot was in a railway-carriage once with a friend, and there was a "muscular Christian" sort of parson conversing with them about all the topics of the day. The reverend gentleman got out at a certain station, and the friend remarked enthusiastically:--

"Ah! That's the sort of parson I like. No nonsense about him!"

"Is he the sort of parson you would like to have at your deathbed?" said George Eliot.

"Oh no!" said the lady.
The only proper way to close the post after that, I think, is to turn things over to Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon:

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