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The Ethics of George Eliot's Works
by John Crombie Brown
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"What the Zincala may not quit for you, I cannot joy that you should quit for her."

The last temptation has now been met and conquered. Henceforth we see Fedalma only in her calm, sad, unwavering steadfastness, bearing, without moan or outward sign, the burden of her cross. Not even her father's dying charge is needed to confirm her purpose, to fix her life in a self- devotedness already fixed beyond all relaxing and all change. With his death, indeed, the last faint hope fades utterly away that his great purpose shall be achieved; and she thenceforth is

"But as the funeral urn that bears The ashes of a leader."

But necessity lies only the more upon her—that most imperious of all necessities which originates in her own innate nobleness—that she should be true. When first she accepted this burden of her nobleness and her sorrow, she had said—

"I will not count On aught but being faithful;"

and faithfulness without hope—truthfulness without prospect, almost without possibility, of tangible fulfilment—is all that lies before her now. She accepts it in a mournful stillness, not of despair, and not of resignation, but simply as the only true accomplishment of her life that now remains.

The last interview with Don Silva almost oppresses us with its deep severe solemnity. No bitterness of separation broods over it: the true bitterness of separation fell upon her when her lover became false to himself in the vain imagination that, so doing, he could by any possibility be fully true to her. "Our marriage rite"—thus she addresses the repentant and returning renegade—

"Our marriage rite Is our resolve that we will each be true To high allegiance, higher than our love;"

and it is thus she answers for herself, and teaches him to answer, that question asked in the fullest and fairest flush of her love's joys and hopes—

"But is it what we love, or how we love, That makes true good?"

The tremulous sensitiveness of her former life has now passed beyond all outward manifestation, lost in absorbing self-devotedness and absorbing sorrow; and every thought, feeling, and word is characterised by an ineffable depth of calm.

Those closing lines, whose still, deep, melancholy cadence lingers upon ear and heart as do the concluding lines of 'Paradise Lost'—

"Straining he gazed, and knew not if he gazed On aught but blackness overhung with stars"—

tell us how Fedalma passes away from the sight, the life, and all but the heart of Don Silva. Not thus does she pass away from our gaze. One star overhanging the blackness, clear and calm beyond all material brightness of earth and firmament, for us marks out her course: the star of unwavering faith, unfaltering truth, self-devotion to the highest and holiest that knows no change for ever.

"A man of high-wrought strain, fastidious In his acceptance, dreading all delight That speedy dies and turns to carrion. . . . . . . A nature half-transformed, with qualities That oft bewrayed each other, elements Not blent but struggling, breeding strange effects. . . . . . A spirit framed Too proudly special for obedience, Too subtly pondering for mastery: Born of a goddess with a mortal sire; Heir of flesh-fettered weak divinity. . . . A nature quiveringly poised In reach of storms, whose qualities may turn To murdered virtues that still walk as ghosts Within the shuddering soul and shriek remorse."

Such is Duke Silva: and in this portraiture is up-folded the dark and awful story of his life. Noble, generous, chivalrous; strong alike by mind and by heart to cast off the hard and cruel superstition of his age and country; capable of a love pure, deep, trustful, and to all appearance self-forgetting, beyond what men are usually capable of; trenching in every quality close on the true heroic: he yet falls as absolutely short of it as a man can do who has not, like Tito Melema, by his own will coalescing with the unchangeable laws of right, foreordained himself to utter and hopeless spiritual death. It was, perhaps, needful he should be portrayed as thus nearly approaching true nobility; otherwise such perfect love from such a nature as Fedalma's were inexplicable, almost impossible. But this was still more needful toward the fulfilment of the author's purpose: the showing how the one deadly plague-spot shall weaken the strongest and vitiate the purest life. Every element of the heroic is there except that one element without which the truly heroic is impossible: he cannot "deny himself." Superficially, indeed, it might seem that self was not the object of his regard, but Fedalma: and by much of the distorted, distorting, and radically immoral fiction of the day, his sacrifice of everything for her love's sake would have been held up to us as the crowning glory of his heroism, and the consummation of his claims upon our sympathy and admiration. George Eliot has seen with a different and a clearer eye: and in Duke Silva's placing—not his love, but—the earthly fulfilment of his love above honour and faith, she finds at the root the same vital corruption of self- pleasing which conducts Tito Melema through baseness on baseness, and treason after treason, to the lowest deep of perdition.

Throughout the first wonderful love-scene with Fedalma, the vital difference, the essential antagonism between these two natures, is revealed to us through a hundred subtle and delicate touches, and we are made to feel that there is a depth in hers beyond the power of his to reach. Chivalrous, absorbing, tyrannising over his whole being, even pure as his love is, it far fails of the deeper and holier purity of hers. It shudders at the possibility of even outward soil upon her loveliness; but it does so primarily because such soil would react upon his self-love:—

"Have I not made your place and dignity The very height of my ambition?"

Her nobler nature recoils with chill foreboding terror from his first breach of trust, because it is a fall from his truest and highest right. His answer to her question already quoted, reveals a love which the world's judgment may rank as the best and noblest, but reveals a principle which, applied to aught beneath the only and supremest good, makes love only a more insidious and deeply corrupting form of self-pleasing: "'Tis what I love determines how I love." Love is his "highest allegiance"; and it becomes ere long an allegiance before which truth, faith, and honour give way, and guidance and control of conscience are swept before the fierce storm of self-willed passion that brooks no interposition between itself and its aim.

We are not attempting a formal review of this work; and as we have passed without notice the powerful embodiment in Father Isidor of whatever was true and earnest in the Inquisition, we must also pass very slightly over the interview with a still more remarkable creation—the Hebrew physician and astrologer Sephardo—except as we have in this interview further illustration of the character of Don Silva, and of the direction in which the self-love of passion is impelling him. We see conscience seeking from Sephardo—and seeking in vain—confirmation of the purpose already determined in his own heart; striving toward self-justification by every sophistry the passion-blinded intellect can suggest; struggling to transfer to another the wrong, if not the shame, of his own contemplated breach of trust; endeavouring to take refuge in stellar and fatalistic agencies from his own "nature quiveringly poised" between good and evil; and at last, merging all sophistries and all influences in the fierce resolve of the self-love which has made Fedalma the one aim, glory, and crown of his life. Throughout all the apparent struggle and uncertainty, we never doubt how all shall end. Amid all the appearances of vacillation, all the seeking external aid and furtherance, we see that the resolve is fixed, that the eager passionate self which identifies Fedalma as its inalienable right and property will prevail—prevail even to set aside every obstacle of duty and right which shall seem to interpose between it and realisation.

Equally and profoundly characteristic is the position he mentally takes up with regard to the Gypsy chief, as well as Fedalma herself. Not simply or primarily from mere arrogance of rank does he assume it as a certainty that he has but to find Fedalma to win her back to his side; that he has but to lay before Zarca the offer of his rank, wealth, and influence on behalf of the outcast race, to win him to forego his purpose and to surrender the daughter whom he has called to the same lofty aim. It is because of the impossibility, swayed and tossed by the self-will of passion as he is, of his rising to the height of their nobleness; the impossibility of his realising natures so possessed by a great, heroic, self-devoting thought, that hope, joy, happiness become of little or no account in the scale, and even what is called success dwindles into insignificance, or fades away altogether from regard.

The first betrayal of his trust, the first fall from truth and honour, has been accomplished. Conscience has begun to succumb to self—self under the guise of Fedalma and the overmastering self-will which refuses to resign his claim upon her. He has secretly deserted his post, transferring to another's hands the trust which was his, and only his. A slight offence it may appear—a mere error of judgment swayed by devoted love—to leave for a day or two when no danger seems specially impending, and to leave in the hands of the trusted and loving friend the charge committed to him. A slight offence, but it has been done in direct violation of conscience, and so in practical abnegation of God. Therefore the flood-gate is opened, and all sweeps swiftly, resistlessly, remedilessly on towards catastrophe.

The tender beauty of the brief scene with Fedalma is for her overcast, and hope, the highest hope, dies out within her, when she knows that her lover, in apparent faithfulness to her, has been false to himself. From that hour for her,

"Our joy is dead, and only smiles on us, A loving shade from out the place of tombs."

Then comes the interposition of the Gypsy chief, Fedalma's sweet sad steadfastness to her "high allegiance, higher than our love;" the brief moment of suspense, when

"His will was prisoner to the double grasp Of rage and hesitancy;"—

and then before the stormful revulsion of baffled and despairing passion all else is swept away, and there only survives in the self-clouded mind and soul the fixed resolve to secure that which for him has come to overmaster all allegiance. Strange and sad beyond all description are the sophistries under which the sinner strives to veil his sin,—by which to silence that still small voice which will not be hushed amid all that inward moil. Fedalma's earnest pleadings with his better self, Zarca's calm, pitying, almost sorrowful scorn—

"Our poor faith Allows not rightful choice save of the right Our birth has made for us"—

fall unheeded amid that fierce tempest of aroused self-will; and the Spanish knight and noble of that very age when

"Castilian gentlemen Choose not their task—they choose to do it well,"

becomes the renegade, abjuring and forswearing country, honour, and God.

We have hitherto abstained from quotation, except where necessary to illustrate our remarks. But we cannot forbear extracting from this scene the most exquisite of the many beautiful lyrics scattered throughout the poem, expressing, as it does, with a mystic power and depth beyond what the most elaborate commentary could do, the all but hopelessness of return from such a fall as Don Silva's:—

"Push off the boat, Quit, quit the shore, The stars will guide us back:— O gathering cloud, O wide, wide sea, O waves that keep no track!

On through the pines! The pillared woods, Where silence breathes sweet breath:— O labyrinth, O sunless gloom, The other side of death!"

In the scenes which follow among the Gypsy guard, both that with Juan and the lonely night immediately preceding the march, the terrible reaction has already begun to set in. The "quivering" poise of Don Silva's nature makes it impossible he should rest quiet in this utterness of moral and spiritual fall. Already we hear and see the "murdered virtues" begin

"To walk as ghosts Within the shuddering soul and shriek remorse."

The past returns on him with tyrannous power,—early associations, the taking up of his knightly vows with all its grand religious and heroic accompaniments, the delegated and accepted trust which he has by forsaking betrayed—

"The life that made His full-formed self, as the impregnant sap Of years successive frames the full-branched tree"—

all come back with stern reproach and denunciation of the apostate who, in hope of the outward realisation of a human love, has cast off and forsworn them all. Fiercely he fronts and strives to silence the accusing throng. Still the same plea—

"My sin was made for me By men's perverseness:"

still the same impulses of mad, despairing self-assertion—

"I have a right to choose my good or ill, A right to damn myself!"—

still the same vain imagination that union is any longer possible between Fedalma's high self-abnegating truth and his self-seeking abnegation of all truth, coupled with the arrogant assumption that he, morally so weak and fallen, can sustain her steadfast and heroic strength—"I with my love will be her providence."

When with the fearful Gypsy chant and curse

"The newer oath Thrusts its loud presence on him,"

we feel that any madness of act the wild conflict within may dictate has become possible; and we follow to that presence of Fedalma which is now the only goal life has left to him, prepared for such outbreak of despair as shall be commensurate with a life called to such nobleness of deed and fallen to such a depth of ruin. We see the trust he has deserted in the hands of the foe against whom he had accepted commission to guard it; his friends slaughtered at the post he had forsaken; himself as the sworn Zincalo in alliance with the enemy and slaughterer, and associated with the havoc they have wrought. The "right to damn" himself which he had claimed is his in all its bitterness; and when he would charge the self damnation upon the Gypsy chief, the reply of calm withering scorn can but add keener pang to his awaking remorse: the self-damning

"Deed was done Before you took your oath, or reached our camp, Done when you slipped in secret from the post 'Twas yours to keep, and not to meditate If others might not fill it."

The climax of his revulsion, remorse, and despair is reached when the Prior, the man whom he has impeached as the true author of all his sin, is led forth to die. Then all sophistries are swept away, and the full import of his deed glares up before him, and its import as his, only and wholly his. Zarca, in his high self-possession of soul, almost pitying while he cannot but despise, presents a fitting object on which all the fierce conflicting passions of wrath, self-accusing remorse, and despair, may vent themselves; and the sudden and treacherous deed, which

"Strangles one Whom ages watch for vainly,"

gives also to Don Silva himself to carry

"For ever with him what he fled— Her murdered love—her love, a dear wronged ghost, Facing him, beauteous, 'mid the throngs of hell."

Few authors or artists but George Eliot could have won us again to look on Don Silva except with revulsion or disgust; and it is characteristic of more than all ordinary power that through the deep impressive solemnity of the closing scene, he, the renegade and murderer, almost divides our interest and sympathy with Fedalma herself; and this by no condoning of his guilt, no extenuation of the depth of his fall, for these are here, most of all, kept ever before our eyes. But the better and nobler elements of his nature, throughout all his degradation revealed to us as never wholly overborne, as ever struggling to assert themselves, have begun to prevail, and to put down from supremacy that meaner self which has led him into such abysses of faithlessness, apostasy, and sin. The wild despair of remorse is giving way to the self- renunciation of repentance; the storm of conflicting passions and emotions is stilled; the fearful battle between good and evil through which he has passed has left him exhausted of every hope and aim save to die, repentant and absolved, for the country and faith he had abjured. The self-assertion, too, of love is gone, and only its deep purity and tenderness remain. Without murmur or remonstrance, he acquiesces in the doom of hopeless separation; accepting all that remains possible to him of that "high allegiance higher than our love," which is thenceforth the only bond of union between these two. In that last sad interview with her for whom he had so fearfully sinned, and so all but utterly fallen, we can regard Don Silva with a fuller and truer sympathy than we dare accord to him in all the height of his greatness, and all the wealth, beauty, and joy of his yet unshadowed love.

* * * * *

In the next of this series of great works, and the one which to many of her readers is and will remain the most fascinating—'Middlemarch'—George Eliot has stretched a broader and more crowded canvas, on which, however, every figure, to the least important that appears, is—not sketched or outlined, but—filled in with an intense and lifelike vividness and precision that makes each stand out as if it stood there alone. Quote but a few words from any one of the speakers, and we know in a moment who that speaker is. And each is the type or representative of a class; we have no monsters or unnatural creations among them. To a certain extent all are idealised for good or for evil,—it cannot be otherwise in fiction without its ceasing to be fiction; but the essential elements of character and life in all are not peculiar to them, but broad and universal as our humanity itself. Dorothea and her sister, Mr Brooke and Sir James Chettam, Rosamond Vincy and her brother, Mr Vincy and his wife, Casaubon and Lydgate, Farebrother and Ladislaw, Mary Garth and her parents, Bulstrode and Raffles, even Drs Sprague and Minchin, old Featherstone and his kindred—all are but representative men and women, with whose prototypes every reader, if gifted with the subtle power of penetration and analysis of George Eliot, might claim personal acquaintance.

This richly-crowded canvas presents to us such variety of illustration of the two great antagonistic principles of human life—self-pleasing and self-abnegation, love of pleasure and the love of God more or less absolute and consummate—that it is no easy task to select from among them. But two figures stand out before us, each portrayed with such finished yet unlaboured art—living, moving, talking before us—contrasted with such exquisite yet unobtrusive delicacy, and so subtilely illustrating the two great phases of human inspiration and life—that which centres in self, and that which yearns and seeks to lose itself in the infinite of truth, purity, and love—that instinctively and irresistibly the mind fixes upon them. These are Dorothea and Rosamond Vincy.

To not a few of George Eliot's readers, we believe that Dorothea is and will always be a fairer and more attractive form than Dinah Morris or Romola di Bardi, Fedalma or Mirah Cohen. In her sweet young enthusiasm, often unguided or misguided by its very intensity, but always struggling and tending on toward the highest good; in the touching maidenly simplicity with which she at once identifies and accepts Mr Casaubon as her guide and support toward a higher, less self-contained and self-pleasing, more inclusive and all-embracing life; in the yearning pain with which the first dread of possible disappointment dawns and darkens over her, and the meek humility of her repentance on the one faint betrayal—wrung from her by momentary anguish—of that disappointment; in the tender wifely patience, reticence, forbearance, with which she hides from all, the heart-gnawings of shattered and expiring hope; the sense which she can no longer veil from her own deepest consciousness that in Mr Casaubon there is no help or stay for her and the unwearied though too soon unhoping earnestness with which she labours to establish true relations between herself and her uncongenial mate; in the patient yet crushing anguish of that long night's heart-struggle which precedes the close—a struggle not against her own higher self, but whether she dare bind down that higher self to a lifelong, narrow, worthless task, and the aching consciousness of what—almost against conscience and right—her answer must be;—there is an inexpressible charm and loveliness in all this which no one, not utterly dead to all that is fairest and best in womanhood, can fail to recognise.

Not less wonderfully depicted is the guileless frankness which, from first to last, characterises her whole relations to Ladislaw. If there is one flaw in this noble work, it is that Ladislaw on first examination is scarcely equal to this exquisite creation. Yet it might have been nearly as difficult even for George Eliot to satisfy our instinctive cravings in this particular with regard to Dorothea, as in respect to Romola or Fedalma. And when we study her portrait of Ladislaw more carefully, there is a latent beauty and nobleness about him; an innate and intense reverence for the highest and purest, and an unvarying aim and struggle toward it; an utter scorn and loathing of everything mean and base,—that almost makes us cancel the word flaw. We recognise this nobleness of nature almost on his first appearance, in the deep reverence with which he regards Dorothea, the fulness with which he penetrates the guileless candour of the relation she assumes to him, the entireness of his trust in the spotless purity of her whole nature. And in him we have presented all those essential and fundamental elements of nature which give assurance that, Dorothea by his side, he shall be no unfitting helpmeet to her, no drag or hindrance on her higher life; that he shall rise to the elevation and purity of her self-consecration, and shall stand by her side sustaining, guiding, expanding that life of ever-growing fulness and human helpfulness to which each is dedicated.

But the essence of all this moral and spiritual loveliness is its unconsciousness. Self has no place in it. From the first the one absorbing life aim and action is toward others—toward aiding the toils, advancing the well-being, relieving the suffering, elevating the life, of all around her. And this in no spirit of self-satisfied and vainglorious self-estimation, but in that utter unconsciousness which is characteristic of her whole being. Of the social reformer, the purposed philanthropist, the benefactor of the poor, the wretched, and the fallen, there is no trace in Dorothea Brooke. Grant that, as she is first presented to us, that aim is for the time apparently concentrated in improved cottage accommodation for the poor; even here there is no thought of displaying the skill of the design and contriver: there is thought alone of the object she seeks—ameliorating the condition of those she yearns to benefit.

In her very first interview with Casaubon, there is something inexpressibly touching in the humility of childlike trust with which she accepts him and his "great mind," and the innocent purity with which she allows herself to indulge the vision of a life passed by his side; a life which he, by his influence and guidance, is to make more full and free, and delivered from those conventionalities of custom and fashion which restrict it. At last his cold, formal proposal of marriage is made. She sees nothing of its true character—that he is but seeking, not an helpmeet for life and soul in all their higher requirements, but simply and solely a kind of superior, blindly submissive dependant and drudge. In the impossibility of marriage presenting itself to her purity of maiden innocence as a mere establishment in life, or in any of those meaner aspects in which meaner natures regard it, she sees nothing of all this—nothing save that the yearning of her heart is fulfilled, and that henceforth her life shall pass under a higher guardianship, sustained by a holier strength, animated by a more self-expansive fulness, guided toward nobler and fuller aims.

Picturing to some extent, in degree as we are capable of entering into a nature like hers, the anguish that such an awakening must be to her, it is exquisitely painful to follow in imagination the slow sure process of her awakening to what this man, who "has no good red blood in his body," really is—a cold, shallow pedant, whose entire existence is bound up in researches, with regard to which he even shrinks from inquiry as to whether all he has for years been vaguely attempting has not been anticipated, and whose intense and absorbing egoism makes the remotest hint of depreciation pierce like a dagger. The first faint dawn of discovery breaks on her almost immediately on their arrival at Rome. Conscious of her want of mere aesthetic culture—neglected in the past as a turning aside from life's highest aims—she has looked forward to his guidance and support for the supply of this want as enlarging her whole being; broadening and deepening, refining and elevating all its sympathies. For all shadow of aid or sympathy here, she finds herself as utterly alone as if she were in a trackless and uninhabited desert. Nay, more: he who sits by her side is as cold and dead to all sensations or emotions that art can enkindle, as the glorious marbles amid which they wander. Soon she finds herself relegated to the society and fellowship of her maid; her husband is less to her, is incapable of being other than less, amid those transcendant treasures of architecture, painting, and sculpture, than a hired guide or cicerone would be.

Soon follows the scene where her timid offer of humble service is thrown back with all the irritation of that absorbing egoism which is the very essence and life-in-death of the man. For the first and only time, a faint cry of conscious irritation escapes her, followed by an anguish of repentance so deep, so meekly, humbly self-accusing, it reveals to us more of her truest and innermost life than pages of elaborate description could do. A single sentence descriptive of her mood even in that first irritation brings before us her deepest soul, and the utter absence of self isolation and self-insistence there:—"However just her indignation might be, her ideal was not to claim justice, but to give tenderness."

She meets Ladislaw; and he more than hints to her that the dim, vague labours and accumulations of years which have constituted her husband's nearest approach to life have been labour in vain; that the "great mind" has been toiling, with feeble uncertain steps, in a path which has already been trodden into firmness and completeness; toiling in wilful and obdurate ignorance that other and abler natures have more than anticipated all he has been painfully and abortively labouring to accomplish. Again a cry bursts from the wounded heart, seemingly of anger against her informant, really of anguish—anguish, not for her own sinking hopes, but for the burden of disappointment and failure which she instinctively perceives must, sooner or later, fall on the husband who is thus throwing away life in vain.

So it goes on, through all the ever-darkening problem of her married, yet unmated, life. Effort, always more earnest on the part of her yearning, unselfish tenderness, to establish true relations between them; to find in him something of that sweet support, that expansive and elevating force, silently entering into her own innermost life, which her first childlike trust inspired; to become to him, even if no more may be, that to which her childlike humility at first alone aspired—eyes to his weakness, and strength and freedom to his pen. So it goes on; ever-gnawing pain and anguish, as all her yearning love and pity is thrown back, and that dulled insensate heart and all-absorbing egoism can find only irritation in her timid attempts at sympathy, only dread of detection of the half-conscious futility of all his labours, in her humble proffers of even mechanical aid. Not easily can even the most fervid and penetrative imagination conceive what, to a nature like Dorothea's, such a life must be, with its never-ceasing, ever-gathering pain; its longing tenderness not even actively repelled, but simply ignored or misinterpreted; its humblest, equally with its highest yearnings, baffled and shattered against that triple mail of shallowest self-includedness. And all has to be borne in silence and alone. No word, no look, no sign, betrays to other eye the inward anguish, the deepening disappointment, the slow dying away of hope. Nay, for long, on indeed to the bitter close, failure seems to her to be almost wholly on her own side; and repentance and self-upbraiding leave no room for resentment.

Ere long—indeed, very soon—another, and, if possible, a still deeper humiliation comes upon her,—another, and, in some respects, a keener pang, as showing more intensely how entirely she stands alone, is thrown into her life,—in her husband's jealousy of Ladislaw. Yet jealousy it cannot be called. Of any emotion so comparatively profound, any passion so comparatively elevated, that self-absorbed, self-tormenting nature is utterly incapable. Jealousy, in some degree, presupposes love; love not wholly absorbed in self, but capable to some extent of going forth from our own mean and sordid self-inclusion in sympathetic relation, dependence, and aid, towards another existence. In Mr Casaubon there is no capability, no possibility of this. What in him wears the aspect of jealousy is simply and solely self-love, callous irritation, that any one should—not stand above, but—approach himself in importance with the woman he has purchased as a kind of superior slave. For long her guileless innocence and purity, her utter inability to conceive such a feeling, leaves her only in doubt and perplexity before it; long after it has first betrayed itself, she reveals this incapability in the fullest extent, and in the way most intensely irritating to her husband's self- love—by her simple-hearted proposal that whatever of his property would devolve on her should be shared with Ladislaw. Then it is that Casaubon is roused to inflict on her the last long and bitter anguish; to lay on her for life—had not death intervened—the cold, soul-benumbing, life contracting clutch of "the Dead Hand." In the innocence of her entire relations with Ladislaw, not the faintest dawning of thought connects itself with him in her husband's cold, insistent demand on her blind obedience to his will. She thinks alone of his thus binding her to a lifelong task, not only hard and ungenial, but one that shall absorb and fetter all her energies, restrain all her faculties, impair and frustrate all her higher and broader aims, make impossible all that better and purer fulness of life for which she yearns. Then follows the long and painful struggle,—a struggle so agonising to such a nature, that only one nearly akin to her own can adequately conceive or picture it. For it is a struggle not primarily to forego any certain or fancied mere personal good. On one side is ranged tenderest pitifulness over her husband's wasted life and energies, even though she knows those energies have been wasted—that life has been thrown away—on an object in which there is no gain to humanity, no advancement of human well-being, no profit even to himself, save, perchance, a barren and useless notoriety at last; an object that has been already far more fully and ably achieved. On the other stands her clear undoubting conscience of her own truest and highest course,—the course to which every prompting of the Divine within impels her,—that she shall not thus isolate herself within this narrowest sphere, shut herself out from all social sympathies and social outgoings, and sacrifice to the Dead Hand that holds her in its cold remorseless clutch every interest that may be intrusted to her. We instinctively shudder at the result; but we never doubt what the answer will be. We know that the tender, womanly, wifely pitifulness, the causeless remorse, will be the nearest and most urgent conscience, and will prevail. The agonised assent is to be given; but it falls on the ear of the dead.

It is scarcely necessary to follow Dorothea minutely through all the details of her widowed relations to Mr Casaubon. Enough that these are all in touching and beautiful harmony with everything that has gone before. No resentment, no recalcitration against all the ever-gathering perplexity, pain, and anguish he has caused her—nothing but the sweet unfailing pitifulness, the uncalled-for repentance, almost remorse, over her own assumed shortcomings and deficiencies—her failures to be to him what in those first days of her childlike simplicity and innocence she had hoped she might become. Even on the discovery of the worse than treachery, of the mean insulting malignity with which, trusting to her confiding purity and truthfulness, he had sought to grasp her for life in his "Dead Hand" with regard to Ladislaw, and she only escaped the irrevocable bond her own blindly-given pledge would have fixed around her by his death,—the momentary and violent shock of revulsion from her dead husband, who had had hidden thoughts of her, perhaps perverting everything she said or did, terrified her as if it had been a sin.

It is not alone, however, toward her husband that this simple, unconscious self-devotion and self-abnegation of Dorothea Brooke displays itself. Toward every one with whom she comes in contact, it steals out unobtrusively and silently, as the dew from heaven on the tender grass, to each and all according to the kind and nearness of that relation. Even for her "pulpy" uncle she has no supercilious contempt—no sense of isolation or separation; not even the consciousness of toleration toward him. Toward Celia, with her delicious commonplace of rather superficial yet naive worldly wisdom, her half-conscious selfishness, her baby-worship, and her inimitable "staccato," she is more than tolerant. She looks up to her as in many respects a superior, even though her own far higher instincts and aims of life cannot accept her as an aid and guidance toward the realisation of these. Even at old Featherstone's funeral, her one emotion is of pitiful sorrow over that loveless mockery of all human pity and love; and for the "Frog-faced" there is no feeling but sympathetic compassion for his apparent loneliness amongst strangers, who all stand aloof and look askance on him. Into all Lydgate's plans, into the whole question of the hospital and all he hopes to achieve through means of it, she throws herself with swift intelligence, with active, eager sympathy, as a probable instrumentality by which at least one phase of suffering may be redressed or allayed. And in the hour of his deep humiliation, when all others have fallen away from his side, when the wife of his bosom forsakes him in callous and heartless resentment of what was done for her sake alone; when he stands out the mark of scorn and obloquy for all save Farebrother, and scans and all but loathes himself—she, with her artless trust in the best of humanity, in the strength of her instinctive recognition of the merest glimmering of whatever is true and right and high in others, comes to his side, yields him at once her fullest confidence, gives him with frank simplicity her aid, and enables him, so far as determined prejudice and uncharity will allow, to right himself before others.

Reference has already been made to her whole relations, from first to last, with Ladislaw. It is not easy to conceive anything more touchingly beautiful than these, more perfectly in harmony with her whole nature. Of anything approaching either coquetry or prudery she is incapable. The utter absence of all self-consciousness, whether of external beauty or inward loveliness; the ethereal purity, the childlike trustfulness, the instinctive recognition of all that is true and earnest and high in Ladislaw, through all the surface appearance of indecision, of vague uncertain aim and purpose and limited object in life; no thought of what is ordinarily called love toward him, of love on his part toward her—ever dawns upon her guileless innocence. Through all her yearning to do justice to him as regards the property of her dead husband, which she looks upon as fairly and justly his, or at least to be shared with him, there arises before her the determination of her dead husband that it should not be so; and her sweet regretful pitifulness over that meagre wasted life prevails. Anon, when at last through the will she is made aware of the crowning act of that concentrated callousness of heart and soul, and of the true nature of the benumbing grasp it had sought to lay on her for life, and had so far succeeded in doing, then for the first time her "tremulous" maiden purity and simplicity awakens, and for the first time it enters her mind that Ladislaw could, under any circumstances, become her lover; that another had thought of them in that light, and that he himself had been conscious of such a possibility arising. The later scenes between them are characterised by a quiet beauty, a suppressed power and pathos, compared to which most other love- scenes in fiction appear dull and coarse. The tremulous yearning of her love, as it awakens more and more to distinct consciousness within; the new-born shyness blent with the old, trustful, frank simplicity,—bring before us a picture of love, in its purest and most beautiful aspect, such as cannot easily be paralleled in fiction.

Toward her late husband's parishioners there is the same wise instinctive insight as to their true needs, the same thoughtful and provident consideration that characterises her in every relation into which she is brought. If she at once objects, on their behoof, to Mr Tyke's so-called "apostolic" preaching, it is that she means by that, sermons about "imputed righteousness and the prophecies in the Apocalypse. I have always been thinking of the different ways in which Christianity is taught, and whenever I find one way that makes it a wider blessing than any other, I cling to that as the truest—I mean that which takes in the most good of all kinds, and brings in the most people as sharers in it." And in her final selection of Mr Farebrother, she is guided not alone by her sense of his general and essential fitness for the work assigned to him, but also in some degree by her desire to make whist-playing for money, and the comparatively inferior society into which it necessarily draws him, no longer a need of his outer life.

Of all the less prominent relations into which Dorothea Brooke is brought, there is not one more touchingly tender, or in which her whole nature is drawn more beautifully out, than that to Rose Vincy. Between these two, at least on the side of the hard unpenetrable incarnation of self-inclusion and self-pleasing, any approach to harmony or sympathy is impossible. There is not even any true ground of womanhood on which Rosamond can meet Dorothea; for she is nearly as far removed from womanhood as Tito Melema is from manliness or manhood. Yet even here the tender pitifulness of Dorothea overpasses a barrier that to any other would be impassable. In her sweet, instinctive, universal sympathy for human sorrow and pain, she finds a common ground of union; and in no fancied sense of superiority—solely from the sense of common human need—she strives to console, to elevate, to lead back to hope and trust, with a gentle yet steadfast simplicity all her own.

Such, as portrayed by unquestionably the greatest fictionist of the time—is it too much to say, the greatest genius of our English nineteenth century?—is the nineteenth century St Theresa.

The question may be raised by some of George Eliot's readers whether it constitutes the best and completest ethical teaching that fiction can attain, to bring before its readers such high ideals of the possibilities of humanity—of the aim and purpose of life toward which it should ever aspire. Were the author's canvas occupied with such portraitures alone—with Romolas and Fedalmas, Dinah Morrises and Dorothea Brookes, Daniel Derondas and Adam Bedes, even Mr Tryans and Mr Gilfils—the question might call for full discussion, and a contrast might be unfavourably drawn between the author and him whose emphatic praise it is that he "holds the mirror up to nature." But the great artist for all time brings before us not only an Iago and an Edmund, an Angelo and an Iachimo, a Regan and a Goneril, but a Miranda and an Imogen, an Isabella and a Viola, a Cordelia and a Desdemona, with every conceivable intermediate shade of human character and life; and in George Eliot we have the same clearly-defined contrasts and endless variety. That a Becky Sharp and a Beatrix Castlewood are drawn with the consummate skill and force of the most perfect artist in his own special sphere our age has produced, few will be disposed to deny: and that they have momentous lessons to teach us all,—that they may by sheer antagonism rouse some from dreams of selfish vanity and corruption, and awaken within some germ of better and purer elements of life,—will scarcely be disputed. But it is not from these, or such as these, that the highest and noblest, the purest and most penetrative, the most extended and enduring teaching and elevation of the world has come. That has come emphatically from Him whose self-chosen name, "the Son of Man," designates Him the ideal of humanity on earth; Him who is at once the "Lamb of God" and "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," the "Good Shepherd," and the stern and fearless but ever-righteous Judge—the concentration of all tender and holy love, and of divinest scorn of, and revulsion from, everything mean and false in humanity; Him who for the repentant sinner has no harsher word of rebuke than "Go and sin no more," and who over the self-righteous, self-wrapt, all-despising Pharisees thundered back, to His own ultimate destruction, His terrible "Woe unto you hypocrites." He too stands out, not isolated or severed, but prominent, amid every conceivable phase and gradation of human character, from a John to a Judas; touches each and all at some point of living contact; meets them with tender sympathy, with gentle patience, and pitying love, over their weaknesses and falls. Can the true artist err in aiming, according to his nature or to the purity and elevation of his genius, to approach in his portraitures such ideals as this great typical exemplar of our humanity, whose influence has for eighteen centuries been stealing down into the hearts and souls of men to elevate and refine, and who is now, and who is more and more becoming, the paramount factor in individual character, and in social and political relations? Or can such ideals, presented before us, fail to arouse in some degree the better elements of our humanity, and to lead us to strive toward the realisation of these?

In wonderfully drawn and finished yet never obtruded contrast to this beautiful creation comes before us Rosamond Vincy. Outwardly even more characterised by every personal charm, save that one living and crowning charm which outshines from the soul within; to the eye, therefore—such eyes as can penetrate no deeper than the surface—prettier, more graceful, more accomplished and fascinating, than Dorothea Brooke;—it is difficult to conceive a more utterly unlovable example of womanhood, whether as maiden or wife. Hard and callous of heart and dead of soul, incapable of one thought or emotion that rises above or extends beyond self, insistent on her own petty claims and ambitions to the exclusion of all others, ever aiming to achieve these, now by dogged sullen persistence, now by mean concealments and frauds, no more repellent portraiture of womanhood has ever been placed before us. The fundamental character of her entire home relations is, on her first appearance, drawn by a single delicate touch—her objecting to her brother's red herring, or rather to its presence after she enters the room, because its odour jars on her sense of pseudo-refinement. In her relation to her husband there is not from first to last one shadow of anything that can be called love, no approach to sympathy or harmony of life. She looks on him solely as a means for removing herself to what she considers a higher social circle, securing to her greater ease, freedom, and luxury of daily life, and ultimately withdrawing her to a wider sphere of petty and selfish enjoyment. Seeking these ends, she resorts to every mean device of deceit and concealment. Utterly callous and impenetrable to his feelings, to every manlier instinct within him, as she is utterly insensible of, and indeed incapable of, entering into his higher and wider professional aims, she not only ignores these, but in her dull and hard insensibility runs counter to, and tramples on them all.

Even toward Mary Garth there is nothing approaching true friendship or affection; no power of recognising her honesty, unselfishness, and earnestness of nature. She is nothing to her but a tool and confidante, the recipient of her own petty hopes and desires, worries and cares.

All Dorothea's gentle, unobtrusive attempts to soothe, to win her back to truer and better relations with her husband, and to awaken to active life and exercise the true womanhood, which she in her sweet instinct believes to be inherent in all her sex, are met by hard indifference or dull resistance. And in the one act of apparent friendliness or rather explanation toward Dorothea, she is actuated far less by sympathy or desire to clear away what has come between her and Ladislaw, than by sullen resentment against the latter for his rejection of her unseemly and unwifely advances to him.

In the position she at last takes up toward Ladislaw, there is no approach to anything in the very least resembling love—even illicit and overmastering passion. Of that her very nature is incapable. She is influenced solely by resentment against her husband, and his failure to fulfil her vain and self-absorbed dreams; by the hope that he will remove her to a sphere which will give wider scope to her heartless selfishness, and take her away from the social disappointments and humiliations into which that selfishness has mainly plunged her. In every relation of life near or far, important or trivial, amid all environments, under all impulsion toward anything purer and better, Rosamond Vincy is ever the same; as consistent and unvarying in her hard unwomanliness and impenetrable, insistent self-seeking, as is Dorothea in every opposite characteristic. And even while the picture in one way fascinates the reader, it is the fascination of ever-increasing contempt and loathing where the extremest charity can hardly even pity; and from it we ever turn to that of St Theresa with the more intense refreshment alike of mind and heart, and the deeper sense of its elevating and refining influence.

Among the many clearly defined and vividly drawn portraits in this great work, it would be easy, did space permit, to select others well worthy of detailed examination, and illustrative of the salient aim and tendency of all George Eliot's works. The homely yet beautiful family groups of the Garths, Celia and Sir James Chettam, the Bulstrodes, {97} even the wretched old Featherstone, and the crowd of vultures "waiting for death around him," all more or less illustrate the fundamental principle of the highest ethics—that self-abnegation is life, elevation, purity, uplifting our humanity toward the Divine; that self-seeking and self-isolation tend surely toward moral and spiritual death. Two, however, stand out so delicately yet clearly defined and contrasting, that they claim brief consideration before passing from this great work—Lydgate and Farebrother.

The whole character and career of Lydgate are brought before us with the skill of the consummate artist. At first he appears as a man of massive and energetic proportions, of high professional impulses and aims, resolute to carry these through against all difficulty and amid all indifference and opposition, and apparently seeking through these aims the general good of humanity—the alleviation of suffering, and the arrestment, it may be, of death. But even then there are signs of inherent weakness, and all but certain decline and fall. There are indications of arrogant self sufficiency and supercilious contempt for others; of undue deference for Bulstrode, not from respect or esteem, but as a tool to further his views; and a tendency to treat patients not as human beings but as cases—objects to experiment on, and verify hypotheses regarding pathology and disease, all which betray a nature not attuned to the highest and noblest pitch, and that cannot be expected to stand in the hour of trial. His first direct lapse is when, against his secret conviction, he supports Tyke as hospital chaplain in opposition to Farebrother; but mainly in mere defiance and resentment of the general style of his reception at the Board meeting, and the opposition he encounters there. Anon comes his marriage to Rosamond Vincy,—a marriage prompted by no true affection, but solely by the fascination of her prettiness, her external grace and accomplishments. Led on mainly by his own taste for luxury and external show, he plunges into extravagances of every kind. Debt inevitably follows, crippling his resources, cramping his energies, fettering him as regards all his higher professional aims and efforts. To his wife he looks in vain for sympathy or aid. She only aggravates the difficulties and harassments of his life by her callous selfishness, her dull obdurate insistance on all her own claims, her mean deceits and concealments. Embarrassments of every kind thicken around him; and at last in the all but universal estimation of his fellows, and nearly in his own, in the hope of temporary relief he becomes accessory to murder. His end is as sad a one for his character, and in his circumstances, as can well be conceived: falling from all his high if somewhat arrogant professional aims, his hopes of elevating the general practitioner, and of raising medicine from an art to a science, into the fashionable London lady's doctor.

Though Mr Farebrother occupies a somewhat less prominent place in the narrative, he is delineated with not less consummate skill. He comes before us at first a man of genial kindly sympathies, frankly alive to, and frankly acknowledging, his own deficiencies. There is an utter absence of pretence and affectation about him, a graceful and engaging simplicity and frankness of whole nature, that can hardly fail to win the heart. All his home relations—toward mother and sisters—are singularly touching. Feeling all his defects as a clergyman, half laughing, half apologetic over his devotion to his favourite Coleoptera, and admitting that which is so far a necessity to him, not of choice, but of actual external need in his narrow circumstances—admitting, too, the comparatively inferior and uncongenial society into which he is drawn—the full revelation of his nobler and higher nature begins. His true and deep appreciation of Mary Garth, and tender, devoted, and unselfish love for her, more clearly reveal his innate manliness, self-denial, and simplicity of character. This revelation is still further unfolded before us in his entire relations with Fred Vincy. That firm persistent interview in the billiard-room, is actuated by the one absorbing and self- abnegating desire that he may still be saved from the moral and spiritual decay impending over him: and when, in answer to Fred's appeal for his intercession, we discover the blighting of his own hopes, the shattering of his love, the tender heart stricken to the core should Fred prove, as he suspects, his successful rival, we discern in him a nature of the finest capabilities, and surely tending on and up toward the noblest ends; and we part from him as from a dear and valued friend, whose society has cheered and elevated us, whose pure simplicity of nature has refuted our vain pretensions, and whose memory clings to us as a fragrance and refreshment.

There now only remains the last yet published, and in the estimation of many, the greatest, of George Eliot's works—'Daniel Deronda.' In it the author takes up—not a new scope, but extends one that has all along been present, and that indeed was inevitably associated with her great ethical principle,—the bringing of that principle definitely and directly to bear upon not only every domestic but every social and political relation of human life. This tendency may be briefly expressed in the old and profound words: "No man liveth to himself; no man dieth to himself." As we aim toward the true and good and pure, or surrender ourselves the slaves of self and sense, we live or die to God or to the devil.

Before, however, proceeding to detailed examination of this remarkable work, it seems necessary to draw attention to one objection which has been urged against it—the prominent introduction of the Jewish element into its scheme. Such objection could scarcely have been put forward by any one who considers what the Jew has been in the past—what an enormous factor his past and present have been and are, in the development and progress of our highest civilisation. Historically, we first meet him coming forth from the Arabian desert, a rude unlettered herdsman, in intelligence, cultivation, and morality far below the tribes among whom he is thrown. A terrible weapon arms him—a theism stern, hard, and pitiless, beyond, perhaps, all the world has ever seen. To the bravest and best of his race—a Moses and a Joshua, a Deborah and a Jephtha—this presents ruthless massacre, the vilest treachery, offering up a sacrifice the dearest and most loved, not as mere permissible acts, but as deeds of religious homage solemnly enjoined by his Most High. This theism has one central thought in which it practically stands alone, and which it was the aim of all its supposed heads and legislators to keep inviolate amid all surrounding antagonisms—the intense assertion of the Divine unity. "Hear, O Israel! the Lord thy God is one Lord." In these brief words lies the very core of Judaism. So long as he holds fast by this central truth, the Jew is exhibited to us as practically omnipotent. Seas and floods divide before him; hosts numberless as the sands are scattered at his appearance; cyclopean walls fall prone at his trumpet-blast.

And this thought of the Divine unity, thus intensely pervading the national life, upfolds within capacity of indefinite development. No long time in the life of a nation elapses ere "The Lord thy God is a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children," became "As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him." "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget; yet will not I forget thee."

In no sense of the word was the Jew a creature of imagination. The stern and hard realities of his life would seem to have crushed out every trace of the aesthetic element within him. Yet from among these people arose a literature, especially a hymnology, which has never been approached elsewhere; and it arose emphatically and distinctly out of the great central and animating thought of the Divine unity. To the Psalms so-called of David, the glorious outbursts of sacred song in their mythico-historical books, as in Isaiah {103} and some of the minor prophets, the finest of the Vedic or Orphic hymns or the Homeric ballads are cold and spiritless. These address themselves to scholars alone, or chiefly to a cultivated few, and address themselves to them eloquently and gloriously. The hymns of the Jews have so interpenetrated the very heart of humanity, so identified themselves with the best longings, the noblest aspirations, the purest hopes, and the deepest sorrows of man, that still, after more than twenty centuries, that wonderful hymnology breathes up day after day, week after week, from millions of households and hearts. They outbreathe its fervid aspirations toward a purer and diviner life. They give expression to its profound wailings over degradation and fall. They give utterance on all the inscrutable mysteries of existence; and ever and anon as the clouds and darkness break away from the Infinite Love,—they burst forth into the exultant cry, "God reigneth, let the earth be glad. . . . Give thanks at remembrance of His holiness."

But important as is this factor of Judaism, there is another generally considered which has perhaps exercised a still more profound and cumulative influence on the civilisation especially of the West. This lies in the intense indestructible nationality of the race. Eighteen centuries have passed since they became a people, "scattered and peeled," their "holy and beautiful house" a ruin, their capital a desolation, their land proscribed to the exile's foot. During these centuries deluge after deluge of so-called barbarians has swept over Asia and Europe: Hun and Tartar, Alan and Goth, Suev and Vandal,—we attach certain vague meanings to the names, but can the most learned scholar identify one individual of the true unmingled blood? All have disappeared, merged in the race they overran, in the kingdoms they conquered and devastated. The Jew alone, through these centuries, has remained the Jew: proscribed, persecuted, hunted as never was tiger or wolf, he is as vividly defined, as unchangeably national, as when he stood alone, everywhere without and beyond the despised and hated Gentile. And this intense and conservative nationality springs essentially out of the central conception of Judaism, "God is one." Be He the incarnation of pitiless vengeance, hardening Pharaoh's heart that He may execute sevenfold wrath on him and his people; be He the Good Shepherd, who "gathers the lambs in His arms," and for their sakes "tempers His rough wind in the day of His east wind;"—to the Jew He has been and is, "I am the Lord; that is My name; and My glory will I not give to another."

Through those long ages of darkness, devil-worship, and polytheism (in its grossest forms all around), the Jew stood up in unfaltering protest against all. Persecutions, proscriptions, tortures in every form, were of no avail. On the gibbet, on the rack, amid the flames, his last words embodied the central confession of Judaism, "O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord." Christianity, the appointed custodier of the still more central truth, "God is love," had to all appearance failed of its mission; had not only merged its higher message in a theistic presentation, dark and terroristic as that of Judaism at its dawn, but had absorbed into its scheme, under other names, the gods many who swarm all around it; till nowhere and never, save by some soul upborne by its own fervour above these dense fogs and mists, could individual man meet his God face to face, and realise that higher life of the soul which is His free gift to all who seek it. Between this heathenised Christianity and Judaism, the contrast was the sharpest, the contest the most embittered and unvarying. Elsewhere we hear of times of toleration and indulgence even for the hunted Monotheist,—in medieval Christendom, never. The Inquisition plied its rack for the Jews with a more fiendish zeal than even for the hated Morisco. The mob held him responsible for plague and famine; and kings and nobles hounded the mob on to indiscriminate massacre. The Jew lived on through it all,—lived, multiplied, and prospered, and became more and more emphatically the Jew. Is it too much to say that in the West in particular, where this contrast and contest were keenest, Judaism was, during these long ages of terror and darkness, the great conservator of the vital truth of the Divine unity, under whatever forms science or philosophy may now attempt to define this; and in being so, became the conservator of that thought, without the vivifying power of which, howsoever imperfectly apprehended, all human advance is impossible? Is it exaggerating the importance of the Jew and his intense nationality, based on such a truth, to say that, but for his presence, "scattered and peeled," among all nations, the Europe we now know could not have been? And this indestructible nationality, for whose existence miracle has been called into account—has it no significance in the future equal to what it has had in the past? There seems an impression that the Jew is being absorbed by other races. We hear much of relaxing Judaisms; of rituals and beliefs assimilating to those around them; of peculiarities being laid aside, that have withstood the wear and tear of centuries. The inference is sought to be drawn that the Jew is beginning to feel his isolation, and to sink his own national life amid that among which he dwells. We accept all the facts; but can only see in them that, under the influence of the profound thought and research of its great leaders, Judaism is shaking off the dust of ages, and is more vividly awaking to its mission upon earth. We believe it is coming forth from all this superficial change, more intensely and powerfully Judaical, more penetrated and vivified by that thought which for untold centuries has been the life of its life. What is to be its specific future as a leader in the advancement and redemption of humanity, none can foresee. But it seems the reverse of strange that a genius like George Eliot's should have been powerfully attracted by this problem; and that, in one of her noblest works, she should have very prominently addressed herself to at least a partial solution of it. That the solution she suggests is a noble one, few who carefully consider the subject will, we think, deny. The establishment of a Jewish polity, in the true sense of the word a theocracy, where the Infinite Holiness is supreme, and in its supremacy is included a reign of justice, purity, and love;—the establishment of such a polity locally between the materialistic proclivities of the West and the psychological subtleties of the East, mediative between them, communicating from each to each of those essentials to human life in which the other is deficient, is a conception worthy of her genius.

Another minor and very trivial objection to the presence of this Jewish element need be no more than adverted to. It is the presence of such different types as the mean-souled scoundrel Lapidoth; the shrewd self- approving trader Cohen, with the inimitable picture of a home-life so pleasant and kindly; the vague intense enthusiasm, the ardent aspirations and fervent hopes of Mordecai; the absorbing Judaism of the Physician; the fierce revulsion of his daughter against her race and name; the meek, delicate, ethereal purity of Mirah; the innate Jewish yearnings and aspirations of Deronda, expanded by all the breadth that could be given by the highest Anglo-Saxon culture and training. To those who take exception to this, it is answer more than sufficient that, as an artist, it was necessary to present every typical phase of Jewish character and life; and we confess there are other passages in the work we could better spare than these delicious pictures of a London-Jewish pawnbroker at home.

Of all the characters portrayed in fiction, there is perhaps not one so difficult to analyse and define as that which stands out so prominently in this wonderful work, Gwendolen Harleth. At once attractive and repellent—fascinating in no ordinary degree, and yet, in the estimation of all around her, hard, cold, and worldly-minded—bewitching, alike from her beauty, grace, and accomplishments, yet a superficial and seemingly heartless coquette,—she presents a combination of at once some of the finest and some of the meanest qualities of woman. Her hardness towards her fond, doting mother, and her contempt for her sisters, are conspicuous almost from her first appearance. Her arrogant defiance of Deronda in the gambling-house, and the fierce revulsion of pride with which she received the return of her necklace, are entirely in keeping with these characteristics. And the news of the reduction of her family to utter poverty awakens no emotion save on her own behalf alone. Yet, ever and anon, faint gleams of tenderness towards her gentle mother break forth, though soon obscured by the bitter insistance with which her own claims to station, wealth, and luxury assert themselves. Her first acceptance of Grandcourt represents this phase of her twofold nature; her rejection of him and flight from him, after her interview with Mrs Glasher, are equally characteristic of the second. That rejection is actuated much more by resentment against Mrs Glasher, that she should have dared to anticipate her in anything resembling affection he had to give, and against him, that he should have presumed to offer to her a heart already sealed to anything resembling love, than by the faintest approach to it in her own. The leap, as it were, by which she ultimately accepts him, is merely a quick, half-conscious instinct to secure her own deliverance from poverty, and the attainment of those higher external enjoyments of life for which she conceived herself formed; and if, in addition, a thought of relieving the wants of her mother and sisters obtrudes, it holds only a very secondary place in her mind. Deeming herself born for dominion over every male heart, in her utter childish ignorance of human character, she deems that Grandcourt also shall be her slave.

But through all her relations with that magnificent incarnation of self- isolation and self-love, she is compelled to cower before him. Again and again she attempts to turn, only to be crushed under his heel as ruthlessly as a worm. During the yachting voyage it is the same; intense inward revulsion on the one side—cold, inexorable despotism on the other.

The drowning scene first begins to stir the better nature within her. The intensity of terror with which she regards the involuntary murderous thought, and which prompted her leap into the water, the fervour of remorse which followed, all begin to indicate a nature which may yet be attuned to the highest qualities. On the other hand, the sweet clinging trust with which she hangs on Deronda, looks up to him, feels that for her every possibility of good lies in association with him, are those of a guileless, artless child. She has been called a hard-hearted, callous woman of the world: her worldliness is on the surface alone. Her first cry to Deronda is the piteous wail of a forsaken child; the letter with which their relations close is the fond yearning of a child towards one whom she looks up to as protector and saviour.

Grandcourt is portrayed before us in more massive and simple proportions as a type of concentrated selfishness. We dare not despise him, we cannot loathe him—we stand bowed and awe-stricken before him. He never for a moment falls from that calm dignity of pride and self-isolation—never for a moment softens into respect for anything without himself. Without a moment's exception he is ever consistent, imperturbable in his self-containedness, ruthlessly crushing all things from dog to wife, under his calm, cold, slighting contempt. He stands up before us, not so much indomitable as simply unassailable. We cannot conceive the boldest approaching or encroaching on him—all equally shiver and quail before that embodiment of the devil as represented by human self-love.

Fain would we linger over the Jewish girl, Mirah. She has been spoken of as characterless; to us it seems as if few characters of more exquisite loveliness have ever been portrayed. From her first appearance robed in her meek despair, through all her subsequent relations with Deronda, her brother, and Gwendolen, there is the same delicate purity, the same tender meekness, the same full acceptance of the life of a Jewess as—in harmony with the life of her race—one of "sufferance." Even as her spirits gladden in that sunny Meyrick home, with its delicious interiors, and brighten under the noble-hearted musician Klesmer's encouragement, the brightness refers to something entirely without herself. In one sense far more acquainted with the evil that is in the world than Gwendolen with all her alleged worldliness, it is her shrinking from the least approach to this that prompts her strange, apparently hopeless flight in search of the mother she had loved so dearly. Her sad, humble complaints that she has not been a good Jewess, because she has been inevitably cut off from the use of Jewish books, and restrained by her scoundrel father from attendance at Jewish worship, find their answer in her deep unfailing sense of her share in the national doom of suffering. We feel with Mrs Meyrick "that she is a pearl, and the mud has only washed her." In her startling interview with Gwendolen, the sudden indignant protest which the inquiry of the latter calls out is a protest against even a hint of evil being directed towards that which has been best and highest to her. Her love for Deronda steals into the maiden purity of her soul with an unconscious delicacy which cannot be surpassed; and as she parts from us by his side, we feel that she is no Judith or Esther, but the meek Mary of the annunciation, going forth on her unknown mission of love with the words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."

Beside the exquisitely meek child-figure, with the small delicate head faintly drooping under the sorrow which is the heritage of her race, stands up Deronda in his calm dignity. As he lies on the grass, and the first faint glimmering of the possible origin of his life breaks upon him, even the first inevitable risings of resentment against Sir Hugo are softened and toned down by the old yearning affection; and the longings for the unknown mother, intense as they are, yet shrink from full discovery of what she may have been or may still be. He and he alone, in unconscious dignity, stands up uncowering before Grandcourt. His whole relations to Mordecai are characterised by a deep suppressed enthusiasm, that fully responds to the enthusiast's soul. Towards Gwendolen every word he speaks, every act he does, is marked by the fervour of his whole nature; but it is beside the fair head drooping under its burden of hereditary sorrow that Deronda passes from our sight, the fitting type of him who shall yet, sooner or later, re-establish that great Jewish theocracy so long dreamt of, and reaffirm that Judaism yet holds a great place in human life and civilisation.

We have throughout had no intention of dealing with George Eliot merely as the artist; but if we have succeeded in showing this unity of moral purpose and aim as pervading all her works, as giving rise to their variety by reason of the varieties and modifications it necessitates in order to its full illustration, and as ministered to, directly or indirectly, by all the accessory characters and incidents of these creations,—the question naturally arises, whether this does not constitute her an artist of the highest possible order.

But the true worth of George Eliot's works rests, we think, on higher grounds than any mere perfection of artistic finish; on this ground, specially, that among all our fictionists she stands out as the deepest, broadest, and most catholic illustrator of the true ethics of Christianity; the most earnest and persistent expositor of the true doctrine of the Cross, that we are born and should live to something higher than the love of happiness; the most subtle and profound commentator on the solemn words, "He that loveth his soul shall lose it: he that hateth his soul shall keep it unto life eternal."



Footnotes:

{15} The translators of our English Bible, possibly perplexed by the seeming paradox involved in these remarkable words, have taken an unwarrantable freedom with the original, in rendering the Greek [Greek text], invariably the synonym of the soul, the spiritual and undying element in man, by "life"—the [Greek text] of all Greek literature so- called, sacred and profane alike; the synonym of that life which is his in common with the beast of the field and the tree of the forest.

{29} Perhaps no finer and more subtle illustration of this "instinct of the gentleman" can be found in literature than when, at the moment of Harold Transome's deepest humiliation, where Jermyn claims him as his son, good old Sir Marmaduke, not only his political opponent but personally disliking him, for the first and only time in all their intercourse addresses him by his Christian name, "Come, Harold."

{97} In connection with Bulstrode occurs one of those delicate indications of character, condensed into a few words, which others would expand into pages, peculiar to George Eliot. It occurs in the depth of his humiliation, when his wife, hitherto comparatively characterless, in full token of her acceptance of their fallen lot, "takes off all her ornaments, and puts on a plain gown, and instead of wearing her much adorned-cap and large bows of hair, brushes down her hair, and puts on a plain bonnet-cap, which makes her look like an early Methodist."

{103} Does all poetry ancient or modern, so-called sacred or profane, contain an image more impressive and majestic than that in the "doom of Babylon," as the great incarnation of pride and luxury descends to its place: "Hades from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations."

THE END

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