The Ethics of George Eliot's Works
by John Crombie Brown
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Transcribed from the 1884 William Blackwood and Sons edition by David Price, email





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The greater part of the following Essay was written several years ago. It was too long for any of the periodicals to which the author had been in the habit of occasionally contributing, and no thought was then entertained of publishing it in a separate form. One day, however, during his last illness, the talk happened to turn on George Eliot's Works, and he mentioned his long-forgotten paper. One of the friends then present—a competent critic and high literary authority—expressed a wish to see it, and his opinion was so favourable that its publication was determined on. The author then proposed to complete his work by taking up 'Middlemarch' and 'Deronda'; and if any trace of failing vigour is discernible in these latter pages, the reader will bear in mind that the greater portion of them was composed when the author was rapidly sinking under a painful disease, and that the concluding paragraphs were dictated to his daughter after the power of writing had failed him, only five days before his death.


It is a source of great gratification to the friends of the author that his little volume has already been so well received that the second edition has been out of print for some time. In now publishing a third, they have been influenced by two considerations,—the continued demand for the book, and the favourable opinion expressed of it by "George Eliot" herself, which, since her lamented death, delicacy no longer forbids them to make public.

In a letter to her friend and publisher, the late Mr John Blackwood, received soon after the appearance of the first edition, she writes, with reference to certain passages: "They seemed to me more penetrating and finely felt than almost anything I have read in the way of printed comments on my own writings." Again, in a letter to a friend of the author, she says: "When I read the volume in the summer, I felt as if I had been deprived of something that should have fallen to my share in never having made his personal acquaintance. And it would have been a great benefit,—a great stimulus to me to have known some years earlier that my work was being sanctioned by the sympathy of a mind endowed with so much insight and delicate sensibility. It is difficult for me to speak of what others may regard as an excessive estimate of my own work, but I will venture to mention the keen perception shown in the note on page 29, as something that gave me peculiar satisfaction."

Once more. In an article in the 'Contemporary Review' of last month, on "The Moral Influence of George Eliot," by "One who knew her," the writer says: "It happens that the only criticism which we have heard mentioned as giving her pleasure, was a little posthumous volume published by Messrs Blackwood."

With such testimony in its favour, it is hoped a third edition will not be thought uncalled for.

March 1881.


"There is in man a higher than love of happiness: he can do without happiness, and instead thereof find blessedness."

Such may be regarded as the fundamental lesson which one of the great teachers of our time has been labouring to impress upon the age. The truth, and the practical corollary from it, are not now first enunciated. Representing, as we believe it to do, the practical aspect of the noblest reality in man—that which most directly represents Him in whose image he is made—it has found doctrinal expression more or less perfect from the earliest times. The older Theosophies and Philosophies—Gymnosophist and Cynic, Chaldaic and Pythagorean, Epicurean and Stoic, Platonist and Eclectic—were all attempts to embody it in teaching, and to carry it out in life. They saw, indeed, but imperfectly, and their expressions of the truth are all one-sided and inadequate. But they did see, in direct antagonism alike to the popular view and to the natural instinct of the animal man, that what is ordinarily called happiness does not represent the highest capability in humanity, or meet its indefinite aspirations; and that in degree as it is consciously made so, life becomes animalised and degraded. The whole scheme of Judaism, as first promulgated in all the stern simplicity of its awful Theism, where the Divine is fundamentally and emphatically represented as the Omnipotent and the Avenger, was an emphatic protest against that self-isolation in which the man folds himself up like a chrysalid in its cocoon whenever his individual happiness—the so-called saving of his own soul—becomes the aim and aspiration of his life. In one sense the Jew of Moses had no individual as apart from a national existence. The secret sin of Achan, the vaunting pride of David, call forth less individual than national calamity.

At last in the fulness of time there came forth One—whence and how we do not stop to inquire—who gathered up into Himself all these tangled, broken, often divergent threads; who gave to this truth, so far as one very brief human life could give—at once its perfect and exhaustive doctrinal expression, and its essentially perfect and exhaustive practical exemplification, by life and by death. Endless controversies have stormed and are still storming around that name which He so significantly and emphatically appropriated—the "Son of Man." But from amid all the controversy that veils it, one fact, clear, sharp, and unchallenged, stands out as the very life and seal of His human greatness—"He pleased not Himself." By every act He did, every word He spoke, and every pain He bore, He put away from Him happiness as the aim and end of man. He reduced it to its true position of a possible accessory and issue of man's highest fulfilment of life—an issue, the contemplation of which might be of some avail as the being first awoke to its nobler capabilities, but which, the more the life went on towards realisation, passed the more away from conscious regard.

Thenceforth the Cross, as the typical representation of this truth, became a recognised power on the earth. Thenceforth every great teacher of humanity within the pale of nominal Christendom, whatever his apparent tenets or formal creed, has been, in degree as he was great and true, explicitly or implicitly the expounder of this truth; every great and worthy life, in degree as it assimilated to that ideal life, has been the practical embodiment of it. "Endure hardness," said one of its greatest apostles and martyrs, "as good soldiers of Christ." And to the endurance of hardness; to the recognition of something in humanity to which what we ordinarily call life and all its joys are of no account; to the abnegation of mere happiness as aim or end,—to this the world of Christendom thenceforth became pledged, if it would not deny its Head and trample on His cross.

In no age has the truth been a popular one: when it becomes so, the triumph of the Cross—and in it the practical redemption of humanity—will be near at hand. Yet in no age—not the darkest and most corrupt Christendom has yet seen—have God and His Christ been without their witnesses to the higher truth,—witnesses, if not by speech and doctrine, yet by life and death. Even monasticism, harshly as we may now judge it, arose, in part at least, through the desire to "endure hardness;" only it turned aside from the hardness appointed in the world without, to choose, and ere long to make, a hardness of its own; and then, self-seeking, and therefore anti-Christian, it fell. Amid all its actual corruption the Church stands forth a living witness, by its ritual and its sacraments, to this fundamental truth of the Cross; and ever and anon from its deepest degradation there emerges clear and sharp some figure bending under this noblest burden of our doom—some Savonarola or St Francis charged with the one thought of truth and right, of the highest truth and right, to be followed, if need were, through the darkness of death and of hell.

Perhaps few ages have needed more than our own to have this fundamental principle of Christian ethics—this doctrine of the Cross—sharply and strongly proclaimed to it. Our vast advances in physical science tend, in the first instance at least, to withdraw regard from the higher requirements of life. Even the progress of commerce and navigation, at once multiplying the means and extending the sphere of physical and aesthetic enjoyment, aids to intensify the appetite for these. Systems of so-called philosophy start undoubtingly with the axiom that happiness is the one aim of man: and with at least some of these happiness is simply coincident with physical well-being. Political Economy aims as undoubtingly to act on the principle, "the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number:" and perhaps, as Political Economy claims to deal with man in his physical life only, it were unreasonable to expect from it regard to aught above this. Our current and popular literature—Fiction, Poetry, Essays on social relations—is emphatically a literature of enjoyment, ministering to the various excitements of pleasure, wonder, suspense, or pain. And last, and in some respects most serious of all, our popular theology has largely conformed to the spirit of the age. Representative of a debased and emasculated Christianity, it attacks our humanity at its very core. It rings out to us, with wearisome iteration, as our one great concern, the saving of our own souls: degrades the religion of the Cross into a slightly-refined and long-sighted selfishness: and makes our following Him who "pleased not Himself" to consist in doing just enough to escape what it calls the pains of hell—to win what it calls the joys of heaven.

This is the dark side of the picture; but it has its bright side too. These advances of science, these extensions of commerce, these philosophies, even where they are falsely so called, this Political Economy, which from its very nature must first "labour for the meat that perisheth,"—these are all God's servants and man's ministers still—the ministers of man's higher and nobler life. Consciously or unconsciously, they are working to raise from myriads burdens of poverty, care, ceaseless and fruitless toil, under the pressure of which all higher aspiration is wellnigh impossible. Sanitary reform in itself may mean nothing more than better drainage, fresher air, freer light, more abundant water: to the "Governor among the nations" it means lessened impossibility that men should live to Him.

If in few ages the great bulk and the most popular portion of literature has more prostituted itself to purposes of sensational or at most aesthetic enjoyment, it is at least as doubtful if in any previous age our highest literature has more emphatically and persistently devoted itself to proclaiming this great doctrine of the Cross. Sometimes directly and explicitly, oftener by implication, this is the ultimate theme of those who are most deeply influencing the spirit of the time. Our finest and most widely recognised pulpit oratory is at home here, and only here: Maurice and Arnold, Trench and Vaughan, Robertson and Stanley, James Martineau and Seeley, Thirlwall and Wilberforce, Kingsley and Brooke, Caird and Tulloch, different in form, in much antagonistic in what is called opinion, are of one mind and heart on this. The thought underlying all their thoughts of man is that "higher than love of happiness" in humanity which expresses the true link between man and God. The practical doctrine that with them underlies all others is, "Love not pleasure—love God. Love Him not alone in the light and amid the calm, but through the blackness and the storm. Though He hide Himself in the thick darkness, yet" give thanks at remembrance of His holiness. "Though He slay thee, yet trust still in Him." The hope to which they call us is not, save secondarily and incidentally, the hope of a great exhaustless future. It is the hope of a true life now, struggling on and up through hardness and toil and battle, careless though its crown be the crown of thorns.

Even evangelicism indirectly, in great degree unconsciously, bears witness to the truth through its demand of absolute self-abnegation before God: though the inversion of the very idea of Him fundamentally involved in its scheme makes the self-abnegation no longer that of the son, but of the slave; includes in it the denial of that law which Himself has written on our hearts; and would substitute our subjection to an arbitrary despotism for our being "made partakers of His holiness." One of the sternest and most consistent of Calvinistic theologians, Jonathan Edwards, in one of his works expresses his willingness to be damned for the glory of God, and to rejoice in his own damnation: with a strange, almost incredible, obliquity of moral and spiritual insight failing to perceive that in thus losing himself in the infinite of holy Love lies the very essence of human blessedness, that this and this alone is in very truth his "eternal life."

Among what may be called Essayists, two by general consent stand out as most deeply penetrating and informing the spirit of the age—Carlyle and Ruskin. To the former, brief reference has already been made. In the work then quoted from, one truth has prominence above all others: that with the will's acceptance of happiness as the aim of life begins the true degradation of humanity; and that then alone true life dawns upon man when truth and right begin to stand out as the first objects of his regard. Never since has Carlyle's strong rough grasp relaxed its hold of this truth; and howsoever in later works, in what are intended as biographical illustrations of it, he may seem to confuse mere strength and energy with righteousness of will, and thence to confound outward and visible success with vital achievement, that strength and energy are always in his eyes, fighting or enduring against some phase of the many- headed hydra of wrong.

Of Ruskin it seems almost superfluous to speak. They have read him to little purpose who have not felt that all his essays and criticisms in art, all his expositions in social and political science, are essentially unified by one animating and pervading truth: the truth that to man's moral relations, or, in other words, the developing and perfecting in him of that Divine image in which he is made,—all things else, joy, beauty, life itself, are of account only to the degree in which they are consciously used to subserve that higher life. His ultimate standard of value to which everything, alike in art and in social and political relations, is referred, is—not success, not enjoyment, whether sensuous, sentimental, or aesthetic, but—the measure in which may thereby be trained up that higher life of humanity. Art is to him God's minister, not when she is simply true to nature, but solely when true to nature in such forms and phases as shall tend to bring man nearer to moral truth, beauty, and purity. The Ios and Ariadnes of the debased Italian schools, the boors of Teniers, the Madonnas of Guido, are truer to one phase of nature than are Fra Angelico's angels, or Tintoret's Crucifixion. But that nature is humanity as degraded by sense; and therefore the measure of their truthfulness is for him also the measure of their debasement.

In poetry, the key-note so firmly struck by Wordsworth in his noble "Ode to Duty" has been as firmly and more delicately caught up by other singers; who, moreover, have seen more clearly than Wordsworth did, that it is for faith, not for sight, that duty wears

"The Godhead's most benignant grace;"

for the path along which she leads is inevitably on earth steep, rugged, and toilsome. Take almost any one of Tennyson's more serious poems, and it will be found pervaded by the thought of life as to be fulfilled and perfected only through moral endurance and struggle. "Ulysses" is no restless aimless wanderer; he is driven forth from inaction and security by that necessity which impels the higher life, once begun within, to press on toward its perfecting this all-possible sorrow, peril, and fear. "The Lotos-eaters" are no mere legendary myth: they shadow forth what the lower instincts of our humanity are ever urging us all to seek—ease and release from the ceaseless struggle against wrong, the ceaseless straining on toward right. "In Memoriam" is the record of love "making perfect through suffering:" struggling on through the valley of the shadow of death toward the far-off, faith-seen light "behind the veil." "The Vision of Sin" portrays to us humanity choosing enjoyment as its only aim; and of necessity sinking into degradation so profound, that even the large heart and clear eye of the poet can but breathe out in sad bewilderment, "Is there any hope?"—can but dimly see, far off over the darkness, "God make Himself an awful rose of dawn." In one of the most profound of all His creations—"The Palace of Art"—we have presented to us the soul surrounding itself with everything fair and glad, and in itself pure, not primarily to the eye, but to the mind: attempting to achieve its destiny and to fulfil its life in the perfections of intellectual beauty and aesthetic delight. But the palace of art, made the palace of the soul, becomes its dungeon-house, self-generating and filling fast with all loathsome and deathly shapes; and the heaven of intellectual joy becomes at last a more penetrative and intenser hell. The "Idylls of the King" are but exquisite variations on the one note—that the only true and high life of humanity is the life of full and free obedience; and that such life on earth becomes of necessity one of struggle, sorrow, outward loss and apparent failure. In "Vivien"—the most remarkable of them all for the subtlety of its conception and the delicacy of its execution,—the picture is perhaps the darkest and saddest time can show—that of a nature rich to the utmost in all lower wisdom of the mind, struggling long and apparently truly against the flesh, yet all the while dallying with the foul temptation, till the flesh prevails; and in a moment, swift and sure as the lightning, moral and spiritual death swoops down, and we see the lost one no more.

Many other illustrations might be given from our noblest and truest poetry—from the works of the Brownings, the "Saints' Tragedy" of Charles Kingsley, the dramatic poems of Henry Taylor—of the extent to which it is vitally, even where not formally Christian; the extent to which the truth of the Cross has transfused it, and become one chief source of its depth and power. But we must hasten on to our more immediate object in these remarks.

Those who read works of fiction merely for amusement, may be surprised that it should be thought possible they could be vehicles for conveying to us the deepest practical truth of Christianity,—that the highest life of man only begins when he begins to accept and to bear the Cross; and that the conscious pursuit of happiness as his highest aim tends inevitably to degrade and enslave him. Even those who read novels more thoughtfully, who recognise in them a great moral force acting for good or evil on the age, may be startled to find George Eliot put forward as the representative of this higher-toned fiction, and as entitled to take place beside any of those we have named for the depth and force, the consistency and persistence, with which she has laboured to set before us the Christian, and therefore the only exhaustively true, ideal of life.

Yet a careful examination will, we are satisfied, show that from her first appearance before the public, this thought, and the specific purpose of this teaching, have never been absent from the writer's mind; that it may be defined as the central aim of all her works: and that it gathers in force, condensation, and power throughout the series. Other qualities George Eliot has, that would of themselves entitle her to a very high place among the teachers of the time. In largeness of Christian charity, in breadth of human sympathy, in tenderness toward all human frailty that is not vitally base and self-seeking, in subtle power of finding "a soul of goodness even in things apparently evil," she has not many equals, certainly no superior, among the writers of the day. Throughout all her works we shall look in vain for one trace of the fierce self-opinionative arrogance of Carlyle, or the narrow dogmatic intolerance of Ruskin: though we shall look as vainly for one word or sign that shall, on the mere ground of intellectual power, energy, and ultimate success, condone the unprincipled ambition of a Frederick, so- called the Great, and exalt him into a hero; or find in the cold heart and mean sordid soul of a Turner an ideal, because one of those strange physiological freaks that now and then startle the world, the artist's temperament and artist's skill, were his beyond those of any man of his age. But as our object here is to attempt placing her before the reader as asserting and illustrating the highest life of humanity, as a true preacher of the doctrine of the Cross, even when least formally so, we leave these features, as well as her position as an artist, untouched on, the rather that they have all been already discussed by previous critics.

The 'Scenes of Clerical Life,' delicately outlined as they are, still profess to be but sketches. In them, however, what we have assumed to be the great moral aim of the writer comes distinctly out; and even within the series itself gathers in clearness and power. Self-sacrifice as the Divine law of life, and its only true fulfilment; self-sacrifice, not in some ideal sphere sought out for ourselves in the vain spirit of self- pleasing, but wherever God has placed us, amid homely, petty anxieties, loves, and sorrows; the aiming at the highest attainable good in our own place, irrespective of all results of joy or sorrow, of apparent success or failure,—such is the lesson that begins to be conveyed to us in these "Scenes."

The lesson comes to us in the quiet unselfish love, the sweet hourly self- devotion of the "Milly" of Amos Barton, so touchingly free and full that it never recognises itself as self-devotion at all. In "Mr Gilfil's Love- Story" we have it taught affirmatively through the deep unselfishness of Mr Gilfil's love to Tina, and his willingness to offer up even this, the one hope and joy of his life, upon the altar of duty; negatively, through the hard, cold, callous, self-pleasing of Captain Wybrow—a type of character which, never repeated, is reproduced with endless variations and modifications in nearly all the author's subsequent works. It is, however, in "Janet's Repentance" that the power of the author is put most strongly forth, and also that what we conceive to be the vital aim of her works is most definitely and firmly pronounced. Here also we have illustrated that breadth of nature, that power of discerning the true and good under whatsoever external form it may wear, which is almost a necessary adjunct of the author's true and large ideal of the Christian life. She goes, it might almost seem, out of her way to select, from that theological school with which her whole nature is most entirely at dissonance, one of her most touching illustrations of a life struggling on towards its highest through contempt, sorrow, and death. That narrowest of all sectarianisms, which arrogates to itself the name Evangelical, and which holds up as the first aim to every man the saving of his own individual soul, has furnished to her Mr Tryan, whose life is based on the principle laid down by the one great Evangelist, "He that loveth his soul shall lose it; he that hateth his soul shall keep it unto life eternal." {15}

Mr Tryan, as first represented to us, is not an engaging figure. Narrow and sectarian, full of many uncharities, to a great extent vain and self- conscious, glad to be flattered and idolised by men and women by no means of large calibre or lofty standard—it might well seem impossible to invest such a figure with one heroic element. Yet it is before this man we are constrained to bow down in reverence, as before one truer, greater, nobler than ourselves; and as we stand with Janet Dempster beside the closing grave, we may well feel that one is gone from among us whose mere presence made it less hard to fight our battle against "the world, the flesh, and the devil." The explanation of the paradox is not far to seek. The principle which animated the life now withdrawn from sight—which raised it above all its littlenesses and made it a witness for God and His Christ, constraining even the scoffers to feel the presence of "Him who is invisible"—this principle was self-sacrifice. So at least the imperfections of human speech lead us to call that which stands in antagonism to self-pleasing; but before Him to whom all things are open, what we so call is the purification and exaltation of that self in us which is the highest created reflex of His image—the growing up of it into His likeness for ever.

We may here, once for all, and very briefly, advert to one specialty of the author's works, which, if we are right in our interpretation of their central moral import, flows almost necessarily as a corollary from it. In each of these sketches one principal figure is blotted out just when our regards are fixed most strongly on it. Milly, Tina, and Mr Tryan all die, at what may well appear the crisis of life and destiny for themselves or others. There is in this—if not in specific intention, certainly in practical teaching—something deeper and more earnest than any mere artistic trick of pathos—far more real than the weary commonplace of suggesting to us any so-called immortality as the completion and elucidation of earthly life; far profounder and simpler, too, than the only less trite commonplace of hinting to us the mystery of God's ways in what we call untimely death. The true import of it we take to be the separation of all the world calls success or reward from the life that is thus seeking its highest fulfilment. In conformity with the average doctrine of "compensation," Amos Barton should have appeared before us at last installed in a comfortable living, much respected by his flock, and on good terms with his brethren and well-to-do neighbours around. With a truer and deeper wisdom, the author places him before us in that brief after-glimpse still a poor, care-worn, bowed-down man, and the sweet daughter-face by his side shows the premature lines of anxiety and sorrow. Love, anguish, and death, working their true fruits within, bring no success or achievement that the eye can note. By all the principles of "poetic justice," Mr Tryan ought to have recovered and married Janet; under the influence of her larger nature to have shaken off his narrownesses; to have lived down all contempt and opposition, and become the respected influential incumbent of the town; and in due time to have toned down from his "enthusiasm of humanity" into the simply earnest, hard-working, and rather commonplace town rector. Better, because truer, as it is. Only in the earlier dawn of this higher life of the soul, either in the race or in the individual man; only in the days of the Isaacs and Jacobs of our young humanity, though not with the Abrahams, the Moses', or the Joshuas even then; only when the soul first begins to apprehend that its true relation to God is to be realised only through the Cross—is there conscience and habitual "respect unto the recompense" of any reward.

In 'Adam Bede,' the first of George Eliot's more elaborate works, the illustrations of the great moral purpose we have assigned to her are so numerous and varied, that it is not easy to select from among them. On the one hand, Dinah Morris—one of the most exquisitely serene and beautiful creations of fiction—and Seth and Adam Bede present to us, variously modified, the aspect of that life which is aiming toward the highest good. On the other hand, Arthur Donnithorne and Hetty Sorrel—poor little vain and shallow-hearted Hetty—bring before us the meanness, the debasement, and, if unarrested, the spiritual and remediless death inevitably associated with and accruing from that "self- pleasing" which, under one form or other, is the essence of all evil and sin. Of these, Arthur Donnithorne and Adam Bede seem to us the two who are most sharply and subtilely contrasted; and to these we shall confine our remarks.

In Arthur Donnithorne, the slight sketch placed before us in Captain Wybrow is elaborated into minute completeness, and at the same time freed from all that made Wybrow even superficially repellent. Handsome, accomplished, and gentlemanly; loving and lovable; finding his keenest enjoyment in the enjoyment of others; irreproachable in life, and free from everything bearing the semblance of vice,—what more could the most exacting fictionist desire to make up his ideal hero? Yet, without ceasing to be all thus portrayed, he scatters desolation and crime in his path. He does this, not through any revulsion of being in himself, but in virtue of that very principle of action from which his lovableness proceeds. Of duty simply as duty, of right solely as right, his knowledge is yet to come. Essentially, his ideal of life as yet is "self- pleasing." This impels him, constituted as he is, to strive that he shall stand well with all. This almost necessitates that he shall be kindly, genial, loving; enjoying the joy and well-being of all around him, and therefore lovable. But this also assures that his struggle against temptation shall be weak and vacillating; and that when, through his paltering with it, it culminates, he shall at once fall before it. The wood scene with Adam Bede still further illustrates the same characteristics. This man, so genial and kindly, rages fiercely in his heart against him whom he has unwittingly wronged. Frank and open, apparently the very soul of honour, he shuffles and lies like a coward and a knave; and this in no personal fear, but because he shrinks to lose utterly that goodwill and esteem of others,—of Adam in particular, because Adam constrains his own high esteem,—which are to him the reflection of his own self-worship. Repentance comes to him at last, because conscience has never in him been entirely overlaid and crushed. It comes when the whirlwind of anguish has swept over him, scattered all the flimsy mists of self-excuse in which self-love had sought to veil his wrong-doing, and bowed him to the dust; but who shall estimate the remediless and everlasting loss already sustained?

We have spoken of Captain Wybrow as the prototype of Arthur. He is so in respect of both being swayed by that vital sin of self-pleasing to which all wrong-doing ultimately refers itself; but that in Arthur the corruption of life at its source is not complete, is shown throughout the whole story. The very form of action which self-love assumes in him, tells that self though dominant is not yet supreme. It refers itself to others. It absolutely requires human sympathy. So long as the man lives to some extent in the opinion and affections of his brother men,—so long as he is even uncomfortable under the sense of being shut out from these otherwise than as the being so shall affect his own interests,—we may be quite sure he is not wholly lost. The difference between the two men is still more clearly shown when they are brought face to face with the result of their wrong-doing. With each there is sorrow, but in Wybrow, and still more vividly as we shall see in Tito Melema, it is the sorrow of self-worship only. No thought of the wronged one otherwise than as an obstacle and embarrassment, no thought of the wrong simply as a wrong, can touch him. This sorrow is merely remorse, "the sorrow of the world which worketh death." Arthur, too, is suddenly called to confront the misery and ruin he has wrought; but in him, self then loses its ascendancy. There is no attempt to plead that he was the tempted as much as the tempter; and no care now as to what others shall think or say about him. All thought is for the wretched Hetty; and all energy is concentrated on the one present object, of arresting so far as it can be arrested the irremediable loss to her. The wrong stands up before him in its own nakedness as a wrong. This is repentance; and with repentance restoration becomes possible and begins.

Adam Bede contrasts at nearly every point with Arthur Donnithorne. Lovable is nearly the last epithet we think of applying to him. Hard almost to cruelty toward his sinning father; hard almost to contemptuousness toward his fond, foolish mother; bitterly hard toward his young master and friend, on the first suspicion of personal wrong; savagely vindictive, long and fiercely unforgiving, when he knows that wrong accomplished;—these may well seem things irreconcilable with any true fulfilment of that Christian life whose great law is love. Yet, examined more narrowly, they approve themselves as nearly associated with the larger fulness of that life. They are born of the same spirit which said of old, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" fulfilments, howsoever imperfect, of that true and deep "law of resentment" which modern sentimentalism has all but expunged from the Christian code. The hardness is essentially against the wrong-doing, not against the doer of it; and against it rather as it affects others than as it burdens, worries, or overshadows his own life. It subsists in and springs from the intensity with which, in a nature robust and energetic in no ordinary degree, right and wrong have asserted themselves as the realities of existence. Even Seth can be more tolerant than Adam, because the gentle, placid moral beauty of his nature is, so far as this may ever be, the result of temperament; while in Adam whatever has been attained has been won through inward struggle and self-conquest.

In the 'Mill on the Floss,' the moral interest of the whole drama is concentrated to a very great degree on Maggie Tulliver; and in her is also mainly concentrated the representative struggle between good and evil, the spirit of the Cross and that of the world; for Stephen Guest is little more than the objective form under which the latent evil of her own humanity assails her. Her life is the field upon which we see the great conflict waging between the elements of spiritual life and spiritual death; swaying amid heart-struggle and pain, now toward victory, now toward defeat, till at last all seems lost. Then at one rebound the strong brave spirit recovers itself, and takes up the full burden of its cross; sees and accepts the present right though the heart is breaking; and the end is victory crowned and sealed by death.

From her first appearance as a child, those elements of humanity are most prominent in her which, unguided and uncontrolled, are most fraught with danger to the higher life; and for her there is no real outward guidance or control whatever. The passionate craving for human sympathy and love, which meets no fuller response than from the rude instinctive fondness of her father and the carefully-regulated affection of her brother, on the one hand prepares her for the storm of passion, and on the other, chilled and thrown back by neglect and refusal, threatens her with equal danger of hardness and self-inclusion. The strong artist temperament, the power of spontaneous and intense enjoyment in everything fair and glad to eye and ear, repressed by the uncongenial accessories around her, tends to concentrate her existence in a realm of mere imaginative life, where, if it be the only life, the diviner part of our being can find no sustenance. This danger is for her the greater and more insidious, because in her the sensuous, so strongly developed, is refined from all its grossness by the presence of imagination and thought.

When at last, amid the desolation that has come upon her home, and the increasing bareness of all the accessories of her young life, its deeper needs and higher aspirations awaken to definite purpose and seek definite action, the direction they take is toward a hard stern asceticism, cramping up all life and energy within a narrow round of drudgeries and privations. She strives, as many an earnest impassioned nature like hers has done in similar circumstances, to fashion her own cross, and to make it as hard as may be to bear. She would deny to herself the very beauty of earth and sky, the music of birds and rippling waters, and everything sweet and glad, as temptations and snares. From all this she is brought back by Philip. But he, touching as he is in the humility and tender unselfishness of his love, is too exclusively of the artist temperament to give direction or sustainment to the deeper moral requirements of her being. He may win her back to the love of beauty and the sense of joy; but he is not the one to stand by her side when the stern conflict between pleasure and right, sense and soul, the world and God, is being fought out within her.

With her introduction to Stephen Guest, that conflict assumes specific and tangible form; and it has emphatically to be fought out alone. All external circumstances are against her; even Lucy's sweet unjealous temper, and Tom's bitter hatred, combining with Philip's painful self- consciousness to keep the safeguard of his presence less constantly at her side. At last the crowning temptation comes. Without design, by a surprise on the part of both, the step has been taken which may well seem irretraceable. Going back from it is not merely going back from joy and hope, but going back to deeper loneliness than she has ever known; and going back also to misunderstanding, shame, and lifelong repentance. But conscience, the imperative requirements of the higher life within, have resumed their power. There is no paltering with that inward voice; no possibility but the acceptance of the present urgent right,—the instant fleeing from the wrong, though with it is bound up all of enjoyment life can know. It is thus she has to take up her cross, not the less hard to bear that her own hands have so far fashioned it.

One grave criticism on the death-scene has been made, that at first sight seems unanswerable. It is said that no such full, swift recognition between the brother and sister, in those last moments of their long-severed lives, is possible; because there is no true point of contact through which such recognition, on the brother's part, could ensue. We think, however, there is something revealed to us in the brother which brings him nearer to what is noblest and deepest in the sister than at first appears. He also has his ideal of duty and right: it may not be a very broad or high one, but it is there; it is something without and above mere self; and it is resolutely adhered to at whatsoever cost of personal ease or pleasure. That such aim cannot be so followed on without, to some extent, ennobling the whole nature, is shown in his love for Lucy. It has come on him, and grown up with him, unconsciously, when there was no wrong connected with it; but with her engagement to Stephen all this is changed. Hard and stern as he is to others, he is thenceforth the harder and sterner still to self. There is no paltering with temptation, such as brings the sister so near to hopeless fall. Here the cold harsh brother rises to true nobility, and shows that upon him too life has established its higher claim than that of mere self-seeking enjoyment. There is, then, this point of contact between these two, that each has an ideal of duty and light, and to it each is content to sacrifice all things else. Through this, in that death-look, they recognise each other; and the author's motto in its full significance is justified, "In their death they were not divided."

'Silas Marner,' though carefully finished, is of slighter character than any of the author's later works, and does not require lengthened notice. In Godfrey Cass we have again, though largely modified, the type of character in which self is the main object of regard, and in which, therefore, with much that is likeable, and even, for the circumstances in which it has grown up, estimable, there is little depth, truth, or steadfastness. Repentance, and, so far as it is possible, restoration, come to him mainly through the silent ministration of a purer and better nature than his own: but the self-pleasing of the past has brought about that which no repentance can fully reverse or restore. Even on the surface this is shown; for Eppie, unowned and neglected, can never become his daughter. But—far beyond and beneath this—we have here, and elsewhere throughout the author's works, indicated to us one of the most solemn, and, at the same time, most certain truths of our existence: that there are forms of accepted and fostered evil so vital that no repentance can fully blot them out from the present or the future of life. No turning away from the accursed thing, no discipline, no futurity near or far, can ever place Arthur Donnithorne or Godfrey Cass alongside Dinah Morris or Adam Bede. Their irreversible part of self-worship precludes them, by the very laws of our being, from the highest and broadest achievement of life and destiny.

Leaving for the present 'Romola,' as in many respects more directly linking itself with George Eliot's great poetic effort, 'The Spanish Gypsy,' we turn for a little to 'Felix Holt,' the next of her English tales. It would be perhaps natural to select, from among the characters here presented to us, in illustration of life consciously attuning itself to the highest aim irrespective of any end save that aim itself, one or other of the two in whom this is most palpably presented to us—Felix himself or Esther Lyon. We prefer, however, selecting Harold Transome, certainly one of the most difficult and one of the most strikingly wrought out conceptions, not only in the works of George Eliot, but in modern fiction.

Harold, we believe, is not a general favourite with the modern public, any more than he was with his own contemporaries. He has none of those lovablenesses which make Arthur Donnithorne so attractive; and at first sight nothing of that uncompromising sense of right which characterises Adam Bede. He comes before us apparently no more than a clearheaded, hard, shrewd, successful man of the world, greatly alive to his own interests and importance, and with no particular principles to boast of.

How does it come that this man, when over and over again, in great things and in small, two paths lie before him to choose, always chooses the truer and better of the two? When Felix attempts to interfere in the conduct of his election, even while resenting the interference as impertinent, he sets himself honestly to attempt to arrest the wrong. He buys Christian's secret; but it is to reveal it to her whom it enables, if so she shall choose, to dislodge himself from the position which has been the great object of his desires and efforts. By simply allowing the trial and sentence of Felix to take their course, he would, to all appearance, strengthen the possibility that by marriage to Esther his position shall be maintained, with the further joy of having that "white new-winged dove" thenceforth by his side. He comes forward as witness on behalf of Felix, and gives his evidence fairly, truly, and in such guise as makes it tell most favourably for the accused, and at the same time against himself; and, last and most touching of all, it is after he knows the full depth of the humiliation in which his mother's sin has for life involved him, that his first exhibition of tenderness, sympathy, and confidence towards that poor stricken heart and blighted life comes forth. How comes it that this "well-tanned man of the world" thus always chooses the higher and more difficult right; and does this in no excitement or enthusiasm, but coolly, calculatingly, with clear forecasting of all the consequences, and fairly entitled to assume that these shall be to his own peril or detriment?

We cannot assign this seeming anomaly to that undefinable something called the instinct of the gentleman, {29} so specially recognised in the elder and younger Debarry, as a reality and power in life. To say nothing of the fact that this instinct deals primarily with questions of feeling, and only indirectly and incidentally with questions of moral right, Harold Transome, alike congenitally and circumstantially, could scarcely by possibility have been animated by it even in slight degree, nor does it ever betray its presence in him through those slight but graceful courtesies of life which are pre-eminently the sphere of its manifestation. Equally untenable is the hypothesis which ascribes these manifestations of character wholly to the influence of a nature higher than his own appealing to him—that of Felix Holt, the glorious old Dissenter, or Esther Lyon. Such appeals can have any avail only when in the nature appealed to there remains the capability to recognise that right is greater than success or joy, and the moral power of will to act on that recognition. In the fact that Harold's nature does respond to these appeals we have the clue to the apparent anomaly his character presents. We see that, howsoever overlaid by temperament and restrained by circumstance, the noblest capability in man still survives and is active in him. He can choose the right which imperils his own interests, because it is the right; he can set his back on the wrong which would advantage himself, because it is the wrong. That he does this coolly, temperately, without enthusiasm, with full, clear forecasting of all the consequences, is only saying that he is Harold Transome still. That he does so choose when the forecast probabilities are all against those objects which the mere man of the world most desires, proves that under that hard external crust dwells as essential a nobleness as any we recognise in Felix Holt. There is an inherent strength and manliness in Harold Transome to which Arthur Donnithorne or Godfrey Cass can never attain.

Few things in the literary history of the age are more puzzling than the reception given to 'Romola' by a novel-devouring public. That the lovers of mere sensationalism should not have appreciated it, was to be fully expected. But to probably the majority of readers, even of average intelligence and capability, it was, and still is, nothing but a weariness. With the more thoughtful, on the other hand, it took at once its rightful place, not merely as by far the finest and highest of all the author's works, but as perhaps the greatest and most perfect work of fiction of its class ever till then produced.

Of its artistic merits we do not propose to speak in detail. But as a historical reproduction of an epoch and a life peculiarly difficult of reproduction, we do not for a moment hesitate to say that it has no rival, except, perhaps,—and even that at a distance,—Victor Hugo's incomparably greatest work, 'Notre Dame de Paris.' It is not that we see as in a panorama the Florence of the Medicis and Savonarola,—we live, we move, we feel as if actors in it. Its turbulence, its struggles for freedom and independence, its factions with their complicated transitions and changes, its conspiracies and treasons, its classical jealousies and triumphs,—we feel ourselves mixed up with them all. Names historically immortal are made to us familiar presences and voices. Its nobles and its craftsmen alike become to us as friends or foes. Its very buildings—the Duomo and the Campanile, and many another—rise in their stateliness and their grace before those who have never been privileged to see them, clear and vivid as the rude northern houses that daily obtrude on our gaze.

So distinct and all-pervading, in this great work, is what we are maintaining to be the central moral purpose of all the author's works, that it can scarcely escape the notice of the most superficial reader. Affirmatively and negatively, in Romola and Tito—the two forms of illustration to some extent combined in Savonarola—the constant, persistent, unfaltering utterance of the book is, that the only true worth and greatness of humanity lies in its pursuit of the highest truth, purity, and right, irrespective of every issue, and in exclusion of every meaner aim; and that the true debasement and hopeless loss of humanity lies in the path of self-pleasing. The form of this work, the time and country in which the scene is laid, and the selection of one of the three great actors in it, leads the author more definitely than in almost any of those which preceded it to connect her moral lesson, not merely with Christianity as a religious faith, but with that Church which, as called by the name of Christ, howsoever fallen away from its "first love," is still, in the very fact of its existence, a witness for Him. While, on the other hand, through many of its subordinate characters, we have the broad catholic truth kept ever before us, that, irrespective of all formal profession or creed, voluntary acceptance of a higher life-law than the seeking our own interests, pleasure, or will, is, according to its degree, life's best and highest fulfilment; and thus we trace Him who "pleased not Himself" as the life and the light of the world, even when that world may be least formally acknowledging Him.

The three in whom this great lesson is most prominently illustrated in the work before us are, of course, Romola herself, Tito Melema, and Savonarola. And in each the illustration is so modified, and, through the three together, so almost exhaustively accomplished, that some examination of each seems necessary to our main object in this survey of George Eliot's works.

Few, we think, can study the delineation of Romola without feeling that imagination has seldom placed before us a fairer, nobler, and completer female presence. Perfectly human and natural; unexaggerated, we might almost say unidealised, alike in her weaknesses and her nobleness; combining such deep womanly tenderness with such spotless purity; so transparent in her truthfulness; so clear in her perceptions of the true and good, so firm in her aspirations after these; so broad, gentle, and forbearing in her charity, yet so resolute against all that is mean and base;—everything fair, bright, and high in womanhood seems to combine in Romola. So true, also, is the process of her development to what is called nature—to the laws and principles that regulate human action and life—that, as it proceeds before us, we almost lose note that there is development. The fair young heathen first presented to us, linked on to classic times and moralities through all the surroundings of her life, passes on so imperceptibly into the "visible Madonna" of the after-time, that we scarcely observe the change till it is accomplished. From the first, we know that the mature is involved in the young Romola. The reason of this is, that from first to last the essential principle of life is in her the same. Equally, when she first comes before us, and in all the after-glory of her serene unconscious self-devotedness, she is living to others, not to herself.

Her first devotion is to her father. Her one passion of life is to compensate to him all he has lost: the eyes, once so full of fire, now sightless; the son and brother, who, at the call of an enthusiasm with which their nobler natures refuse to sympathise—for it was, in the first instance, but the supposed need to save his own soul—has fled from his nearest duty of life. To this devotion she consecrates her fair young existence. For this she dismisses from it all thought of ease or pleasure, and chooses retirement and isolation; gives herself to uncongenial studies and endless labours, and accepts, in uncomplaining sadness, that which to such a nature is hardest of all to bear—her father's non-appreciation of all she would be and is to him. From the first, her life is one of entire self-consecration. The sphere of its activities expands as years flow on, but the principle is throughout the same. In the exquisite simplicity, purity, and tenderness of her young love, she is Romola still. There is no self-isolation included in it. Side by side with satisfying her own yearning heart, lies the thought that she is thus giving to her father a son to replace him who has forsaken him. Her first perception of the want of perfect oneness between Tito and herself dawns upon her through no change in him towards herself, but through his less sedulous attendance on her father. And when at last the conviction is borne in upon her that between him and her, seemingly so closely united, there lies the gulf that parts truth and falsehood, heaven and hell, it is no perceptible withdrawal of his love from her that forces on her this conviction. It is his falseness and treason to the dead. Then comes the crisis of her career; her flight from the unendurable burden of that divided life; her meeting with Savonarola; and her being through him brought face to face with the Christian aspect of that deepest of all moral truths,—the precedence of duty above all else. Savonarola's demand might well seem to one such as Romola laying on her a burden too heavy to be borne. It was not that it called her to return to hardness and pain; she was going forth unshrinking into the unknown with no certainty but that these would find her there; it called her to return to what, with her high ideal of love and life, could not but seem degradation and sin,—according in the living daily lie that they two, so hopelessly parted, were one. To any lower nature the appeal would have been addressed in vain. It prevails with her because it sets before her but the extension and more perfect fulfilment of the life law toward which she has been always aiming, even through the dim light of her all but heathen nurture.

She goes back to reassume her cross: sadly, weariedly forecasting, as only such a nature can do, all its shame and pain; and even still only dimly assured that her true path lies here. The very nobleness which constrains her return makes that return the harder. The unknown into which she had thought to flee had no possibility of pain or fear for her, compared to the certain pain and difficulty of that life from which all reality of love is gone: where her earnest, truthful spirit must live in daily contact with baseness,—may even have, through virtue of her relation to Tito, tacitly to concur in treason. She goes back to what, constituted as she is, can be only a daily, lifelong crucifying, and she goes back to it knowing that such it must be.

Thenceforth goes on in her that process which, far beyond all reasonings, makes the mystery of sorrow intelligible to us,—the "making perfect through suffering." It is not necessary we should trace the process step by step. It is scarcely possible to do so, for its stages are too subtle to be so traced. We see rather by result than in operation how her path of voluntary self-consecration—of care and thought for all save self—of patient, silent, solitary endurance of her crown of thorns, is brightening more and more toward the perfect day. In the streets of the faction-torn, plague-stricken, famine-wasted city; by the side of the outraged Baldassarre; in the room of the child-mistress Tessa; most of all in that home whence all other brightness has departed,—she moves and stands more and more before us the "visible Madonna."

How sharply the sword has pierced her heart, how sorely the crown of thorns is pressing her fair young brow, we learn in part from her decisive interview with Tessa. She, the high-born lady, spotless in purity, shrinking back from the very shadow of degradation, questions the unconscious instrument of one of her many wrongs with the one anxiety and hope that she may prove to be no true wife after all; that the bond which binds her to living falsehood and baseness may be broken, though its breaking stamp her with outward dishonour and blot. Otherwise there is no obtrusion of her burning pain; no revolt of faith and trust, impeaching God of hardness and wrong toward her; no murmur in His ear, any more than in the ear of man. Meek, patient, steadfast, she devotes herself to every duty and right that life has left to her; and the dark- garmented Piagnone moves about the busy scene a white-robed ministrant of mercy and love. Ever and anon, indeed, the lonely anguish of her heart breaks forth, but in the form of expression it assumes she is emphatically herself. In those frequent touching appeals to Tito, deepening in their sweet earnestness with every failure, we may read the intensity of her ever-present inward pain. In them all the self-seeking of love has no place. The effort is always primarily directed, not toward winning back his love and confidence for herself, but toward winning him back to truth and right and loyalty of soul. Her pure high instinct knows that only so can love return between them—can the shattered bond be again taken up. She seeks to save him—him who will not be saved, who has already vitally placed himself out of the pale of possible salvation.

One of the most touching manifestations in this most touching of all records of feminine nobleness and suffering, is the story of her relations to Tessa. It would seem as if in that large heart jealousy, the reaching self-love of love, could find no place. Her discovery of the relation in which Tessa stands to Tito awakens first that saddest of all sad hopes in one like Romola, that through the contadina she may be released from the marriage-bond that so galls and darkens her life. When that hope is gone, no thought of Tessa as a successful rival presents itself. She thinks of her only as another victim of Tito's wrong-doing—as a weak, simple, helpless child, innocent of all conscious fault, to be shielded and cared for in the hour of need.

At last, after the foulest of Tito's treasons, which purchases safety and advancement for himself by the betrayal and death of her noble old godfather, her last living link to the past, the burden of her life becomes beyond her bearing, and again she attempts to lay it down by fleeing. There is no Savonarola now to meet and turn her back. Savonarola has lost the power, has forfeited the right, to do so. The pupil has outgrown the teacher; her self-renunciation has become simpler, purer, deeper, more entire than his. The last words exchanged between these two bring before us the change that has come over the spiritual relations between them. "The cause of my party," says Savonarola, "is the cause of God's kingdom." "I do not believe it," is the reply of Romola's "passionate repugnance." "God's kingdom is something wider, else let me stand without it with the beings that I love." These words tell us the secret of Savonarola's gathering weakness and of Romola's strength. Self, under the subtle form of identifying truth and right with his own party—with his own personal judgment of the cause and the course of right—has so far led him astray from the straight onward path. Right, in its clear, calm, direct simplicity, has become to her supreme above what is commonly called salvation itself.

It is another agency than Savonarola's now that brings her back once more to take up the full burden of her cross. She goes forth not knowing or heeding whither she goes, "drifting away" unconscious before wind and wave. These bear her into the midst of terror, suffering, and death; and there, in self-devotedness to others, in patient ministrations of love amid poverty, ignorance, and superstition, the noble spirit rights itself once more, the weary fainting heart regains its quiet steadfastness. She knows once more that no amount of wrong-doing can dissolve the bond uniting her to Tito; that no degree of pain may lawfully drive her forth from that sphere of doing and suffering which is hers. She returns, not in joy or hope, but in that which is deeper than all joy and hope—in love; the one thought revealed to us being that it may be her blessedness to stand by him whose baseness drove her away when suffering and loss have come upon him. But Death—the mystery to which we look as the solver of all earthly mysteries—has resolved for her this darkest and saddest perplexity of her life. Tito is gone to his place: and his baseness shall vex her no more with antagonistic duties and a divided life. There is no joy, no expressed sense of relief and release; no reproach of him other than that implied one which springs out of the necessities of her being, the putting away from her, quietly and unobtrusively, the material gains of his treasons. The poor innocent wrong-doer, Tessa, is sought for, rescued, and cared for; and is never allowed to know the foul wrong to her rescuer of which she has been made the unconscious instrument. Even to her the language is that "Naldo will return no more, not because he is cruel, but because he is dead."

One direct trial of her faith and patience remains, through the weakness and apparent apostasy of Savonarola. Has he, through whom first came to her definite guidance amid the dark perplexities of her life, been always untrue? has the light that seemed through him to dawn on her been therefore misleading and perverting? In almost agonised intentness she listens for some word, watches for some sign, which shall tell her it has not been so. She outrages all her womanly sensibilities by being present at the death-scene, in hope that something there, were it but the uplifting of the drooping head to the clear true light of heaven, shall reassure her that the prophet was a true prophet, and his voice to her the voice of God. But she watches in vain. Without word or sign that even her quick sure instinct can interpret, Savonarola passes into "the eternal silence." What measure of overshadowing darkness and sorrow then again fell over her life we are not told: we only know how that life passed from under this cloud also into purer and serener light. This perplexity also solves itself for her in the path of unquestioning acceptance of duty, human service, and human love; and as she treads this path, the mists clear away from around Savonarola too, and she sees him again at last as he really was, in the essential truthfulness, nobleness, and self-devotedness of his life.

Of the after-life little is told us, but little needed to be told. We have followed Romola thus far with dulled intelligence of mind and soul if we cannot picture it clearly and certainly for ourselves. Love that never falters, patience that never questions, meekness that never fails, truth clear and still as the light of heaven, devotedness that knows no thought of self, a life flowing calmly on through whatever of sorrow and disappointment may remain toward the perfect purity and blessedness of heaven. Few, we think, can carefully study the character and development of Romola del Bardo and refuse to endorse the verdict that Imagination has given us no figure more rounded and complete in every grace and glory of feminine loveliness.

The sensational fiction of the day has laboured hard in the production of great criminals; but it has produced no human being so vitally debased, no nature so utterly loathsome, no soul so hopelessly lost, as the handsome, smiling, accomplished, popular, viceless Greek, Tito Melema. Yet is he the very reverse of what is called a monster of iniquity. That which gives its deep and awful power to the picture is its simple, unstrained, unvarnished truthfulness. He knows little of himself who does not recognise as existent within himself, and as always battling for supremacy there, that principle of evil which, accepted by Tito as his life-law, and therefore consummating itself in him, "bringeth forth death;" death the most utter and, so far as it is possible to see, the most hopeless that can engulf the human soul.

The conception of Tito as one great central figure in a work of art would scarcely, we think, have occurred to any one whose moral aim was other than that which it is the endeavour of these remarks to trace out in George Eliot's works. The working out of that conception, as it is here worked out, would, we believe, have been impossible to any one who had less strongly realised wherein all the true nobleness and all the true debasement of humanity lie.

Outwardly, on his first appearance, there is not merely nothing repellent about Tito; in person and manner, in genial kindly temper, in those very forms of intelligence and accomplishment that specially suit the city and the time, there is superficially everything to conciliate and attract. It is almost impossible to define the subtle threads of indication through which, from the first, we are forced to distrust him. Superficially, it might seem at this time as if with Tito the probabilities were equal as regards good and evil; and that with Romola's love thrown into the scale, their preponderance on the side of good were all but irresistible. Yet from the first we feel that it is otherwise—that this light, genial, ease-loving nature has already, by its innate habitude of self-pleasing, foreordained itself to sink down into ever deeper and more utter debasement. With the "slight, almost imperceptible start," at the accidental words which connect the value of his jewels with "a man's ransom," we feel that some baseness is already within himself contemplated. With the transference of their price to the goldsmith's hands, we know that the baseness is in his heart resolved on. When the message through the monk tells him that the ransom may still be available, we never doubt what the decision will be. Present ease and enjoyment, the maintaining and improving the position he has won—in short, the "something that is due to himself," rather than a distant, dangerous, possibly fruitless duty, howsoever clear.

The one purer feeling in that corrupt heart—his love for Romola—is almost from the first tainted by the same selfishness. From the first he recognises that his relation to her will give him a certain position in the city; and he feels that with his ready tact and Greek suppleness this is all that is needed to secure his further advancement. The vital antagonism between his nature and hers bars the possibility of his foreseeing how her truthfulness, nobleness, and purity shall become the thorn in his ease-loving life.

In his earlier relations with Tessa, there is nothing more than seeking a present and passing amusement, and the desire to sun himself in her childish admiration and delight. He is as far as possible from the intentional seducer and betrayer. But his accidental encounters with her, cause him perplexity and annoyance; and at last it seems to him safer for his own position, especially in regard to Romola, that she should be secretly housed as she is, and taught to regard herself as his wife. Soon there comes to be more of ease for him with the bond-submissive child-mistress, than in the presence of the high-souled, pure-hearted wife. In the first and decisive encounter with Baldassarre, the words of repudiation which seal the whole after-character of his life, apparently escape from him unconsciously and by surprise. But it is the traitor-heart that speaks them. They could never even by surprise have escaped the lips, had not the baseness of their denial and desertion been already in the heart consummated.

We need not follow him through all his subsequent and deepening treasons. They all, without exception, want every element that might make even treason impressive. They want even such factitious elevation as their being prompted by hatred or revenge might lend;—even such broader interest as their being done in the interest of a party, or for some wide end, could confer. They have no fuller or deeper import than the present ease, present safety, present or future advantage, of that object which fills up his universe,—Self. He would rather not have betrayed the trust reposed in him by Romola's father, if the end he thereby proposed to himself could have been attained otherwise than through such betrayal. His plot with Dolfo Spini for placing the great Monk-prophet in the hands of his enemies, has no darker motive than the getting out of the way an indirect obstacle to his own advancement, and a man whose labours tend to make life harder and more serious for all who come under his influence. Bernardo del Nero, with his stainless honour, has from the first taken up an attitude of tacit revulsion toward him; but there is no revenge prompting the part he plays towards the noble, true-hearted old man. He would rather that he and his fellow-victims were saved, if his own safety and ultimate gain could be secured otherwise than through their betrayal and death. There is no hardness or cruelty in him, save when its transient displays toward Romola are necessary for furthering some present end: he never indulges in the luxury of unnecessary and unprofitable sins. The sharp, steadfast, unwavering consistency of Tito is even more marked than that of Romola, for twice Romola falters, and turns to flee. The supple, flexible Greek follows out the law he has laid down as the law of his life,—worships the god he has set up as the god of his worship with an inexorable constancy that never for one chance moment falters. That god is self; that law is, in one word, self-pleasing. Long before the end comes, we feel that Tito Melema is a lost soul; that for him and in him there is no place for repentance; that to him we may without any uncharity apply the most fearful words human language has ever embodied;—he has sinned the "sin which cannot be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."

"Justice," says the author, as the dead Tito is borne past still locked in the death-clutch of the human avenger—"justice is like the kingdom of God: it is not without us as a fact; it is within us as a great yearning." In these solemn truthful words we have suggested to us how feebly mere physical death can shadow forth that spiritual corruption, that "second death," which we have seen hour by hour consummating in him who has lived for self alone.

Few of the great figures which stand up amid the dimness of medieval history are more perplexing to historian and biographer than Savonarola. On a first glance we seem shut up to one or other of two alternatives—regarding him as an apostle and martyr, or as a charlatan. And even more careful examination leaves in his character and life anomalies so extraordinary, contradictions so inextricable, that most historians have fallen back on the hypothesis of partial insanity—the insanity born of an honest and upright but extravagant fanaticism—as the only one adequate to explain the mystery. Whether George Eliot has in this work produced a more satisfactory solution, we do not attempt formally to determine. We are sure, however, that every thoughtful reader will recognise that the solution she offers is one in strict and deep consistency with all the laws of human action, and all the tendencies of human imperfection; and that the Savonarola she places before us is a being we can understand by sympathy—sympathy at once with the greatness of his aims, and still more fully with the weaknesses that lead him astray.

The picture is a very impressive one, alike in its grandeur and in its sadness, speaking its true, deep, universal lesson home to us and to our life: alike when it shows us the strength and nobleness of life attuning itself to the highest good, and battling on toward the highest right; and when it shows us how self, under a form which does not seem self, may steal in to sap its strength and to abase its nobleness.

The great Monk-prophet comes upon the scene a new "voice crying in the wilderness" of selfishness and wrong around him—an impassioned witness that "there is a God that judgeth in the earth," protesting by speech and by life against the self-seeking and self-pleasing he sees on every side. To the putting down of this, to the living his own life, to the rousing all men to live theirs, not to pleasure, but to God; merging all private interests in the public good, and that the best good; looking each one not to his own pleasures, ambition, or ease, but to that which shall best advance a reign of truth, justice, and love on earth,—to this end he has consecrated himself and all his powers. The path thus chosen is for himself a hard one; circumstanced as our humanity is, it never has been otherwise—never shall be so while these heavens and this earth remain. Mere personal self-denials, mere turning away from the outward pomps and vanities of the world, lie very lightly on a nature like Savonarola's, and such things scarcely enter into the pain and hardness of his chosen lot. It is the opposition,—active, in the intrigues and machinations of enemies both in Church and State—passive, in the dull cold hearts that respond so feebly and fitfully to his appeals; it is the constant wearing bitterness of hope deferred, the frequent still sterner bitterness of direct disappointment,—it is things like these that make his cross so heavy to bear. But they cannot turn him aside from his course—cannot win him to lower his aim to something short of the highest good conceivable by him. We may smile now in our days of so-called enlightenment at some of the measures he directs in pursuance of his great aim. His "Pyramid of Vanities" may be to our self-satisfied complacency itself a vanity. To him it represents a stern reality of reformation in character and life; and to the Florentine of his age it symbolises one form of vain self-pleasing offered up in solemn willing sacrifice to God.

One trial of his faith and steadfastness, long expected, comes on him at last. The recognised head of that great organisation of which he is a vowed and consecrated member declares against him, and the papal sentence of excommunication goes forth. We, looking as we deem on the Papacy trembling to its fall, can very imperfectly enter into the awful gravity of this struggle. To us, the prohibition of an Alexander Borgia may seem of small account, and his anathema of small weight in the councils of the universe. But it was otherwise with Savonarola: the Monk-apostle, trained and vowed to unqualified obedience, has thus forced on him the most difficult problem of his time. This to him more than earthly authority, the visible embodiment of the Divine on earth, the direct and only representative of the one authority of God in Christ, has declared his course to be a course of error and sin. Shall he accept or reject the decision? To reject, is to break with the supposed tradition of fourteen centuries, and with all his own past training, predilections, and habits of thought; it is to nullify his own voluntary act of the past, accepting implicit obedience, and to go forth on a path which has thenceforth no outward guidance, light, or stay. To accept, is to break with all his own truest and deepest past, to abandon all that for him gives truth and reality to life, and to retire to his cell, and limit his attention thenceforth—if he can—to making the "salvation" of his own soul secure. We may safely esteem that this is the culminating struggle of his life. We may well understand the solemn pause that ensues, the retirement to solitude, there to review the position before the only court of appeal that remains to him,—that inward voice of conscience, that inward sense of right, which is the immediate presence of God within. But we never doubt what the decision will be. "I must obey God rather than man; I cannot recognise that this voice—even of God's vicegerent—is the voice of God. Necessity is laid on me, which I dare not gainsay, to preach this Gospel of God's kingdom, as, even on earth, a kingdom of righteousness, truth, and love."

Such is one phase of the Savonarola here portrayed to us; and herein is placed before us the secret of his greatness and strength. This firm assertion of the highest right his consciousness recognises, amid all difficulty, hardness, and disappointment; this persistent endeavour by precept and example to rouse men to a truer and better life than their own varied self-seekings; this unflinching struggle against everything false, mean, and base,—these things make him a power in the State before which King and Pope are compelled to bow in respect or fear. Over even the larger nature of Romola his words at this time have sway,—the sway which more distinct perception of all the relations of duty gives over a spirit equally earnest to seek the right alone.

In time there comes a change, almost imperceptibly, working from within outwards, first clearly announced through the changed relations of others to him, though these are but symptomatic of change within himself. The political strength of his sway is broken, its moral strength is all but gone. The nature of the change in himself he unwittingly defines in those last words to Romola already quoted, "The cause of my party is the cause of God's kingdom." Various external circumstances have contributed to bring about the result thus indicated; but on these it is unnecessary to dwell. God's kingdom has lowered and narrowed itself into his party. The spirit of the partisan has begun to overshadow the purity of the patriot, to contract and abase the wide aim of the Christian; and he has come to substitute a law of right modified to suit the interests of the party, for that law which is absolute and unconditional. He whom we listened to in the Duomo as the fervid proclaimer of God's justice, stands now before us as the perverter of even human justice and human law. The very nobleness of Bernardo del Nero strengthens the necessity that he should die, that the Mediceans may be thus deprived of the support of his stainless honour and high repute; though to compass this death the law of mercy which Savonarola himself has instituted must be put aside. As we listen to the miserable sophistries by which he strives to justify himself—far less to Romola than before his own accusing soul—we feel that the greatness of his strength has departed from him. All thenceforth is deepening confusion without and within. Less and less can he control the violences of his party, till these provoke all but universal revolt, and the "Masque of the Furies" ends his public career. The uncertainties and vacillations of the "Trial by Fire," the long series of confessions and retractations, historically true, are still more morally and spiritually significant. They tell of inward confusion and perplexity, generated through that partial "self-pleasing" which, under guise so insidious, had stolen into the inner life; of faith and trust perturbed and obscured thereby; of dark doubts engendered whether God had indeed ever spoken by him. We feel it is meet the great life should close, not as that of the triumphant martyr, but amid the depths of that self-renouncing penitence through which once more the soul resumes its full relation to the divine.

* * * * *

We have now come to the one great poem George Eliot has as yet given to the world, and which we have no hesitation in placing above every poetical or poetico-dramatic work of the day—'The Spanish Gypsy.' Less upon it than upon any of its predecessors can we attempt any general criticism. Our attention must be confined mainly to two of the great central figures of the drama—Fedalma herself, and Don Silva; the representatives respectively of humanity accepting the highest, noblest, most self-devoting life presented to it, simultaneously with life's deepest pain; and of humanity choosing something—in itself pure and noble, but—short of the highest.

Fedalma is essentially a poetic Romola, but Romola so modified by circumstances and temperament as to be superficially contrasting. She is the Romola of a different race and clime, a different nurture, and an era which, chronologically nearly the same, is in reality far removed. For the warm and swift Italian we have the yet warmer and swifter Gypsy blood; for the long line of noble ancestry, descent from an outcast and degraded race; for the nurture amid the environments, almost in the creed of classicism, the upbringing under noble female charge in a household of that land where the Roman Church had just sealed its full supremacy by the establishment of the Inquisition; for the era when Italian subtleties of thought, policy, and action had attained their highest elaboration, the grander and simpler time when

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

But howsoever modified through these and other accessories of existence are the more superficial aspects of character, and the whole outward form and course of life, the great vital principle is the same in both;—clearness to see, nobleness to choose, steadfastness to pursue, the highest good that life presents, through whatsoever anguish, darkness, and death of all joy and hope the path may lead.

On Fedalma's first appearance on the wonderful scene upon the Placa, she presents herself as emphatically what her poet-worshipper Juan hymns her, the "child of light"—a creature so tremulously sensitive to all beauty, brightness, and joy, that it seems as if she could not co-exist with darkness and sorrow. But even then we have intimated to us that vital quality in her nature which makes all self-sacrifice possible; and which assures us that, whenever her life-choice shall come to lie between enjoyment and right, she shall choose the higher though the harder path. For her joy is essentially the joy of sympathy; mere self has no place in it. In her exquisite justification of the Placa scene to Don Silva, she herself defines it in one line better than all words of ours can do—

"I was not, but joy was, and love and triumph."

She is but a form and presence in which the joy, not merely of the fair sunset scene, but primarily and emphatically of the human hearts around her, enshrines itself. It has no free life in herself apart from others; it must inevitably die if shut out from this tremulousness of human sympathy. And we know it shall give place to a sorrow correspondingly sensitive, intense, and absorbing, whenever the young bright spirit is brought face to face with human sorrow. Even while we gaze on her as the embodied joy, and love, and triumph of the scene, the shadow begins to fall. The band of Gypsy prisoners passes by, and her eyes meet those eyes whose gaze, not to be so read by any nature lower and more superficial than hers—

"Seemed to say he bore The pain of those who never could be saved."

Joy collapses at once within her; the light fades away from the scene; the very sunset glory becomes dull and cold. We are shown from the first that no life can satisfy this "child of light" which shall not be a life in the fullest and deepest unison to which circumstances shall call her with the life of humanity. That true greatness of our humanity is already active within her, which makes it impossible she should live or die to herself alone. Her destiny is already marked out by a force of which circumstance may determine the special manifestation, but which no force of circumstance can turn aside from its course; the force of a living spiritual power within herself which constrains that she shall be faithful to the highest good which life shall place before her.

We would fain linger for a little over the scenes which follow between her and Don Silva; portraying as they do a love so intense in its virgin tenderness, and so spiritually pure and high. It is the same "child of light" that comes before us here; the same tremulous living in the light and joy of her love, but also the same impossibility of living even in its light and joy apart from those of her beloved. And not from his only: that passion which in more ordinary natures so almost inevitably contracts the sphere of the sympathies, in Fedalma expands and enlarges it. Amid all the intoxicating sweetness of her bright young joys, the loving heart turns again and again to the thought of human sorrow and wrong; and among all the hopes that gladden her future, one is never absent from her thoughts—"Oh! I shall have much power as well as joy;" power to redress the wrong and to assuage the suffering. Half playfully, half seriously, she asks the question—

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

Most seriously and solemnly is the question answered through her after- life. To love less wholly, purely, unselfishly—yet still holding the outward claims of that love subordinate to a possible still higher and more imperative claim—to such a nature as hers is no love and no true good at all. And this thirst for the highest alike in love and life includes her lover as well as herself. The darkest terror that overtakes her in all those after-scenes comes when he is about to abjure country, honour, and God on her account. To her, the Gypsy, without a country, without a faith save faithfulness to the highest right, without a God such as the Spaniards' God, this might be a small thing. But for him, Spanish noble and Christian knight, she knows it to be abnegation of nobleness, treason to duty, dishonour and shame. She is jealous for his truth, but the more that its breach might seem to secure her own happiness.

The first and decisive scene with her Gypsy father is so true in conception, and so full of poetic force and grandeur throughout, that no analysis, nothing short of extracting the whole, can do justice to it. Seldom before has art in any guise placed the grand, heroic, self-devoting purpose of a grand, heroic, self-devoting nature more impressively before us than in the Gypsy chief. It is easy to think and speak of such an enterprise as Quixotic and impossible. There is a stage in every great enterprise humanity has ever undertaken when it might be so characterised: and the greatest of all enterprises, when an obscure Jew stood forth to become light and life, not to a tribe or a race, but to humanity, was to the judgers according to appearance of His day, the most Quixotic and impossible of all.

It has been felt and urged as an objection to this scene, and consequently to the whole scheme of the drama, that such influence, so immediately exerted over Fedalma by a father whom till then she had never known, is unnatural if not impossible. If it were only as father and daughter they thus stand face to face, there might be force in the objection. But this very partially and inadequately expresses the relation between these two. It is the father possessed with a lofty, self-devoting purpose, who calls to share in, and to aid it, the daughter whose nature is strung to the same lofty, self-devoting pitch. It is the saviour of an oppressed, degraded, outcast race, who calls to share his mission her who could feel the brightness of her joy of love brightened still more by the hope of assuaging sorrow and redressing evil. It is the appeal through the father of that which is highest and noblest in humanity to that which is most deeply inwrought into the daughter's soul. To a narrower and meaner nature the appeal would have been addressed by any father in vain: for a narrower and meaner end, the appeal even by such a father would have been addressed to Fedalma in vain. With her it cannot but prevail, unless she is content to forego—not merely her father's love and trust, but—her own deepest and truest life.

The "child of light," the embodied "joy and love and triumph" of the Placa, is called on to forego all outward and possible hope on behalf of that love which is for her the concentration of all light and joy and triumph. Very touching are those heart-wrung pleadings by which she strives to avert the sacrifice; and we are oppressed almost as by the presence of the calm, loveless, hateless Fate of the old Greek tragedy, as Zarca's inexorable logic puts them one by one aside, and leaves her as sole alternatives the offering up every hope, every present and possible joy of the love which is entwined with her life, or the turning away from that highest course to which he calls her. As her own young hopes die out under the pressure of that deepest energy of her nature to which he appeals, it can hardly be but that all hope should grow dull and cold within—hope even with regard to the issue of that mission to which she is called; and it is thus that she accepts the call:—

"Yes, say that we shall fail. I will not count On aught but being faithful. . . . I will seek nothing but to shun base joy. The saints were cowards who stood by to see Christ crucified. They should have thrown themselves Upon the Roman spears, and died in vain. The grandest death, to die in vain, for love Greater than rules the courses of the world. Such death shall be my bridegroom. . . . Oh love! you were my crown. No other crown Is aught but thorns on this poor woman's brow."

In this spirit she goes forth to meet her doom, faithfulness thenceforth the one aim and struggle of her life—faithfulness to be maintained under the pressure of such anguish of blighted love and stricken hope as only natures so pure, tender, and deep can know—faithfulness clung to with but the calmer steadfastness when the last glimmer of mere hope is gone.

The successive scenes in the Gypsy camp with Juan, with her father, and with the Gypsy girl Hinda, bring before us at once the intensity of her suffering and the depth of her steadfastness. Trembling beneath the burden laid upon her,—laid on her by no will of another, but by the earnestness of her own humanity,—we see her seeking through Juan whatever of possible comfort can come through tidings of him she has left; in the strong and noble nature of her father, the consolation of at least hoping that her sacrifice shall not be all in vain; and in Hinda's untutored, instinctive faithfulness to her name and race, support to her own resolve. But no pressure of her suffering, no despondency as to the result of all, no thought of the lonely life before her, filled evermore with those yearnings toward the past and the vanished, can turn her back from her chosen path.

"Father, my soul is weak, . . . . . . . . But if I cannot plant resolve on hope, It will stand firm on certainty of woe. . . . Hopes have precarious life; But faithfulness can feed on suffering, And knows no disappointment. Trust in me. If it were needed, this poor trembling hand Should grasp the torch—strive not to let it fall, Though it were burning down close to my flesh. No beacon lighted yet. I still should hear Through the damp dark the cry of gasping swimmers. Father, I will be true."

The scenes which follow, first with her lover, then with her lover and her father together, present the culmination at once of her trial and of her steadfastness. Hitherto she has made her choice, as it were, in the bodily absence of that love, the abnegation of whose every hope gives its sharpness to her crown of thorns. Now the light and the darkness, the joy and the sorrow, the love whose earthly life she is slaying, and the life of lonely, ceaseless, lingering pain before her, stand, as it were, visibly and tangibly side by side. On the one hand her father, with his noble presence, his calm unquestioning self-devotion, his fervid eloquence, and his withering scorn of everything false and base, represents that deepest in humanity—and in her—which impels to seek and to cling to the highest good. On the other her lover, associated with all the deeply-cherished life, joy, and hope of her past, pleads with his earnest, impassioned, almost despairing eloquence, for her return to happiness. More nobly beautiful by far in her sad steadfastness than when she glowed before us as the "child of light" upon the Placa,—

"Her choice was made. . . . . . . . Slowly she moved to choose sublimer pain, Yearning, yet shrinking: . . . . . . firm to slay her joy, That cut her heart with smiles beneath the knife, Like a sweet babe foredoomed by prophecy."

To all the despairing pleadings and appeals of her lover she has but one answer:—

"You must forgive Fedalma all her debt. She is quite beggared. If she gave herself, 'Twould be a self corrupt with stifled thoughts Of a forsaken better. . . . Oh, all my bliss was in our love, but now I may not taste it; some deep energy Compels me to choose hunger."

What that energy is, we surely do not need to ask. It is that deep principle of all true life which represents the affinity—latent, oppressed by circumstances, repressed by sin, but always there—between our human nature and the Divine, and through subjection to which we reassume our birthright as "the sons of God"; conscience to see and will to choose—not what shall please ourselves, but—the highest and purest aim that life presents to us.

It is the same "deep energy," the same inexorable necessity of her nature, that she should put away from her all beneath the best and purest, which originates the sudden terror that smiles upon her when Don Silva, for her sake, breaks loose from country and faith, from honour and God. There is no triumph in the greatness of the love thus displayed; no rejoicing in prospect of the outward fulfilment of the love thus made possible; no room for any emotion but the dark chill foreboding of a separation thus begun, wider than all distance, and more profound and hopeless than death. The separation of aims no longer single, of souls no longer one; of his life falling, though for her sake, from its best and highest, and therefore ceasing, inevitably and hopelessly, fully to respond to hers.

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