Upon her return, she settled in London as assistant editor of the Westminster Review. By this time she had become familiar with five languages, had translated abstruse metaphysical books from the German into English, and had so thoroughly equipped her naturally strong intellect that she was sought after in London by such men as Herbert Spencer and George Henry Lewes. A deep attachment sprang up between Mr. Lewes and Miss Evans, and they formed an alliance that lasted until his death.
George Eliot’s early literary labors were mainly critical and scientific, being governed by the circle in which she moved. When she came under the influence of Mr. Lewes, she was induced to attempt creative work. Her novels, published under the pen name of George Eliot, quickly became popular. Despite this success, it is doubtful whether she would have possessed sufficient self-reliance to continue her work without Mr. Lewes’s encouragement and protecting love, which shielded her from contact with publishers and from a knowledge of harsh criticisms.
Their companionship was so congenial that her friends were astonished when she formed another attachment after his death in 1878, and married Mr. Cross. Her husband said that her affectionate nature required some deep love to which to cling. She had never been very robust, and, during her later years, she was extremely frail. She died in 1880.
[Illustration: GEORGE ELIOT’S BIRTHPLACE.]
Works.—George Eliot was fast approaching forty when she found the branch of literature in which she was to achieve fame. Her first volume of stories, Scenes of Clerical Life (1858), showed decisively that she was master of fiction writing. Three novels followed rapidly, Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861). Her mind was stored with memories of the Midland counties, where her young life was spent; and these four books present with a powerful realism this rich rural district and its quaint inhabitants, who seem flushed with the warmth of real life.
Adam Bede is the freshest, healthiest, and most delightful of her books. This story leaves upon the memory a charming picture of peace and contentment, with its clearly drawn and interesting characters, its ideal dairy, the fertile stretches of meadow lands, the squire’s birthday party, the harvest supper, and the sweet Methodist woman preaching on the green.
The Mill on the Floss also gives a fine picture of village life. This novel is one of George Eliot’s most earnest productions. She exhibits one side of her own intense, brooding girlhood, in the passionate heroine, Maggie Tulliver. There is in this tragic story a wonderfully subtle revelation of a young nature, which is morbid, ambitious, quick of intellect, and strong of will, and which has no hand firm enough to serve as guide at the critical period of her life.