Some Words (of Non-Fiction) from George Eliot

In 1856, Mary Anne Evans, better known by her pen name George Eliot, wrote an essay titled “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists”. No, she was not referring to Chick Lit. In the essay she elaborates different types of silly novels. I’ll let you read the essay for yourself, but will include the following quote.
“But it is precisely this absence of rigid requirement which constitutes the fatal seduction of novel-writing to incompetent women. Ladies are not wont to be very grossly deceived as to their power of playing on the piano; here certain positive difficulties of execution have to be conquered, and incompetence inevitably breaks down. Every art which has its absolute technique is, to a certain extent, guarded from the intrusions of mere left-handed imbecility. But in novel-writing there are no barriers for incapacity to stumble against, no external criteria to prevent a writer from mistaking foolish facility for mastery.”

 I’m sure she could just as easily have written an essay called “Silly Novels by Gentleman Novelists” at the time. Perhaps this calls for another quote from George Eliot.

    “I’m not denying the women are foolish: God almighty made ’em to match the men.”

George Eliot’s novels are still widely read because, among other things, of her formidable intelligence, courage, and insight into people. She brought a psychological realism to her novels that previously was not there. Virginia Woolf characterized “Middlemarch” as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”. Eliot was quite a subversive for her time, living with George Lewes quite happily for 24 years without the benefit of marriage. She dealt with uncomfortable subjects in her novels such as British anti-semitism. Aristocrats were at least as likely to be the villains in her novels as common people. She was not buried in Westminster Abbey because of her denial of the Christian faith and her ‘irregular’ relationship with Lewes.
I recently read the George Eliot quotes at, and found many of them that I liked a lot. The following are my favorites.

    “Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face.”

    “I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.”

    “Perhaps the most delightful friendships are those in which there is much agreement, much disputation, and yet more personal liking”

    “Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside of itself; it only requires opportunity”

    “Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.”

    “Falsehood is easy, truth so difficult.”

    “Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down”

    “Any coward can fight a battle when he’s sure of winning, but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he’s sure of losing. That’s my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat.” Amen!

    “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

    “If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.”

    “It is never too late to become what you might have been.”

OK, enough already.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kelly S on May 12, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    Love the quotes. So true…


  2. Hi Kelly,
    Thank you, happy you appreciated them.


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