George Eliot

English novelist, essayist, poet and journalist (1819–1880)
(Redirected from George Eliott)

George Eliot (born Mary Ann Evans; 22 November 181922 December 1880) was an English novelist and poet. Despite the strong social customs of her times against such arrangements, she lived unmarried with fellow writer George Henry Lewes‎‎ for over 20 years.

The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Quotes edit

My own experience and development deepen everyday my conviction that our moral progress may be measured by the degree in which we sympathize with individual suffering and individual joy.
  • My own experience and development deepen everyday my conviction that our moral progress may be measured by the degree in which we sympathize with individual suffering and individual joy.
    • Letter to Charles Bray (15 November 1857)
We have all a chance of meeting with some pity, some tenderness, some charity, when we are dead: it is the living only who cannot be forgiven — the living only from whom men's indulgence and reverence are held off...
  • If art does not enlarge men's sympathies, it does nothing morally.
    • Letter to Charles Bray (5 July 1859)
  • I wish to use my last hours of ease and strength in telling the strange story of my experience. I have never fully unbosomed myself to any human being; I have never been encouraged to trust much in the sympathy of my fellow-men. But we have all a chance of meeting with some pity, some tenderness, some charity, when we are dead: it is the living only who cannot be forgiven — the living only from whom men's indulgence and reverence are held off, like the rain by the hard east wind. While the heart beats, bruise it — it is your only opportunity; while the eye can still turn towards you with moist, timid entreaty, freeze it with an icy unanswering gaze; while the ear, that delicate messenger to the inmost sanctuary of the soul, can still take in the tones of kindness, put it off with hard civility, or sneering compliment, or envious affectation of indifference; while the creative brain can still throb with the sense of injustice, with the yearning for brotherly recognition — make haste — oppress it with your ill-considered judgements, your trivial comparisons, your careless misrepresentations. The heart will by and by be still — "ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit" the eye will cease to entreat; the ear will be deaf; the brain will have ceased from all wants as well as from all work. Then your charitable speeches may find vent; then you may remember and pity the toil and the struggle and the failure; then you may give due honour to the work achieved; then you may find extenuation for errors, and may consent to bury them.
The realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of light and speech, and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.
  • I'm proof against that word failure. I've seen behind it. The only failure a man ought to fear is failure of cleaving to the purpose he sees to be best.
  • An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.
    • Felix Holt, the Radical (1866)
The darkest night that ever fell upon the earth never hid the light, never put out the stars. It only made the stars more keenly, kindly glancing, as if in protest against the darkness.
  • 'Tis God gives skill,
    But not without men's hands
    : He could not make
    Antonio Stradivari's violins
    Without Antonio.
    • Stradivarius (c. 1868)
  • Apropos of the "The Lifted Veil," I think it will not be judicious to reprint it at present. I care for the idea which it embodies, and which justifies its painfulness. A motto which I wrote on it yesterday perhaps is a sufficient indication of that idea: —
"Give me no light, great heaven, but such as turns
To energy of human fellowship;
No powers save the growing heritage
That makes complete manhood.
But it will be well to put the story in harness with some other productions of mine, and not send it forth in its dismal loneliness. There are many things in it which I would willingly say over again, and I shall never put them in any other form. But we must wait a little. The question is not in the least one of money, but of care for the best effect of writing, which often depends on circumstances, much as pictures depend on light and juxtaposition.
  • Comments on The Lifted Veil with a motto for it used in the "Cabinet Edition" of her works (1878), in a letter to John Blackwood (28 February 1873), published in George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals (1885), Vol. 4
  • I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. I am not sure that you are of the same kind. But the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of light and speech, and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.
  • The darkest night that ever fell upon the earth never hid the light, never put out the stars. It only made the stars more keenly, kindly glancing, as if in protest against the darkness.
    • As quoted in Golden Gleams of Thought from the Words of Leading Orators, Divines, Philosophers, Statesmen and Poets (1881) by S. Pollock Linn; also in Still Waters (1913)
  • The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 563
  • Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.
    • As quoted in The New Dictionary of Thoughts : A Cyclopedia of Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, both Ancient and Modern (1960) compiled by Tryon Edwards, C. N. Catrevas, Jonathan Edwards, and Ralph Emerson Browns.
  • The difficulty is, to decide how far resolution should set in the direction of activity rather than in the acceptance of a more negative state.
    • Journal entry, December 31, 1877

Scenes of Clerical Life (1858) edit

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.
The blessed work of helping the world forward, happily does not wait to be done by perfect men.
This volume contains three stories: "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton", "Mr Gilfil's Love Story" and "Janet's Repentance". The full text is available from Project Gutenberg.
  • Nice distinctions are troublesome. It is so much easier to say that a thing is black, than to discriminate the particular shade of brown, blue, or green, to which it really belongs. It is so much easier to make up your mind that your neighbour is good for nothing, than to enter into all the circumstances that would oblige you to modify that opinion.
    • "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton" Ch. 4
  • Every man who is not a monster, a mathematician, or a mad philosopher, is the slave of some woman or other.
    • "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton" Ch. 4
  • [Most people] are neither extraordinarily silly, nor extraordinarily wicked, nor extraordinarily wise; their eyes are neither deep and liquid with sentiment, nor sparkling with suppressed witticisms; they have probably had no hairbreadth escapes or thrilling adventures; their brains are certainly not pregnant with genius, and their passions have not manifested themselves at all after the fashion of a volcano. ... Depend upon it, you would gain unspeakably if you would learn with me to see some of the poetry and the pathos, the tragedy and the comedy, lying in the experience of a human soul that looks out through dull grey eyes, and that speaks in a voice of quite ordinary tones.
    • "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton" Ch. 5
  • 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.
  • Opposition may become sweet to a man when he has christened it persecution.
    • Janet's Repentance, Ch. 8
  • The blessed work of helping the world forward, happily does not wait to be done by perfect men.
    • "Janet's Repentance" Ch. 10 in Scenes of Clerical Life (1858); this has appeared in paraphrased form as: "The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men."
  • Worldly faces, never look so worldly as at a funeral.
    • "Janet's Repentance" Ch. 25
  • Who can prove
    Wit to be witty when with deeper ground
    Dulness intuitive declares wit dull?
    • A College Breakfast-party, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

Adam Bede (1859) edit

Full text online
  • Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.
  • It's but little good you'll do a-watering the last year's crop.
  • Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state.
  • We hand folks over to God's mercy, and show none ourselves.
  • Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds, and until we know what has been or will be the peculiar combination of outward with inward facts, which constitutes a man’s critical actions, it will be better not to think ourselves wise about his character. There is a terrible coercion in our deeds, which may first turn the honest man into a deceiver and then reconcile him to the change, for this reason — that the second wrong presents itself to him in the guise of the only practicable right. The action which before commission has been seen with that blended common sense and fresh untarnished feeling which is the healthy eye of the soul, is looked at afterwards with the lens of apologetic ingenuity, through which all things that men call beautiful and ugly are seen to be made up of textures very much alike. Europe adjusts itself to a fait accompli, and so does an individual character — until the placid adjustment is disturbed by a convulsive retribution.
  • Consequences are unpitying. Our deeds carry their terrible consequences, quite apart from any fluctuations that went before — consequences that are hardly ever confined to ourselves.
  • Family likeness has often a deep sadness in it. Nature, that great tragic dramatist, knits us together by bone and muscle, and divides us by the subtler web of our brains; blends yearning and repulsion; and ties us by our heart-strings to the beings that jar us at every movement.
  • Imagination is a licensed trespasser: it has no fear of dogs, but may climb over walls and peep in at windows with impunity.
  • The natur o' things doesn't change, though it seems as if one's own life was nothing but change. The square o' four is sixteen, and you must lengthen your lever in proportion to your weight, is as true when a man's miserable as when he's happy; and the best o' working is, it gives you a grip hold o' things outside your own lot".
  • Love has a way of cheating itself consciously, like a child who plays at solitary hide-and-seek; it is pleased with assurances that it all the while disbelieves.
  • "There's folks as make bad butter and trusten to the salt t' hide it."
    • Mrs Poyser
  • It was a still afternoon — the golden light was lingering languidly among the upper boughs, only glancing down here and there on the purple pathway and its edge of faintly sprinkled moss: an afternoon in which destiny disguises her cold awful face behind a hazy radiant veil, encloses us in warm downy wings, and poisons us with violet-scented breath.
  • Such young unfurrowed souls roll to meet each other like two velvet peaches that touch softly and are at rest; they mingle as easily as two brooklets that ask for nothing but to entwine themselves and ripple with ever-interlacing curves in the leafiest hiding-places.
Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult...
  • Her heart lived in no cherished secrets of its own, but in feelings which it longed to share with all the world.
  • People who love downy peaches are apt not to think of the stone, and sometimes jar their teeth terribly against it.
  • One can say everything best over a meal.
  • "I like breakfast-time better than any other moment in the day," said Mr. Irwine. "No dust has settled on one's mind then, and it presents a clear mirror to the rays of things".
  • These fellow-mortals, every one, must be accepted as they are: you can neither straighten their noses, nor brighten their wit, nor rectify their dispositions; and it is these people — amongst whom your life is passed — that it is needful you should tolerate, pity, and love: it is these more or less ugly, stupid, inconsistent people whose movements of goodness you should be able to admire — for whom you should cherish all possible hopes, all possible patience. And I would not, even if I had the choice, be the clever novelist who could create a world so much better than this, in which we get up in the morning to do our daily work, that you would be likely to turn a harder, colder eye on the dusty streets and the common green fields — on the real breathing men and women, who can be chilled by your indifference or injured by your prejudice; who can be cheered and helped onward by your fellow-feeling, your forbearance, your outspoken, brave justice.
    So I am content to tell my simple story, without trying to make things seem better than they were; dreading nothing, indeed, but falsity, which, in spite of one's best efforts, there is reason to dread. Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult. The pencil is conscious of a delightful facility in drawing a griffin — the longer the claws, and the larger the wings, the better; but that marvellous facility which we mistook for genius is apt to forsake us when we want to draw a real unexaggerated lion. Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings — much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth.
  • Human feeling is like the mighty rivers that bless the earth: it does not wait for beauty — it flows with resistless force and brings beauty with it.
  • All honour and reverence to the divine beauty of form! Let us cultivate it to the utmost in men, women, and children — in our gardens and in our houses. But let us love that other beauty too, which lies in no secret of proportion, but in the secret of deep human sympathy. Paint us an angel, if you can, with a floating violet robe, and a face paled by the celestial light; paint us yet oftener a Madonna, turning her mild face upward and opening her arms to welcome the divine glory; but do not impose on us any aesthetic rules which shall banish from the region of Art those old women scraping carrots with their work-worn hands, those heavy clowns taking holiday in a dingy pot-house, those rounded backs and stupid weather-beaten faces that have bent over the spade and done the rough work of the world — those homes with their tin pans, their brown pitchers, their rough curs, and their clusters of onions. In this world there are so many of these common coarse people, who have no picturesque sentimental wretchedness! It is so needful we should remember their existence, else we may happen to leave them quite out of our religion and philosophy and frame lofty theories which only fit a world of extremes. Therefore, let Art always remind us of them; therefore let us always have men ready to give the loving pains of a life to the faithful representing of commonplace things — men who see beauty in these commonplace things, and delight in showing how kindly the light of heaven falls on them. There are few prophets in the world; few sublimely beautiful women; few heroes. I can't afford to give all my love and reverence to such rarities: I want a great deal of those feelings for my every-day fellow-men, especially for the few in the foreground of the great multitude, whose faces I know, whose hands I touch for whom I have to make way with kindly courtesy.
  • It seems to me now, if I was to find Father at home to-night, I should behave different; but there's no knowing — perhaps nothing 'ud be a lesson to us if it didn't come too late.
  • It was the last weakness he meant to indulge in; and a man never lies with more delicious languor under the influence of a passion than when he has persuaded himself that he shall subdue it to-morrow.
  • There are so many of us, and our lots are so different, what wonder that Nature's mood is often in harsh contrast with the great crisis of our lives? We are children of a large family, and must learn, as such children do, not to expect that our hurts will be made much of — to be content with little nurture and caressing, and help each other the more.
  • There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and to have recovered hope.
  • There's no pleasure i' living if you're to be corked up for ever, and only dribble your mind out by the sly, like a leaky barrel.
  • It is well known to all experienced minds that our firmest convictions are often dependent on subtle impressions for which words are quite too coarse a medium.
  • Men's lives are as thoroughly blended with each other as the air they breathe: evil spreads as necessarily as disease.
  • Doubtless a great anguish may do the work of years, and we may come out from that baptism of fire with a soul full of new awe and new pity.
  • How is it that the poets have said so many fine things about our first love, so few about our later love? Are their first poems their best? Or are not those the best which come from their fuller thought, their larger experience, their deeper-rooted affections?
  • They kissed each other with a deep joy.
    What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life — to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?
  • You told me the truth when you said to me once, "There's a sort of wrong that can never be made up for".
  • Come in, Adam, and rest; it has been a hard day for thee.
  • He was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.
    • Chapter 33. Compare: Edmond Rostand, Chantecler: Hymn to the Sun, Act II, Sc. 3:
      Je recule
      Ébloui de me voir moi même tout vermeil
      Et d’avoir, moi, le coq, fait élever le soleil.

      I fall back
      dazzled at beholding myself all rosy red,
      At having, I myself, caused the sun to rise.
  • Howiver, I'm not denyin' the women are foolish: God Almighty made 'em to match the men.

The Mill on the Floss (1860) edit

It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them...
  • Anger and jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of their objects than love...
    • Book I, ch. x
  • Our life is determined for us — and it makes the mind very free when we give up wishing and only think of bearing what is laid upon us and doing what is given us to do.
    • Book V, ch. i
  • The happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history.
    • Book VI, ch. iii
  • I should like to know what is the proper function of women, if it is not to make reasons for husbands to stay at home, and still stronger reasons for bachelors to go out.
    • Book VI, ch. vi
  • 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.
  • I've never any pity for conceited people, because I think they carry their comfort about with them.
  • Childhood has no forebodings; but then, it is soothed by no memories of outlived sorrow.
  • How lovely the little river is, with its dark changing wavelets! It seems to me like a living companion while I wander along the bank, and listen to its low, placid voice . . .
  • Better spend an extra hundred or two on your son's education, than leave it him in your will.
  • These bitter sorrows of childhood! when sorrow is all new and strange, when hope has not yet got wings to fly beyond the days and weeks, and the space from summer to summer seems measureless.
  • We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it...
  • If a man means to be hard, let him keep in his saddle and speak from that height, above the level of pleading eyes, and with the command of a distant horizon.
  • Ugly and deformed people have great need of unusual virtues, because they are likely to be extremely uncomfortable without them.
  • There was no gleam, no shadow, for the heavens, too, were one still, pale cloud; no sound or motion in anything but the dark river that flowed and moaned like an unresting sorrow.
  • High achievements demand some other unusual qualification besides an unusual desire for high prizes.
  • It is doubtful whether our soldiers would be maintained if there were not pacific people at home who like to fancy themselves soldiers. War, like other dramatic spectacles, might possibly cease for want of a "public."
  • If boys and men are to be welded together in the glow of transient feeling, they must be made of metal that will mix, else they inevitably fall asunder when the heat dies out.
  • If I got places, sir, it was because I made myself fit for 'em. If you want to slip into a round hole, you must make a ball of yourself; that's where it is.
  • It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. How can we ever be satisfied without them until our feelings are deadened?
  • She and Stephen were in that stage of courtship which makes the most exquisite moment of youth, the freshest blossom-time of passion, — when each is sure of the other's love, but no formal declaration has been made, and all is mutual divination, exalting the most trivial word, the lightest gesture, into thrills delicate and delicious as wafted jasmine scent.
  • There is something strangely winning to most women in that offer of the firm arm; the help is not wanted physically at that moment, but the sense of help, the presence of strength that is outside them and yet theirs, meets a continual want of the imagination.
  • Jealousy is never satisfied with anything short of an omniscience that would detect the subtlest fold of the heart.
  • More helpful than all wisdom is one draught of simple human pity that will not forsake us.
  • Nature repairs her ravages, — repairs them with her sunshine, and with human labor. The desolation wrought by that flood had left little visible trace on the face of the earth, five years after. The fifth autumn was rich in golden cornstacks, rising in thick clusters among the distant hedgerows; the wharves and warehouses on the Floss were busy again, with echoes of eager voices, with hopeful lading and unlading.
    And every man and woman mentioned in this history was still living, except those whose end we know.
  • Nature repairs her ravages, but not all. The uptorn trees are not rooted again; the parted hills are left scarred; if there is a new growth, the trees are not the same as the old, and the hills underneath their green vesture bear the marks of the past rending. To the eyes that have dwelt on the past, there is no thorough repair.
  • Renunciation remains sorrow, though a sorrow borne willingly.
  • But then the need of being loved, the strongest need ... in poor Maggie's nature, began to wrestle with her pride and soon threw it.

Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe (1861) edit

Full text online
In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's.
  • He seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection. Every man's work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life.
    • Chapter 2 (at page 16 – Page numbers as per the 1996 Penguin Classics Edition)
  • He hated the thought of the past; there was nothing that called out his love and fellowship toward the strangers he had come amongst; and the future was all dark.
    • Chapter 2 (at page 17)
  • Do we not wile away moments of inanity or fatigued waiting by repeating some trivial movement or sound, until the repetition has bred a want, which is incipient habit?
    • Chapter 2 (at page 19)
  • the rich ate and drank freely, accepting gout and apoplexy as things that ran mysteriously in respectable families . . .
    • Chapter 3 (at page 23)
  • So soon as Squire Cass's standing dishes diminished in plenty and freshness, his guests had nothing to do but to walk a little higher up the village to Mr. Osgood's, at the Orchards, and they found hams and chines uncut, pork-pies with the scent of the fire in them, spun butter in all its freshness — everything, in fact, that appetites at leisure could desire, in perhaps greater perfection, though not in greater abundance, than at Squire Cass's.
    • Chapter 3 (at page 24)
  • That big muscular frame of his held plenty of animal courage, but helped him to no decision when the dangers to be braved were such as could neither be knocked down nor throttled.
    • Chapter 3 (at page 28)
  • The yoke a man creates for himself by wrong-doing will breed hate in the kindliest nature; . . .
    • Chapter 3 (at page 32)
  • The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened, is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent. A man will tell you that he has worked in a mine for forty years unhurt by an accident as a reason why he should apprehend no danger, though the roof is beginning to sink . . .
    • Chapter 5 (at page 41)
  • "[T]here's allays two 'pinions; there's the 'pinion a man has of himsen, and there's the 'pinion other folks have on him. There'd be two 'pinions about a cracked bell, if the bell could hear itself."
    • Chapter 6 (at page 48)
  • Instead of trying to still his fears he encouraged them, with that superstitious impression which clings to us all, that if we expect evil very strongly it is the less likely to come; . . .
    • Chapter 8 (at page 63)
  • [N]o sort of duplicity can long flourish without the help of vocal falsehoods
    • Chapter 9 (at page 71)
  • He fled to his usual refuge, that of hoping for some unforeseen turn of fortune, some favourable chance which would save him from unpleasant consequences – perhaps even justify his insincerity by manifesting prudence.
    In this point of trusting in some throw of fortune's dice, Godfrey can hardly be called old-fashioned. Favourable Chance is the god of all men who follow their own devices instead of obeying a law they believe in. Let even a polished man of these days get into a position he is ashamed to avow, and his mind will be bent on all the possible issues that may deliver him from the calculable results of that position. Let him live outside his income, or shirk the resolute honest work that brings wages, and he will presently find himself dreaming of a possible benefactor, a possible simpleton who may be cajoled into using his interest, a possible state of mind in some possible person not yet forthcoming. Let him neglect the responsibilities of his office, and he will inevitably anchor himself on the chance, that the thing left undone may turn out not to be of the supposed importance. Let him betray his friend's confidence, and he will adore that same cunning complexity called Chance, which gives him the hope that his friend will never know. Let him forsake a decent craft that he may pursue the gentilities of a profession to which nature never called him, and his religion will infallibly be the worship of blessed Chance, which he will believe in as the mighty creator of success. The evil principle deprecated in that religion, is the orderly sequence by which the seed brings forth a crop after its kind.
    • Chapter 9 (at page 73-74)
  • I suppose one reason why we are seldom able to comfort our neighbours with our words is that our goodwill gets adulterated, in spite of ourselves, before it can pass our lips. We can send black puddings and petticoes without giving them a flavour of our own egoism; but language is a stream that is almost sure to smack of a mingled soil. There was a fair proportion of kindness in Raveloe; but it was often of a beery and bungling sort, and took the shape least allied to the complimentary and hypocritical.
    • Chapter 10 (at page 77-78)
  • He had a sense that the old man meant to be good-natured and neighbourly; but the kindness fell on him as sunshine falls on the wretched — he had no heart to taste it, and felt that it was very far off him.
    • Chapter 10 (at page 79)
  • Formerly, his heart had been as a locked casket with its treasure inside; but now the casket was empty, and the lock was broken. Left groping in darkness, with his prop utterly gone, Silas had inevitably a sense, though a dull and half-despairing one, that if any help came to him it must come from without; and there was a slight stirring of expectation at the sight of his fellow-men, a faint consciousness of dependence on their goodwill.
    • Chapter 10 (at page 81)
  • It is seldom that the miserable can help regarding their misery as a wrong inflicted by those who are less miserable.
    • Chapter 12 (at page 107)
  • She was perfectly quiet now, but not asleep — only soothed by sweet porridge and warmth into that wide-gazing calm which makes us older human beings, with our inward turmoil, feel a certain awe in the presence of a little child, such as we feel before some quiet majesty or beauty in the earth or sky — before a steady glowing planet, or a full-flowered eglantine, or the bending trees over a silent pathway.
    • Chapter 13 (at page 118)
  • "Ah," said Dolly, with soothing gravity, "it's like the night and the morning, and the sleeping and the waking, and the rain and the harvest — one goes and the other comes, and we know nothing how nor where. We may strive and scrat and fend, but it's little we can do arter all — the big things come and go wi' no striving o' our'n — they do, that they do; and I think you're in the right on it to keep the little un, Master Marner, seeing as it's been sent to you, though there's folks as thinks different."
    • Chapter 14 (at page 121)
  • In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's.
    • Chapter 14, end of (at page 131)
  • Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand - ...
    • Chapter 18 (at page 163)
  • That quiet mutual gaze of a trusting husband and wife is like the first moment of rest or refuge from a great weariness or a great danger — not to be interfered with by speech or action which would distract the sensations from the fresh enjoyment of repose.
    • Chapter 20 (at page 174)
  • when a man had deserved his good luck, it was the part of his neighbours to wish him joy.
    • Conclusion (at page 183)

Romola (1863) edit

Façade of Santa Croce, one of the Florentine locations used in the historical novel Romola.

First book edition text at Wikisource; chapter numbering differs in later editions.

  • His mind was destitute of that dread which has been erroneously decried as if it were nothing higher than a man's animal care for his own skin: that awe of the Divine Nemesis which was felt by religious pagans, and, though it took a more positive form under Christianity, is still felt by the mass of mankind simply as a vague fear at anything which is called wrong-doing. Such terror of the unseen is so far above mere sensual cowardice that it will annihilate that cowardice: it is the initial recognition of a moral law restraining desire, and checks the hard bold scrutiny of imperfect thought into obligations which can never be proved to have any sanctity in the absence of feeling.
    • Volume I, Chapter XI
  • Our deeds are like children that are born to us; they live and act apart from our own will. Nay, children may be strangled, but deeds never: they have an indestructible life both in and out of our consciousness;
    • Volume I, Chapter XVI
  • Tito was experiencing that inexorable law of human souls, that we prepare ourselves for sudden deeds by the reiterated choice of good or evil that gradually determines character.
    • Volume II, Chapter III
  • Love does not aim simply at the conscious good of the beloved object: it is not satisfied without perfect loyalty of heart; it aims at its own completeness.
    • Volume II, Chapter VIII
  • No radiant angel came across the gloom with a clear message for her. In those times, as now, there were human beings who never saw angels or heard perfectly clear messages. Such truth as came to them was brought confusedly in the voices and deeds of men not at all like the seraphs of unfailing wing and piercing vision—men who believed falsities as well as truths, and did the wrong as well as the right. The helping hands stretched out to them were the hands of men who stumbled and often saw dimly, so that these beings unvisited by angels had no other choice than to grasp that stumbling guidance along the path of reliance and action which is the path of life, or else to pause in loneliness and disbelief, which is no path, but the arrest of inaction and death.
    • Volume II, Chapter XVI
  • But veracity is a plant of paradise, and the seeds have never flourished beyond the walls.
    • Volume II, Chapter XXV
  • An ass may bray a good while before he shakes the stars down.
    • Volume III, Chapter IV
  • Already handbills were in circulation; some presenting, in large print, the alternative of justice on the conspirators or ruin to the Republic; others in equally large print urging the observance of the law and the granting of the Appeal. Round these jutting islets of black capitals there were lakes of smaller characters setting forth arguments less necessary to be read: for it was an opinion entertained at that time (in the first flush of triumph at the discovery of printing), that there was no argument more widely convincing than question-begging phrases in large type.
    • Volume III, Chapter XIII

Felix Holt, the Radical (1866) edit

  • But these things are often unknown to the world; for there is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence. There are glances of hatred that stab and raise no cry of murder; robberies that leave man or woman for ever beggared of peace and joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer – committed to no sound except that of low moans in the night, seen in no writing except that made on the face by the slow months of suppressed anguish and early morning tears. Many an inherited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed in no human ear.
    • Introductory chapter (at page 11-12 – page numbers per the 'Wordsworth Classics' edition 1997.)
  • Truth is the precious harvest of the earth.
    But once, when harvest waved upon a land,
    The noisome cankerworm and caterpillar,
    Locusts, and all the swarming foul-born broods,
    Fastened upon it with swift, greedy jaws,
    And turned the harvest into pestilence,
    Until men said, What profits it to sow?
    • Verse heading up the start of Chapter 11 (at page 111)
  • We mortals sometimes cut a pitiable figure in our attempts at display. We may be sure of our own merits, yet fatally ignorant of the point of view from which we are regarded by our neighbour. Our fine patterns in tattooing may be far from throwing him into a swoon of admiration, though we turn ourselves all round to show them.
    • Chapter 11 (at page 117)
  • [Mr Johnson] "You know what a Tory is – one who wants to drive the working men as he'd drive cattle."
    • Chapter 11 (at page 121)
  • We see human heroism broken into units and say, this unit did little – might as well not have been. But in this way we might break up a great army into units; in this way we might break the sunlight into fragments, and think that this and the other might be cheaply parted with. Let us rather raise a monument to the soldiers whose brave hearts only kept the ranks unbroken and met death – a monument to the faithful who were not famous, and who are precious as the continuity of the sunbeams is precious, though some of them fall unseen and on barrenness.
    • Chapter 16 (at page 158)
  • [Christian] ... he felt very much like an uninitiated chess-player who sees that the pieces are in a peculiar position on the board, and might open the way for him to give checkmate, if he only knew how.
    • Chapter 25 (at page 210)
  • So our lives glide on: the river ends we don't know where, and the sea begins, and then there is no more jumping ashore.
    • Chapter 27 (at page 219)
  • Fancy what a game at chess would be if all the chessmen had passions and intellects, more or less small and cunning; if you were not only uncertain about your adversary's men, but a little uncertain also about your own; if your knight could shuffle himself on to a new square by the sly; if your bishop, in disgust at your castling, could wheedle your pawns out of their places; and if your pawns, hating you because they are pawns, could make away from their appointed posts that you might get checkmate on a sudden. You might be the longest-headed of deducted reasoners, and yet you might be beaten by your own pawns. You would be especially likely to be beaten, if you depended arrogantly on your mathematical imagination, and regarded your passionate pieces with contempt.
    Yet this imaginary chess is easy compared with the game a man has to play against his fellow-men with other fellow-men for his instruments. He thinks himself sagacious, perhaps, because he trusts no bond except that of self-interest; but the only self-interest he can safely rely on is what seems to be such to the mind he would use or govern. Can he ever be sure of knowing this?
    • Start of Chapter 29 (at page 237)

O May I Join the Choir Invisible (1867) edit

O May I Join the Choir Invisible
O may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence...
  • O may I join the choir invisible
    Of those immortal dead who live again
    In minds made better by their presence; live
    In pulses stirred to generosity,
    In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
    For miserable aims that end with self,
    In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
    And with their mild persistence urge men's search
    To vaster issues.
  • This is life to come, —
    Which martyred men have made more glorious
    For us who strive to follow.
    May I reach
    That purest heaven, — be to other souls
    The cup of strength in some great agony,
    Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
    Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
    Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
    And in diffusion ever more intense!
    So shall I join the choir invisible
    Whose music is the gladness of the world.

The Spanish Gypsy (1868) edit

  • Creeds of terror.
    • Book 1
  • A serious ape whom none take seriously,
    Obliged in this fool's world to earn his nuts
    By hard buffoonery.
    • Book 1
  • His smile is sweetened by his gravity.
    • Book 1
  • Certain winds will make men's temper bad.
    • Book 1
  • Sad as a wasted passion.
    • Book 1
  • Knightly love is blent with reverence
    As heavenly air is blent with heavenly blue.
    • Book 1
  • Inclination snatches arguments
    To make indulgence seem judicious choice.
    • Book 1
  • Perhaps the wind
    Wails so in winter for the summers dead,
    And all sad sounds are nature's funeral cries
    For what has been and is not.
    • Book 1

The Legend of Jubal (1869) edit

A poem based on the biblical character Jubal - Full text online
When Cain was driven from Jehovah's land
He wandered eastward, seeking some far strand
Ruled by kind gods who asked no offerings
Save pure field-fruits...
He never had a doubt that such gods were;
He looked within, and saw them mirrored there.
Spirits might be sad
For lack of speech to tell us they are glad.
  • When Cain was driven from Jehovah's land
    He wandered eastward, seeking some far strand
    Ruled by kind gods who asked no offerings
    Save pure field-fruits
    , as aromatic things,
    To feed the subtler sense of frames divine
    That lived on fragrance for their food and [wine]]:
    Wild joyous gods, who winked at faults and folly,
    And could be pitiful and melancholy.
    He never had a doubt that such gods were;
    He looked within, and saw them mirrored there.
  • There comes a night when all too late
    The mind shall long to prompt the achieving hand,
    The eager thought behind closed portals stand,
    And the last wishes to the mute lips press
    Buried ere death in silent helplessness.
  • While the arm is strong to strike and heave,
    Let soul and arm give shape that will abide...
  • Lamech's sons were heroes of their race:
    Jubal, the eldest, bore upon his face
    The look of that calm river-god, the Nile,
    Mildly secure in power that needs not guile.
  • Jubal had a frame
    Fashioned to finer senses, which became
    A yearning for some hidden soul of things
    Some outward touch complete on inner springs
    That vaguely moving bred a lonely pain,
    A want that did but stronger grow with gain
    Of all good else, as spirits might be sad
    For lack of speech to tell us they are glad.
  • Each day he wrought and better than he planned,
    Shape breeding shape beneath his restless hand.
    (The soul without still helps the soul within,
    And its deft magic ends what we begin.)

    Nay, in his dreams his hammer he would wield
    And seem to see a myriad types revealed,
    Then spring with wondering triumphant cry,
    And, lest the inspiring vision should go by,
    Would rush to labor with that plastic zeal
    Which all the passion of our life can steal
    For force to work with. Each day saw the birth
    Of various forms, which, flung upon the earth,
    Seemed harmless toys to cheat the exacting hour,
    But were as seeds instinct with hidden power.
    • On the work of the metal-smith Tubal-Cain
  • Then, as the metal shapes more various grew,
    And, hurled upon each other, resonance drew,
    Each gave new tones, the revelations dim
    Of some external soul that spoke for him
    The hollow vessel's clang, the clash, the boom,
    Like light that makes wide spiritual room
    And skyey spaces in the spaceless thought,
    To Jubal such enlarged passion brought,
    That love, hope, rage, and all experience,
    Were fused in vaster being, fetching thence
    Concords and discords, cadences and cries
    That seemed from some world-shrouded soul-to rise,
    Some rapture more intense, some mightier rage,
    Some living sea that burst the bounds of man's brief age.
The song shall spread and swell as rivers do,
And I will teach our youth with skill to woo
This living lyre, to know its secret will;
Its fine division of the good and ill.
So shall men call me sire of harmony,
And where great Song is, there my life shall be.
  • Jubal sat lonely, all around was dim,
    Yet his face glowed with light revealed to him
  • Such patience have the heroes who begin,
    Sailing the first toward lands which others win.

    Jubal must dare as great beginners dare,
    Strike form's first way in matter rude and bare,
    And, yearning vaguely toward the plenteous choir
    Of the world's harvest, make one poor small lyre.
  • "This wonder which my soul hath found,
    This heart of music in the might of sound,
    Shall forthwith be the share of all our race,
    And like the morning gladden common space:
    The song shall spread and swell as rivers do,
    And I will teach our youth with skill to woo
    This living lyre, to know its secret will;
    Its fine division of the good and ill.
    So shall men call me sire of harmony,
    And where great Song is, there my life shall be.
    Thus glorying as a god beneficent,
    Forth from his solitary joy he went
    To bless mankind.
The heart must break
For lack of voice, or fingers that can wake
The lyre's full answer; nay, its chords were all
Too few to meet the growing spirit's call.
  • 'Twas easy following where invention trod
    — All eyes can see when light flows out from God.

    And thus did Jubal to his race reveal
    Music their larger soul, where woe and weal
    Filling the resonant chords, the song, the dance,
    Moved with a wider-winged utterance.
  • New voices come to me where'er I roam,
    My heart too widens with its widening home:
    But song grows weaker, and the heart must break
    For lack of voice, or fingers that can wake
    The lyre's full answer; nay, its chords were all
    Too few to meet the growing spirit's call.

    The former songs seem little, yet no more
    Can soul, hand, voice, with interchanging lore
    Tell what the earth is saying unto me:
    The secret is too great, I hear confusedly.
  • No farther will I travel: once again
    My brethren I will see, and that fair plain
    Where I and song were born.
    There fresh-voiced youth
    Will pour my strains with all the early truth
    Which now abides not in my voice and hands,
    But only in the soul, the will that stands
    Helpless to move. My tribe remembering Will cry,
    "'Tis he!" and run to greet me, welcoming.
Sudden and near the trumpet's notes out-spread,
And soon his eyes could see the metal flower,
Shining upturned, out on the morning pour
Its incense audible...
  • Sudden and near the trumpet's notes out-spread,
    And soon his eyes could see the metal flower,
    Shining upturned, out on the morning pour
    Its incense audible; could see a train
    From out the street slow-winding on the plain
    With lyres and cymbals, flutes and psalteries,
    While men, youths, maids, in concert sang to these
    With various throat, or in succession poured,
    Or in full volume mingled. But one word
    Ruled each recurrent rise and answering fall,
    As when the multitudes adoring call
    On some great name divine, their common soul,
    The common need, love, joy, that knits them in one whole.
    The word was "Jubal!"... "Jubal" filled the air,
    And seemed to ride aloft, a spirit there,
    Creator of the choir, the full-fraught strain
    That grateful rolled itself to him again.
    The aged man adust upon the bank
    — Whom no eye saw — at first with rapture drank
    The bliss of music, then, with swelling heart,
    Felt, this was his own being's greater part,
    The universal joy once born in him.
  • No eye saw him, while with loving pride
    Each voice with each in praise of Jubal vied.

    Must he in conscious trance, dumb, helpless lie
    While all that ardent kindred passed him by?
    His flesh cried out to live with living men,
    And join that soul which to the inward ken
    Of all the hymning train was present there.
  • He rushed before them to the glittering space,
    And, with a strength that was but strong desire,
    Cried, "I am Jubal, I!.... I made the lyre!"
    The tones amid a lake of silence fell
    Broken and strained, as if a feeble bell
    Had tuneless pealed the triumph of a land
    To listening crowds in expectation spanned.
    Sudden came showers of laughter on that lake;
    They spread along the train from front to wake
    In one great storm of merriment, while he
    Shrank doubting whether he could Jubal be...
The immortal name of Jubal filled the sky,
While Jubal lonely laid him down to die.
  • But ere the laughter died from out the rear,
    Anger in front saw profanation near;
    Jubal was but a name in each man's faith
    For glorious power untouched by that slow death
    Which creeps with creeping time
    ; this too, the spot,
    And this the day, it must be crime to blot,
    Even with scoffing at a madman's lie:
    Jubal was not a name to wed with mockery.
    Two rushed upon him: two, the most devout
    In honor of great Jubal, thrust him out,
    And beat him with their flutes.
    'Twas little need;
    He strove not, cried not, but with tottering speed,
    As if the scorn and howls were driving wind
    That urged his body, serving so the mind
    Which could but shrink and yearn, he sought the screen
    Of thorny thickets, and there fell unseen.
    The immortal name of Jubal filled the sky,
    While Jubal lonely laid him down to die.
  • He said within his soul, "'This is the end:
    O'er all the earth to where the-heavens bend
    And hem men's travel, I have breathed my soul:
    I lie here now the remnant of that whole,
    The embers of a life, a lonely pain;
    As far-off rivers to my thirst were vain,
    So of my mighty years nought comes to me again".
  • I see a face of love,
    Fair as sweet music when my heart was strong:
    Yea — art thou come again to me, great Song?"
    The face bent over him like silver night
    In long-remembered summers; that calm light
    Of days which shine in firmaments of thought,
    That past unchangeable, from change still wrought.
  • "Jubal," the face said, "I am thy loved Past,
    The soul that makes thee one from first to last.
    I am the angel of thy life and death,
    Thy outbreathed being drawing its last breath.
    Am I not thine alone, a dear dead bride
    Who blest thy lot above all men's beside?
  • Wouldst thou have asked aught else from any god
    Whether with gleaming feet on earth he trod
    Or thundered through the skies — aught else for share
    Of mortal good, than in thy soul to bear
    The growth of song, and feel the sweet unrest
    Of the world's spring-tide in thy conscious breast?

    No, thou hadst grasped thy lot with all its pain,
    Nor loosed it any painless lot to gain
    Where music's voice was silent; for thy fate
    Was human music's self incorporate:
    Thy senses' keenness and thy passionate strife
    Were flesh of her flesh and her womb of Life.
  • With thy coming Melody was come.
    This was thy lot, to feel, create, bestow,
    And that immeasurable life to know
    From which the fleshly self falls shrivelled, dead,
    A seed primeval that has forests bred.
  • It is the glory of the heritage
    Thy life has left, that makes thy outcast age:
    Thy limbs shall lie dark, tombless on this sod,
    Because thou shinest in man's soul, a god,
    Who found and gave new passion and new joy
    That nought but Earth's destruction can destroy.
    Thy gifts to give was thine of men alone:
    'Twas but in giving that thou couldst atone
    For too much wealth amid their poverty.

Middlemarch (1871) edit

Full text online
That Spanish woman who lived three hundred years ago, was certainly not the last of her kind...
What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?
  • Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled from rugged Avila, wide-eyed and helpless-looking as two fawns, but with human hearts, already beating to a national idea; until domestic reality met them in the shape of uncles, and turned them back from their great resolve. That child-pilgrimage was a fit beginning. Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self-despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in the reform of a religious order.
    • Prelude
  • That Spanish woman who lived three hundred years ago, was certainly not the last of her kind. Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion.
    • Prelude
  • Some have felt that these blundering lives are due to the inconvenient indefiniteness with which the Supreme Power has fashioned the natures of women: if there were one level of feminine incompetence as strict as the ability to count three and no more, the social lot of women might be treated with scientific certitude. Meanwhile the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation are really much wider than any one would imagine from the sameness of women's coiffure and the favorite love-stories in prose and verse. Here and there a cygnet is reared uneasily among the ducklings in the brown pond, and never finds the living stream in fellowship with its own oary-footed kind. Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart-beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centring in some long-recognizable deed.
    • Prelude
  • Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
    • First lines.
  • She could not reconcile the anxieties of a spiritual life involving eternal consequences, with a keen interest in gimp and artificial protrusions of drapery. Her mind was theoretic, and yearned by its nature after some lofty conception of the world which might frankly include the parish of Tipton and her own rule of conduct there; she was enamoured of intensity and greatness, and rash in embracing whatever seemed to her to have those aspects; likely to seek martyrdom, to make retractations, and then to incur martyrdom after all in a quarter where she had not sought it. Certainly such elements in the character of a marriageable girl tended to interfere with her lot, and hinder it from being decided according to custom, by good looks, vanity, and merely canine affection.
  • Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.
    • Chapter 1 (misprinted as "Some people did" in some editions, such as Penguin Signet Classics).
  • If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new.
  • What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?
  • Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self.
  • People glorify all sorts of bravery except the bravery they might show on behalf of their nearest neighbors.
  • One must be poor to know the luxury of giving!
  • Our vanities differ as our noses do: all conceit is not the same conceit, but varies in correspondence with the minutiae of mental make in which one of us differs from another.
    • Chapter 15
  • It was entirely from worldly vanity that you destined him for the Church: with a family of three sons and four daughters, you were not warranted in devoting money to an expensive education which has succeeded in nothing but in giving him extravagant idle habits. You are now reaping the consequences.’
  • This was not the first time that Mr. Bulstrode had begun by admonishing Mr. Vincy, and had ended by seeing a very unsatisfactory reflection of himself in the coarse unflattering mirror which that manufacturer’s mind presented to the subtler lights and shadows of his fellowmen; and perhaps his experience ought to have warned him how the scene would end. But a full-fed fountain will be generous with its waters even in the rain, when they are worse than useless; and a fine fount of admonition is apt to be equally irrepressible.
  • ‘I suppose a woman is never in love with any one she has always known— ever since she can remember; as a man often is. It is always some new fellow who strikes a girl.’
  • I think any hardship is better than pretending to do what one is paid for, and never really doing it.
  • The world would have a new dreariness for her, as a wilderness that a magician's spells had turned for a little while into a garden.
  • In all failures, the beginning is certainly the half of the whole.
  • There could have been no more complete answer than that silence, and Lydgate, forgetting everything else, completely mastered by the outrush of tenderness at the sudden belief that this sweet young creature depended on him for her joy, actually put his arms round her, folding her gently and protectingly— he was used to being gentle with the weak and suffering—and kissed each of the two large tears. This was a strange way of arriving at an understanding, but it was a short way.
  • Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending. Who can quit young lives after being long in company with them, and not desire to know what befell them in their after-years? For the fragment of a life, however typical, is not the sample of an even web: promises may not be kept, and an ardent outset may be followed by declension; latent powers may find their long-waited opportunity; a past error may urge a grand retrieval.
  • Marriage, which has been the bourne of so many narratives, is still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in Eden, but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic — the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which makes the advancing years a climax, and age the harvest of sweet memories in common.
  • Some set out, like Crusaders of old, with a glorious equipment of hope and enthusiasm and get broken by the way, wanting patience with each other and the world.
  • But what a voice! It was like the voice of a soul that had once lived in an Aeolian harp.
  • When Mrs. Casaubon was announced he started up as from an electric shock, and felt a tingling at his fingerends. Any one observing him would have seen a change in his complexion, in the adjustment of his facial muscles, in the vividness of his glance, which might have made them imagine that every molecule in his body had passed the message of a magic touch. And so it had. For effective magic is transcendent nature; and who shall measure the subtlety of those touches which convey the quality of soul as well as body, and make a man's passion for one woman differ from his passion for another as joy in the morning light over valley and river and white mountain-top differs from joy among Chinese lanterns and glass panels? Will, too, was made of very impressible stuff. The bow of a violin drawn near him cleverly, would at one stroke change the aspect of the world for him, and his point of view shifted— as easily as his mood. Dorothea's entrance was the freshness of morning.
  • It is true that an observer, under that softening influence of the fine arts which makes other people's hardships picturesque, might have been delighted with this homestead called Freeman's End.
  • What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other? I cannot be indifferent to the troubles of a man who advised me in my trouble, and attended me in my illness.
  • There is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it. A new Theresa will hardly have the opportunity of reforming a conventual life, any more than a new Antigone will spend her heroic piety in daring all for the sake of a brother's burial: the medium in which their ardent deeds took shape is forever gone. But we insignificant people with our daily words and acts are preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.
  • But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.
  • Rosamond felt herself beginning to know a great deal of the world, especially in discovering what when she was in her unmarried girlhood had been inconceivable to her except as a dim tragedy in by-gone costumes— that women, even after marriage, might make conquests and enslave men. Still, vanity, with a woman's whole mind and day to work in, can construct abundantly on slight hints, especially on such a hint as the possibility of indefinite conquests. How delightful to make captives from the throne of marriage with a husband as crown-prince by your side—himself in fact a subject— while the captives look up forever hopeless, losing their rest probably, and if their appetite too, so much the better!
  • ‘Why, what can a man do when he takes to adoring one of you mermaids? He only neglects his work and runs up bills.’
  • It is in these acts called trivialities that the seeds of joy are forever wasted, until men and women look round with haggard faces at the devastation their own waste has made, and say, the earth bears no harvest of sweetness—calling their denial knowledge.
  • "An accomplished woman almost always knows more than we men, though her knowledge is of a different sort. I am sure you could teach me a thousand things--as an exquisite bird could teach a bear if there were any common language between them. Happily, there is a common language between women and men, and so the bears can get taught."
  • She nursed him, she read to him, she anticipated his wants, and was solicitous about his feelings; but there had entered into the husband's mind the certainty that she judged him, and that her wifely devotedness was like a penitential expiation of unbelieving thoughts—was accompanied with a power of comparison by which himself and his doings were seen too luminously as a part of things in general. His discontent passed vaporlike through all her gentle loving manifestations, and clung to that unappreciative world which she had only brought nearer to him.
  • But a morbid consciousness that others did not give him the place which he had not demonstrably merited—a perpetual suspicious conjecture that the views entertained of him were not to his advantage— a melancholy absence of passion in his efforts at achievement, and a passionate resistance to the confession that he had achieved nothing.
  • That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.
  • It was a room where you had no reason for sitting in one place rather than in another.
  • Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
    • Last lines
  • For in the mulitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little. The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness; for perhaps their ardor is generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardor of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly. Nothing in the world more subtle than the process of their gradual change! In the beginning they inhaled it unknowingly: you and I may have sent some of our breath towards infecting them, when we uttered our conforming falsities or drew our silly conclusions: or perhaps it came. with the vibrations from a woman's glance.

Daniel Deronda (1876) edit

Full text online
Those who trust us educate us.
  • The best augury of a man's success in his profession is that he thinks it the finest in the world.
  • The beings closest to us, whether in love or hate, are often virtually our interpreters of the world, and some feather-headed gentleman or lady whom in passing we regret to take as legal tender for a human being may be acting as a melancholy theory of life in the minds of those who live with them — like a piece of yellow and wavy glass that distorts form and makes colour an affliction. Their trivial sentences, their petty standards, their low suspicions, their loveless ennui, may be making somebody else's life no better than a promenade through a pantheon of ugly idols.
  • The mother's yearning, that completest type of the life in another life which is the essence of real human love, feels the presence of the cherished child even in the debased, degraded man.
  • A difference of taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections.
  • It is good to be unselfish and generous; but don't carry that too far. It will not do to give yourself to be melted down for the benefit of the tallow-trade; you must know where to find yourself.
    • This has been paraphrased as: "Be courteous, be obliging, but don't give yourself over to be melted down for the benefit of the tallow trade."
  • The miller's daughter of fourteen could not believe that high gentry behaved badly to their wives, but her mother instructed her — "Oh, child, men's men: gentle or simple, they're much of a muchness..."
  • Vanity is as ill at ease under indifference as tenderness is under a love which it cannot return . . .
  • Gossip is a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it: it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker.
  • Ignorance gives one a large range of probabilities.
  • Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts—not to hurt others.
  • You know nothing about Hope, that immortal, delicious maiden forever courted forever propitious, whom fools have called deceitful, as if it were Hope that carried the cup of disappointment, whereas it is her deadly enemy, Certainty, whom she only escapes by transformation.
  • There's no disappointment in memory, and one's exaggerations are always on the good side.
  • A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of earth, for the labours men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakeable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge: a spot where the definiteness of early memories may be inwrought with affection, and kindly acquaintance with all neighbours, even to the dogs and donkeys, may spread not by sentimental effort and reflection, but as a sweet habbit of the blood. At five years old, mortals are not prepared to be citizens of the world, to be stimulated by abstract nouns, to soar above preference into impartiality; and that prejudice in favour of milk with which we blindly begin, is a type of the way body and soul must get nourished at least for a time. The best introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one's own homestead.
  • There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.
    • Book 3, Ch. 24

Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879) edit

  • I began ... to watch with peculiar alarm lest what I called my philosophic estimate of the human lot in general, should be a mere prose lyric expressing my own pain and consequent bad temper.
    • Part 1
  • Examining the world in order to find consolation is very much like looking carefully over the pages of a great book in order to find our own name. ... Whether we find what we want or not, our preoccupation has hindered us from a true knowledge of the contents.
    • Part 1
  • ... that modern sect of Flagellants who make a ritual of lashing — not themselves but — all their neighbours.
    • Part 2

Misattributed edit

Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together…
  • Oh, the comfort —
    the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person —
    having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
    but pouring them all right out,
    just as they are,
    chaff and grain together;
    certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
    keep what is worth keeping,
    and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
    • Thiis was published without credit in The Best Loved Poems of the American People (1936) with the title "Friendship", and since that time has sometimes been misattributed to Eliot; it is actually an adaptation of lines by Dinah Craik, in A Life for a Life (1859):
Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Quotes about Eliot edit

  • Have you read anything beautiful lately? Do make sure somehow to get hold of and read the books by Eliot, you won't be sorry, Adam Bede, Silas Marner, Felix Holt, Romola (Savonarola’s story), Scenes of clerical life. You know we gave the 3 underlined ones to Pa on his birthday last year. When I get the time for reading, I'll read them again.
    • Vincent van Gogh, letter to Theo van Gogh (3 March 1878) The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh
  • What I'm getting at, among other things, is that Eliot is masterly in execution, but above and beyond that is that extra something of singular genius of which I would say: perhaps one improves by reading these books — or, these books have the power to invigorate. I recently re-read Eliot's Felix Holt, The radical. This book has been very well translated into Dutch. I hope you know it — if you don't know it, see if you can't get hold of it somewhere. There are certain ideas about life in it that I find outstanding — profound things said in a plain way — it's a book written with great spirit, and various scenes are described exactly as Frank Holl or someone like him would draw them. It's a similar conception and outlook. There aren't many writers who are as thoroughly sincere and good as Eliot.
    • Vincent van Gogh, letter to Anthon van Rappard (21 March 1883) The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh.
  • She is magnificently ugly — deliciously hideous... in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end as I ended, in falling in love with her.
  • What is remarkable, extraordinary — and the process remains inscrutable and mysterious — is that this quiet, anxious, sedentary, serious, invalidical English lady, without animal spirits, without adventures, without extravagance, assumption, or bravado, should have made us believe that nothing in the world was alien to her; should have produced such rich, deep, masterly pictures of the multifold life of man.
    • Henry James, Atlantic Monthly (May 1885)
  • Perhaps you thought that George Eliot was the author of Middlemarch. No: according to Professor Eagleton, the phrase “George Eliot” signifies nothing more than the insertion of certain specific ideological determinations -- Evangelical Christianity, rural organicism, incipient feminism, petty-bourgeois moralism -- into a hegemonic ideological formation which is partly supported, partly embarrassed by their presence. [...]
    The idea is to downgrade the notion of individual genius, as if George Eliot's personal contribution to the writing of Middlemarch were somehow accidental, the more important thing being the “specific ideological determinations” she embodied. The main point of all this is that nothing is what it seems; or, as Professor Eagleton puts it in Criticism and Ideology, “there is no ‘immanent’ value": everything in the realm of culture is determined by something outside culture–namely (catch that whiff of vulgarity?) the oppressive economic relations of capitalism.
  • You see, it was really George Eliot who started it all... It was she who started putting all the action inside.
    • D.H. Lawrence, quoted in D.H. Lawrence: a personal record Jessie Chambers Wood (1935)
  • Folks will want things intellectually done, so they take refuge in George Eliot. I am very fond of her, but I wish she'd take her specs off, and come down off the public platform.
  • The phrase "double life" used in a book on George Eliot would usually apply to the double identity of Marian Evans (or Lewes) and "George Eliot," as when [Clare] Carlisle talks of Eliot's bringing together "the two parts of herself." She shows us her subject as intensely conscious of her double life as writer and woman, at one time keeping a diary with the front part recording events in the life of Mrs. Lewes and the back pages recording her authorial achievements. In old age Eliot (as Carlisle refers to her as a writer) described her creative life as her "higher life" "that is young and grows, though in my other life I am getting old and decaying."
    But "double life" in this biography has a double meaning. It also refers to her coexistence with Lewes, which George Eliot called "a shared life, a double life," describing their inseparable intimacy as "a sort of Siamese-twin condition" or, more ominously, a "dual egotism." When she adopted her pseudonym in 1857 in order to write fiction without being judged as a woman, she chose her first name not only in tribute to George Sand but as a mark of her connection to George Lewes.
    • Hermione Lee "A Wider Devotion", The New York Review of Books (2 November 2023)
    • The work under review was Clare Carlisle's The Marriage Question: George Eliot’s Double Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Feminist literary critics have shown how in the 19th century women writers began to acknowledge women as their muses and their role models. Thus, George Eliot admired Harriet Beecher Stowe and was decisively influenced in her work by a thorough reading of the works of Jane Austen...The list could be indefinitely extended to show the almost desperate search of writing women for authoritative female predecessors.
  • the rolling English prose of George Eliot
  • Once, when she [Eliot] was asked which real-life person had been the inspiration for Casaubon — a man whose "soul was sensitive without being enthusiastic; it was too languid to thrill out of self-consciousness into passionate delight; it went on fluttering in the swampy ground where it was hatched, thinking of its own winds and never flying" — she tapped her own breast.
    • Rebecca Mead, “Middlemarch and Me,” The New Yorker (14 February 2011)
  • There's been some change, as is evident by the number of women writers who are read. And education itself has somewhat changed. There's a lot more encouragement, a lot more writing classes. It was the women's movement that gave women in academe a certain strength. If you'd look at the old reading lists, maybe George Eliot, the Bront‘s, Virginia Woolf might be taught. At Stanford, I think it was 1971, they needed somebody [to teach their first-ever course on women's literature], and my name was suggested. Well, I had no credentials. I had never gone to college. And there was quite a to-do about whether or not I had the qualifications. It was supposed to be a small class. I went into this auditorium. It was jammed. There were, I think, four guys, one of whom went out and then came back again and then went out and then came back again. There were over 100 women there, including faculty wives. By and large, none of this had ever been taught at Stanford before.
    • Tillie Olsen answering "How has the situation of women writers changed?" in interview with The Progressive Magazine (1999)
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot. A work of genius. But more important — and from a purely selfish point of view — a woman wrote it. That might seem ridiculous to male writers, but a man never has to think twice about the gender of genius. He’s got too many examples on his side of the fence. Eliot was the first woman I read who could go toe-to-toe with, say, Tolstoy. I was 15. Since then, I’ve learned how many grand achievements in the novel have been female, but when I was a teenager, that was news to me.
  • If you were in Russia, I would send you Eliot's "Scenes of Clerical Life," but now I only ask you to read it, especially "Janet's Repentance." Fortunate are the people who, like the English, imbibe Christian teachings with their mother's milk, and in such an elevated, purified form, as Evangelical Protestantism. Here is a moral as well as a religious book, but one which I liked very much and which made a powerful impression on me...

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