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Dorothea, Mr. Casaubon, Mr. Brooke, Lydgate, Caleb Garth, Will Ladislau and Rosamond Vincy are living, moving human beings. It is called a study of provincial life, and no one can read it without being fully acquainted with that life. Around Dorothea and Casaubon we see country society—the gentry, the clergy, the doctors, the bankers, the shopkeepers, the surveyor and farm manager, the horse dealer and all the various persons that go to the making of such a community. And they are drawn with a power and a distinctness almost Shakespearian. The novel is one of the masterpieces of our time.
“Adam Bede,” published in 1859, was the most popular novel of the day and perhaps is still the most popular of these novels, though “The Mill on the Floss” almost rivals it. Mrs. Poyser remains unequaled in character drawing.
As a story with a plot “Silas Marner” is the best of all, for it contains the fewest faults and blemishes in construction, while the old weaver of Raveloe remains in the memory forever.
“Daniel Deronda,” though containing many striking features, has been placed somewhat below the other novels. It is a religious story without a religion and there are few readers who do not think it disappointing.
George Eliot possessed a lofty character and was actuated by noble purposes. In learning she was one of the most accomplished of women. Her books show how extensive her reading was. She knew and could read and converse in French, German, Italian and Spanish. Greek and Latin she read with ease as well as pleasure, and Hebrew was a favorite study. There was hardly any kind of learning of which she did not possess some knowledge, and what she did not immediately know she knew where to find. She had great capacity for continuous thought and sustained labor. She was not greatly in love with life and was naturally pessimistic. She accepted the philosophy of Comte.
She once wrote: “The highest calling and election is to do without opium and live through all our pain with conscious, clear-eyed endurance. Life, though a good to men on the whole, is a doubtful good to many, and to some not a good at all. To my thought it is a source of constant mental distraction to make the denial of this a part of religion—to go on pretending things are better than they are.”
While she lived she did her best to expose and shatter the shams of life. That her works will
long remain a power in the world cannot be denied.
AUTHoR of “westward Ho.”
“Muscular CHRISTIANITY " is not so common a term in these days as it was two decades ago, nor are the novels of the author of that phrase, perhaps, as much read now as then. “Yeast,” “Alton Locke,” “Hypatia,” “Westward Ho" and “Two Years Ago" have not, of course, gone out of vogue. They belong to literature and will always be more or less read by readers who desire to know that literature, but they were, like so many of Dickens' novels, written for a purpose. Now a novel written for a purpose, or to accomplish some particular reform, when its object is subserved too frequently drops into obscurity, like the other kinds of arguments that have been used to support the cause. The novels of Dickens are something of an exception to this, but it is their immense humanity, their humor and their
very considerable literary quality that preserve them. Kingsley's novels have a much finer literary quality than anything that Dickens ever wrote, but that quality has largely been lost sight of. Not that it is intended here to institute a comparison between Kingsley and Dickens. No novelist of his time, save Thackeray alone, can be compared to the author of “Pickwick,” but Kingsley was a more finished writer than he, and is still deserving of remembrance. All he has written will repay the reading. Charles Kingsley, priest, poet, politician and novelist, was born in 1819—in Queen Victoria's year—as it was that of Ruskin, Lowell, Helps, Whitman and many others whose names have shed luster on the Victorian era. He was educated at private schools, at King's College in London and at Magdalen College, Cambridge. He was ordained a curate in 1842 and shortly after became rector of Eversley, a place in Hampshire, and this was his home for the remainder of his life, though at times broken in upon by Church and other preferments, for he was for nine years professor of modern history at Cambridge University, and he became a canon of Westminster. Apart from his books, his poems and the part he took in the political movements
of the times, his life was uneventful. He was happily married, and had three children. For many years he was one of the most prominent men in England by reason of his vigorous and prolific writings. Born an aristocrat, his sympathies in the political strife of the times were with the poor against the rich, and with the democracy in its just demands for greater recognition, though he maintained that the proper leader in such a movement ought to be a noble or a Churchman. He was a man of ardent piety and of a liberal theology, though he believed that the creed and dogma of the Anglican Church comprised all that was best in Christianity. He was a generous, public-spirited and wholesome man with a substratum of bigotry in his mind. This latter quality once led him to attack John Henry Newman, whereupon that matchless dialectician scored Mr. Kingsley in a way he never forgot. Kingsley's first published volume was “The Saint's Tragedy,” a drama of great power, and showing poetic ability of a high order. Still it is unequal, and is quite unadapted to the stage. But it contains several lyrics and many passages of great beauty. His music, songs and ballads, such as “The Sands of Dee,” and “The Three Fishers,” are still popular and will be long re