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Deronda are set in a historical
Thal' she felta kind of
lt wasonce the fashionto.
period. They are set, in the same
Wordsworthian regret- at the
separate George Eliot's novels
historical period -. that of the
passing of the innocence of
based-on-personal experience
immediate past. Andthechoice is
childhoodis clearfrom mostof the
namely Scenes of .Clerical life,
very sig~ifièani for the no~elist in
novels ofthefirst period. George
Adam Bede, The Mill ontheFloss,
so far as her recolleetions were still
Eliot, sharedWordsworth 's
/ , '
SillasMarner - from those of the
fresh il) her memory.
concern .for -the .problern of
. '
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more laboured novels : Romola,
maintaining the continuityofpast
Felix Holt, Middlemarch, Daniel'
~·Geérge Eliotdelt with the
present.. For,· both
Deronda, andto calI the first group,
scenes of'her childhoodandwith
Wordsworth andGeorgeEliot, this
novels of "feeling", the second
a time when the lndustrial
could be achieved by the virtue of
group, novels of"intelleet".
Revolution wasthreatening but has
piety. ln Wordsworth, two forces
not yet destroyedtheruralpeace.
sustained piety. The first one was
ln her earlier works those
She was vety-fondvof'i-her
the. world of natural objects;
that shepublished before Romola,
landscape not to linger in il. We
standingas"perpetuai reminders of
George Eliot' drew much on her
know lier father loved.totake her
the world experiences associated
recollected experiences, whereas
with hirn on his drives.about the
with them. The .second one was
in the later novels, she moved
country. ln thisway.young Marian,
memory, recalling those "spots of
further away.from her immediate
as she was then; called,
time",. and by recreating the
i became
experiences. She planted her
acquainted with many of the
conditionsofthose past moments,
charactersinthe surrounding with
characteristicofthe Midlands.
reawakening imagination itself As
which she had been acquainted
for George Eliot, .the feeling of
since herchildhood. Her materials
" .. ~'
In most ofher novels, we
divergence betweenher childhood
were drawn from the earliest
recognize a use somepart
and womanhood -caused, her to
sources of memory from her
ofher own experiences, perhaps
seek continuity with the past. She
childhood towhich.she may have.
to explore possibilities oflife that
c1early needed the perspective of
sometimes turned.yearningly asto
seemed, at some.time,
"emotionrecollected intranquilly".
ta open to
a.lost paradise. With George Eliot,
her Wecan detect her emotional
Her early novels.reflectthis need
therewasci faithfulness to past ties,
involvement in.sornevof her
to get her .wit h . the many
to memories and affectionswhich
char acters.. and her : actual
preoccupations - intellectual,
hada stronghold on her. Thèse
participationin the emotions and
moral..religious - that-manifested
first novels may also be called
sorrowsportrayed. Her sense that
themselves throughout her .past
"looking Baward". They. are a
herpotentialities unfulfilled, the loss .
life. .ln. her .works.. which she
tender recreation ofdays that are
ofher childhoodintimacy with her
thought ofas"experiments",
no more.
father .and brothers were ail
GeorgeEliotwas searching for a
reflected in her éarly novelsShe
view oflife that would give mana
In George Eliot's novels
mingledher own aspirations-and
sense ofdignity and Pllrpose.
the presence' of the past 'is 'feit
regrets with those ofher character
r; .. ,.~'
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through the diffèrent historical
who are thus viewed.with the.truth
. But in.thelater novels, we
events she dealt with. Ali her
and tenderness ofmemOf)'.·.· .
feelless spontaneity, George Eliot
books, ex~eptRom~la and D~iûer
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Sciences sociales et humaines
had sornewhat exhaustedthe vein .
"The human personalityis
George Eliot set most of
of her childhood ; her mind had
her novelsbackintime.' Shewrote
like a tree whose sustaining
grown more matured, her talent
for the most part ofa society and
more experienced. She tackled
isearly experience, but the .
way of life she knew in her
other problems, and in Romola,
root can function only
childhood. And it is important to
sheevenlefitheEnglish sceneand
point out, she feels that she is no
set her plot inFlorence. In a word,
the network of veins
longer at ease and her characters
she wrote at a safe distance from
which is memory, carrying
havemuch less vitality thanhermen
her experiences.:
and women ofthe Midlands. Thus,
ment to the
by writing Romola, a novelof
rernot est
If by rneansofthe works,
branches ofthetree'". .'.
Renaissance Florence, she eut
GeorgeEliottriedtorecapture her
herself off from what the main
past, she alsorevealed to us how
nie'last aspect of George
source ofher power as a novelist
the past could act on the present.
Eliot's treatment ofthe past is her
that isto say, the scenesof pastoral
The past and its meaning for -the
reference to the hereditarydaims
Warwickshire, or the provincial
present are also- thernes that
ofa race, which isthe themeofher
society of Coventry, with which
permeateail her novels.
lasr novel, Daniel Deronda.
she was deeplyconnected.
George Eliot, often,
Despite her cosmopolitan
presents characters with a long past
experienceand her knowledge of
behind them, andthough that past
theintellectuallife oftheContinent,
is not of the plot; we can discern.
George Eliot remained definitely
. ',.
the effectsof'the circumstances of
: . , .' At the centerof George'
English. In herfiction, shedrew her
the character 's early sorrowsànd
Eliot's novels, we can detect the
impressions of English rural and
struggles, '. George
personal experiences she .went
provincial life which she knew
perception of the pastis very keen.
through, rnainly the 'moral
intimately, and ofwhich she was
We can classifyher characters in
preoccupation whichhaunted her.
to becomethe greatest interpreter.
two maincategories: those'who
mind. Among herheroines, Maggie·
Her scenes are set in that past
use theirpast as a guide and those
,Tu/liver inTheMill on theHossand
where her experience and her
who become the slaves of their
DorotheaBrooke in Middlemarch
observation had the intensity of
past. -But there is yet a third
are those who
childhood and youth. And it· is:
most resemble her :'
category : thosewho cannot
thereare bothrecreation ofwhat
AdamBedewhich remains thebest
escape their past thoughthey
she was, and more especiallyof
.representative of George Eliot's
would likéto have it undone, but
. what.she might havebeen. , . " ;
recreation of "old" ENGLAND
thèconsequences'areso heavy that
through personal experience.
theycannotwipethem out. .
-Her childhood experiences
When she started writing it, she
were ro rernainIiving .inher-
pointed out that it was to be "full
.-u appears that thelifeofa
imagination forevenand partlyin
ofthe breathofcows andthe scent
charactermust be considered as a
het autobiographical novel, The
ofhay". Throughout thebookthere
whole, in its total durationand in
Mill on.the: Floss ; she tried to
are fine .and full descriptions of
its social context, since the quality
recapture thedifferentevents which
country .life, Thereare country
of 'a human being cannet-be
marked her.childhood, among the
scenes that are looked back upon
appreciate in-the twinklingof an
people who held a predominant
with such a passionate tenderness
eye, butonlyinthe courseof years.
place 'in.herlife. and left'a.deep
as thoughtheauthor ached for the ,
Theimage GeorgeEliot ofienuses
impression on her. The characters
genial oldhome. Whether true or
to express theidea ofcontinuity in
are, therefore; .presented in the
not the reader believesthat it is all
grdWth is themetaphorofthe plant
contextof familiar knowledge and:
real, that whatIsso vividly reported
: cvcrything is sq'
realand genuine. .
201 sociales et humaine~
.ln the othernovels too, we
studied childhood, relied on
had long ceased to sympathize.
can feel George Eliot'snostalgia for
memoryand experienceto create
Although she did not believe in
ruralEngland as it was before the
their characters. Like them,
God, shepoinfed out the
Reform Bill of 1832; and asit
George Eliot had a marked
importance of religion in human life.
continued to exist intensely in her
tendency tocherish the past and
Jndeed, the contact she got with
imagination. Thebeauty oftheearly
keep it aliveinmemory,aS witness
'many religious 'sects and the
picturesofmilllife in The Mill on
the loving pieturesofchildhood in
the. Floss, are what the author
,The Mill on tlie Floss.
Christianitythen, induced George
herselfhadwitnessed and lived.
. ., . "
Eliotto questionthe source of'her
As many critics say, in
And' the' immediate
With Silas Marner, George
most ofher works, itis possible to
'consequence was her breachwith
Eliot, onceagain, escaped from her
identify characters, andplaces, and
intellectual world as weil as from
events, as taken from the author's
~ - ,
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thelife of the city. Thisrustic taleis
own life. Among them, TheMiIJ on
:, '.l'·S he rejected, then, to
a meansofrediscovering the rural
the Flossisrecognized as the most
so'me extent, her own past in so
world forwhich she.was homesick.
autobiographical ;the childhood of
.far as far as shebrokethelink with
The community of Raveloe is
Maggie andTom Tulliver isinrnany
her family, mainly with her father.
'respects, that ofMarianEvansand
A stormy silence was therefore
intel1ectually, within the boundsof
her brother. However, it is not an
established betweenthe father and
.early XlXth century.ln Felix Holt,
autobiography in the full sense as
the daughter, But, on 28 February
the author describes the aspect- of
that ofDavid Copperfild.lfmany
]842,inutterdesperation fora little
Midland village as seen by a
incidents are basedon real life
syrnpathyand understanding from
travelJer, but alsoas revived inthe
experiences they are also mixed
Mr: 'RobertEvans, shewrote him
novelist's memory. Every detail and
with fictitious elements and
a letter which is oneof the most
situations that it would be
poignant letters Mary Ann ever
Everybodyrecognizes the charm
misleading to consider as true
wrote, ln this letter, she gave her
oftheoldtouchinthe Middlemarch
history. Yet; in the othernovels,
point of view on the subject. S~e
:'nowandthen, the novelist breaks
which depend less on materials
writes :
the narrative to describe sound
taken from early years, her
'.' " ... 1regard these writings
.aspects of Midland landscape.
principal heroines experiences the
(the Jewish and Christian
Many details from the political
same struggles and sufferings that ,
Scriptures) as histories
history of'aperiod characterized
their creator encountered in lier
consisting ofmingled truth
by determiningevents are also
early womanhood. If Maggie, in
and fiction and while 1
present throughoutFelix HoIt and
TheMill on the Floss, isthe nearest
'admire and cherish much
to hercreator in circumstances,
of what 1believe to have
beenthe moral teaching of
< . '
Most of the' historical
,Middlemarch, standsfor her qiJest
Jesus, himself, 1 consider
references therefore concern
of values. BothMaggieand
thesystem ofdoctrines built
eventsand personalitiesinvolved
Dorothea have the same problem
Jupon the facts of rus life
inthe struggle for political reform
: they are not satisfied'with their
and drawn as to its
which culminated inthepassing of
narrow social environment; and
materials from Jewish
the first Reform BilJ in ]832.
withtheirwornan's lot. Theirstory
. notion
to . be
is but the incomplete' story of
dishonourable to Gad and
There is no doubt that
George Eliot herselfaccordingto
most' pernicious in its
childhood andyouthrecreated are
what we know of'her biography.
influence on individual and
the manifestation ofthe holdof the
past inGeorgeEliot's novels.
ln her 'novels, the writer
1 Joan, Bennett, George Eliot, p. 24R.
. .. Andthe novelist isamong
has alsodescribed certain phases
" : ' l,,'
the great Victorian writers who
ofreligious feelings withwhich she
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Sciences sociales et humaines
show that itis .impossible to
pastwhich mayhelp themwiththeir
"The appeal failed, for the
understandanyindividual ifwe do
future deeds .. but it can also
wall.of silence didn't disappear
not take into considerationhis/her
prevent them from taking new
betweenMarian EvansandRobert
childhood andhis/her past deeds.
steps because it proves tobe
Evansand thenovelist. wasto suffer
She expresses herviews
stronger becauseofits hold on the
characters' life:
on the past by creating characters
who, most ofthetime, have a past
George Eliot who spent
behind them already when the
Actually, the role orthe
· 1 . ·
her firstyears in a rural shire,
narrative opens. She puts them in
past is twofold in George Eliot's
received her earliest and most
given situations in which they are
fiction: the past as a warning and
enduring impressions from a region
facedwith a moral choice.
thepast a~ a prison.
of social stability. lsolation, the
.This choice depends on
recuning note ofher existence, set
what they have been and on the
In.the first case; .past
in early, for her urgent cravingfor
society' in which-they live. But
experiences have a good share
love, was repelled by the relations
everything is notover when the
in the framing ofacts;theybecome
around her and ber childhood was
choice. has been made; the
lessons which are appliedto lifein
not always happy. We.can feel
consequencesofthe choiceon the
·the-future. Such are the cases of
those here and there b.y the tone
-charactersto be punished for their
Janet Dempster in Scenes of
-of sadnessin her.stories...Yet,
,wrong-doings, but she also seems
, Clericallife, Adam Bede in Adam
following Wordsworth, she was
.to understand themand pitythem
Bede and Dorothea Brooke in
con~incedthat the-experiences of
when sheconsiders thar they are
Middlemarch. ln the second case,
childhood an" youthalike- ~re the
the victims.offate.
';.( .;
·the past stands as a barrier, This
root of'piety, establishingwhat is
No o.ther. noveljst, 'before
conception ofthe past is c1early
to be the best and the dearest in
.George Eliot, has shown his
and mostdrarnatica11y iIIustrated by
.thefuture yea~s. She neverceased
characters so deeply attached to
such actionsas Maggie's rejection
.to be Marian "Evans, pious and
placeandto particularwaysoflife,
of Stephen Guestor. Mrs.
plain.who wandered through the
so intimately.linked byassociation
Transorne's inabilitytoéope with
Warwickshire woods with her
herpr.esent situation. Mrs.
t ,
•. , , '
. . that
.father and brother. This was her
preservation of it, whether in
Transonie cannot break, once for
"present past"> This was the
memory or, in; f~~;, becomesthe
ail, with her wicked past ; instead
messagè she wantedto convey in
-condition .ofIifeitself The idea is
·ofsèekingthe means to free herself
herfictionwhen.she said.:
shesinksin that .past. In other
made explicit througaout Daniel
."MY books are
.Deronda. ':' .l ': :
words, GeorgeEliotunderlines the
i - , <: .
. " j , .
. ~ . . : .rdeeply-serious
.:~ ," GeorgeJ:}i~t}~ concernfor
idea that the. goodin ·a life is
« ,
,::~ , things to me and
"rootedness' is effecjivelyand
determined by the past ; but she
" . ) <
•• t , . come out of ailthe
creatively.present in most ofher
also stressesthe other idea that the
, . \\ 1:. painfuldiscipline,
.novels.. .~ et, characters ar~~'.so
pasr.can- be thecauseof many
:(. .allrhemost hardly
-deeplyrooted jn the places-where
'. sufferingsand.spoil the individual's
" :- leamtlessons of
they liy'e, .where they .wereborn,
life, the case of Maggie
past life" 2
-that itweuldbealmcsta .tr~gedy
and .DanielDeronda, .and .Mrs
.to.rnakethem' mQve..
From this assertion, it
.", '..', ...Her characters oftenlook
. Furthermore, .in ber last
follows that GeorgeEliot sees the
back.iand when they do notrshe
novel, Daniel Deronda, George
development of human life as
.looksback forthem. This occurs
Eliot tacklesa new problem : the
organicthroughinfancy andyouth
wheneverthey.are facedwith a
problem ofrace.. c,.
to maturity.
significant event; whenever they
. Here, ·the· pasrisnot a
-experiencet .a deep emotional
private past, 'and -itsauthonity
George Eliot's analysis of
crisis, .As-a -result, they have.a
dependsnot on affection but on
the past is shrewd ; her aim is to
tendencyro tIt-amJ. -grasp their
sornejreasoned . principle of
Fiev.CAMES ~'Série D, Vol. 005 N° ·1~2. 2003

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Sciences sociales et humaines
inheritance and duty. Daniel
her earlyexperiencethat grew out
Derondaexhibits piety towards an
ofaffectationand imagination. Old
abstract ideal past. The past
determines duty for himjust as ii
associations were cheri shed
Scenes of Clerical Life,
does for Maggie, with the
because they were sources of
Penguin Classics, 1985.
significant difference
affection which gave meaning to
Deronda's is a past he never had.
(Everyman' s Library. Dent:
lt is an intellectual conception of
Although she moved at
London, Dutton : New York),
the past which guides Daniel
ease among the intellectuals at her
Deronda. In Daniel Deronda,
time, George Eliot's imagination
The Mill on the Floss,
fidelity to race stands as the first
was rooted inthe England she has
(Everyman' s Library. Dent
ofduties andvirtues ; racelinks past
known as a young girl, and upon
London, Dutton : New York),
and future together.
which she had drawn exclusively
in her earlier works. She always
tumed back for her material to the
(Oxford University Press, London,
ln conclusion, 1 can say
scenesofher first thirtyyears. She
New York Toronto), 1975.
that likesorneother great writers,
wrote almost always about
Rornola, (Oxford
George Eliot felt a profound need
provinciallife. Although it was to
University Press, London, New
to re-examine her beliefs and to
seem less personal in her Iater
York Toronto), 1975.
artempt a radical reassessment of
book. lt was never to be shaken
Felix Holt, The Radical,
herearlier life - a process that often
off Tt is important to pointout that
(Everyman' s Library. Dent :
demands an imaginative reliving of
she hardly ever mentioned her
London, Dutton : New York),
the past from childhoodonwards.
experience in London, inthe world
She gave the past an important
ofliterature andideas. But she was
value. Romanticpoets, especially
so strongly attached to her
(Penguin Books, Hermondsworth,
Wordsworth, contributedto her
childhood surroundings that she
England), 1973.
vision ofthe past. She agrees with
constantly felt the need to return
Daniel Deronda, (Oxford
them that the past ought to remain
to them because, for her, ail that is
University Press, London. ()"j()rd
living inthe memory, that past and
best in our mortallife is rooted in
New YorkToronto), 19;-';.-\\;:",
present ought to be bound
the family life.
together. As far as she was
Her novels are delightful
Bennett, Joan,
concerned, her past never left her
for their affectionate rendering of
George Eliot, (Cambridge
and she was obsessed with il. The
provincial scenes just as George
University Press), 1954.
evidence is everywhere in her
Eliothad lived them. And we must
Barbara, Hardy,
letters, in her Essays and in her
not Forget that despite her
Critical Essays on George Eliot,
novels. Althoughshe rejected the
intellectual energy, she was very
(Routledge & Kegan Paul,
symbols ofthe past, that is to say
emotional. Thisexplains the reason
London, 1970).
the traditions ofher family and her
why she drew her happiest
Kathleen, ADAM, Those
society, she deeply felt the
inspiration From the quiet English
ofus who loved her, Published y
emotional isolationfrom the past
countryside ofher earlyyears, and
"The George Eliot Fellowship",
and fromherfamilythat ensued.
From the experiences of her own
ln fact, George Eliot's
individual pasto And consequently,
l Kathleen ADAMS, THOSE OF
mind was a mind ofconservative
it is easy to understand the
and reforming tendencies. Her
importance ofthe hold ofthe past
pp 14 - 15;
novels mingled respect for the
in her novels.z-
2 Barbara, hardy, Critical Essays
"new" with tenderness for the
on George Eliot, p. 240.
And the basis of her
conservatism was a piety towards
Rev. CAMES - Série B, Vol. 005 N° 1-2.2003