English, Department of



Margaret Harris

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 31 (2000) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/


The George Eliot Review 2019


Margins are back in fashion: it's no longer marginal to be marginal. Postcolonial theory has had the effect of demonstrating the relation between the imperial centre and the periphery of empire to be one of interaction and mutual reaction, not of straightout dominance by the one of the Other. Similarly, in textual theory, marginalia and other apparatus are read in a dialogic or intertextual relation to the text and do not simply take their place in a hierarchy subordinate to it. D. C. Greetham goes further, claiming that 'these days, the margins are a peculiarly privileged position, as the formalist concentration on the primacy and unity of text has retreated before a concern with supplements, frames, contexts’.' The issue of marginality became central in two main ways for Judith Johnston and me as we asked ourselves a seemingly endless series of questions in relation to The Journals of George Eliot.' Would the journals' material prove marginal to George Eliot's fiction? And what kind of marginalia should we provide to the text of the journals?

Our basic aim was to provide a complete text of these journals. The extant portion opens in 1854, as Marian Evans (not yet George Eliot), awaits George Lewes on the cross-Channel steamer which was to take them to Germany and the beginning of their life together. The journals run chronologically to within days of her death in 1880. Entries are fullest in the 1850s, before she began to publish fiction, becoming briefer and more sporadic as she became established in her career as a novelist. There are evident gaps in the record: the entries for the five years from 1849, when George Eliot by her own account ' wrote for the first time' in the 1854- 61 Diary, have been torn out (Journals, 90 and xvii, n. 4); a journal kept during a visit to Spain early in 1867 was dispersed,' and the diary for 1878 has disappeared. The journals were first prepared for selective publication over a century ago: George Eliot's Life as related in her letters and joumals, abridged and edited by her husband J. W. Cross came out in 1885, in three volumes from her faithful publisher, the Edinburgh firm of William Blackwood and Sons. It included well over half the journals, and (by default) became the standard text, despite Gordon S. Haight's demonstration in his great edition of The George Eliot Letters of the editorial license Cross exercised. Haight included sections of the journals both in the Letters and in his biography George Eliot, using the journals in effect as supporting documentation. He provided a more accurate transcription than Cross, as well as indicating the kinds of manipulation Cross had engaged in when he blended letters with sections of journal or omitted phrases or paragraphs inimical to his construction of George Eliot. Our work on the journals, like all scholarly work on George Eliot, was dependent on Haight's edition of the letters, which provided incalculable assistance. None the less, Haight was in his way as partial an editor of George Eliot as Cross, presenting her always in accordance with Charles Bray's phrenological analysis, 'She was not fitted to stand alone’.' And like Cross, Haight drew on the journals to depict the writer rather than the woman.