Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 47 (2016)
This will be a very personal obituary because in losing Barbara I lost one of the profoundest friendships of my life. Her demanding intellectual boldness and buoyant strength of mind were immediately striking. But she also had a capacity for warmth and joy and enthusiasm, a warmth that was evident in the home environment she created: to enter her Earl's Court flat was like entering a Matisse painting - full of colour, oriental carpets, bowls and pots, and paintings by her daughter, Kate. I was lucky enough to experience that warmth and energy less than a week before she died, when I visited her for the last time, though neither of us knew it was to be the last time.
I think all the qualities I have described came together in her work. The power and precision of her mind, its largeness and energy and unceasing curiosity, were responsible for a formidable output of criticism and imaginative writing. She was a critic-creator. From the first book, The Novels of George Eliot (1959), through to the last, on Ivy Compton-Burnett, published posthumously this year, 2016, she wrote seventeen major critical books and edited countless collections of essays. Three volumes of poetry, a novel, and an autobiography, and a series of short stories picking up on unanswered questions and loose ends in Victorian novels, are intrinsic to her oeuvre. * And this is not to speak of the energy with which she committed herself to conferences and symposia, travelling all over the world. She organized, latterly with the help of Louise Lee, a series of annual conferences on each of George Eliot's novels at the Institute of English Studies in London. Poignantly, the final conference was on Eliot's last novel, Daniel Deronda (1876).