Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 36 (2005) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
On 20 May 1839, young Mary Ann Evans wrote to her close friend, Maria Lewis, about her 'oscillating judgment' on a religious matter: 'On no subject do I veer to all points of the compass more frequently than on the nature of the visible church. I am powerfully attracted in a certain direction but when I am about to settle there, counter assertions shake me from my position'.1 This confession foreshadows a characteristic pattern of thinking of the later George Eliot. Her keen insight enables her to grasp the validity of multiple perspectives, and at the same time prevents her from being content with one conclusion. Pursuing various possibilities, she struggles to attain a certain balance among them. When we look at George Eliot's works as a whole, we notice that she explores the different, or sometimes opposite aspects, or possibilities of an issue. Therefore, her works are in a dialogic relationship to each other, and it shows her sense of balance. This is especially apparent in the relationship between her major works and the ones that have been regarded as inferior. For example, the tragic end of Latimer in The Lifted Veil is what Maggie and Philip in The Mill on the Floss might have experienced if they had lost a belief in trust and love. The artistic and feminine sensibility of Latimer and Philip is to be developed in later major characters such as Deronda and Mordecai in Daniel Deronda. Brother Jacob is a kind of etude for Romola, in that David Faux and Tito Melema are both egoistic epicureans and have much in common. In addition, the existence of the unknown world, the West Indies, in Brother Jacob foreshadows the problem of imperialism which is treated in Daniel Deronda.
The aim of this paper is to examine the significance of The Spanish Gypsy in relation to Daniel Deronda and Eliot's last essay-novel, Impressions ofTheophrastus Such, and tries to clarify her vision of, and hope for, the future. The poetry of Eliot, including The Spanish Gypsy, has generally been considered inferior to her novels.2 Though some critics have acknowledged its merits as a parallel text to the novels,' the importance of The Spanish Gypsy has not been fully demonstrated. The comparison of this dramatic poem with Eliot's last two novels will not only cast light on her creative process but also on what she was heading for in the final stage of her career. Here we will focus on three ideas in particular: the hereditary claim, the immortality of the soul, and the vision of the future.
The hereditary claim is the central theme of The Spanish Gypsy, which greatly excited Eliot's imagination. It is well known that she found inspiration for this work in Titian's Annunciation. According to her own explanation, she interpreted the Virgin Mary in Titian's picture as a maiden who had been chosen, 'not by any momentary arbitrariness, but as a result of foregoing hereditary conditions’. The heroine of The Spanish Gypsy, Fedalma, is created to be such a young woman. On the eve of her marriage with a Spanish noble, Don Silva, she is suddenly ordered by her father, Zarca, to become the leader of the gypsies in order to help them achieve independence. Fedalma was abducted from her gypsy parent when she was three, and reared by Silva's mother.