Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 37 (2006) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
When we think of George Eliot, the word 'travels' is likely to suggest journeys to far-flung places in foreign lands, but considered in an English setting, she seems to be locked in either Warwickshire or London. Kathleen McCormack, however, shows how widely George Eliot travelled in her own country, so widely that she made over fifty visits to English places and only thirty to foreign destinations. Indeed, 'widely' is a word that stimulates Kathleen McCormack's imagination as she has revealed in an earlier work, George Eliot and Intoxication (2000), in which the last word, 'Intoxication', is interpreted in its widest sense. Her article, 'Widely Sundered Elements' (George Eliot Review, 2000) prepares the reader for this more detailed and ambitious survey which should fascinate anyone interested in English settings and their relevance to the writings of George Eliot (or 'Evans' as she at first forbiddingly if fashionably calls her). After an exploration of well-known haunts in Warwickshire, chapter headings invite us to visit less familiar places: 'Seasides', 'Islands', 'Country Shires', 'Spas', 'Whitby, Devon, Oxford, Surrey' and 'Country Houses'. The Leweses rarely travelled for pleasure alone; we are shown how they journeyed for other reasons too: for health, for research, for escape from gossip, for specimen-gathering on English beaches, for visits to museums, art galleries, cathedrals, for the refreshment of working in different places. Although the railway must have helped, they were prepared to endure all kinds of discomfort in England and on the Continent for the sake of fresh environments. The author of this interesting new book describes their travels as purposeful and productive unlike the dreamy, fruitless voyage of Maggie Tulliver down the river and unlike her subsequent 'boarding a coach without checking its destination'.