English, Department of


Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 16 (1985)


Published by The George Eliot Review Online https://GeorgeEliotReview.org


'It was by loving them ... that he knew them; it was not by knowing them that he loved'1 - such was Henry James's legendary conclusion about Balzac and his characters. James's point was simple but important: Balzac was, in his view, able to invest his characters with a special freedom and opaqueness because he loved them as one might love another person. They didn't spring complete and transparent from a fictional blueprint. 2

James makes a similar point about Trollope, a writer in whom he elsewhere finds fault. If Trollope 'was a knowing psychologist, he was so by grace; he was just and true without apparatus' and without effort'.3

Creation 'without apparatus' again suggests an understanding that is intuitive rather than calculating; an almost inadvertent, instinctive feeling for the veiled inner worlds of persons, both in fiction and in life. This is high praise indeed from a writer who counted himself among the select group of 'loving' creators of fictional character. 4