Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 24 (1993)
Walter Houghton made duality, and especially opposites, the keystone of his analysis of the Victorian frame of mind. Eliot's mind fits happily into that dualistic frame. Was she George or Marian (or any variation of the latter)? Was she the contriver of the novels or was it her husband? Was she hypochondriac or valetudinarian, diffident or arrogant, prominent or retiring, imposing or horse-faced? The identity remains fascinatingly protean.
If deciding whether Eliot was novelist or poet is less difficult than a similar decision with regard to Hardy, the common reader (and more particularly the paperback purchaser) has been at a considerable disadvantage in assessing how to appraise Eliot not just as novelist but as what she most assuredly and more completely was, an all round person of letters. Rosemary Ashton's new edition for World's Classics helpfully joins A. S. Byatt and Nicholas Warren's Penguin anthology in at last giving wider access to Eliot's criticism.