English, Department of



Judith Siford

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 26 (1995) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/


The George Eliot Review 2018 (26)


'The Lifted Veil' is a curious novella from an author who made the organic form so much her own, focusing as it does upon actions which continually interrupt and fragment the narrative; with its emphasis on the supernatural, on bizarre pseudo-scientific experiments, attempted murder and gothic horror it seems out of place in the canon of a maker of 'realist' fictions. Yet bizarre though this tale undoubtedly is, it is not merely the mental aberration from an author under stress that Blackwood supposed it to be.'

In 1859, the year she first offered it for publication, Eliot had been diffident about the tale, describing it to Blackwood as 'a slight story of an outre kind - not ajeu d'esprit, but ajeu de melancolie'.2 But fourteen years later, when he wrote asking for permission to republish it her reply shows a confident author defending her story with the determined statement:

I care for the idea which it embodies and which justifies its painfulness. A motto which I wrote on it yesterday perhaps is sufficient indication of that idea: -

Give me no light, great heaven, but such as turns

To energy of human fellowship,

No powers save the growing heritage

That makes completer manhood.

But it will be well to put the story in harness with some other productions of mine, and not send it forth in dismal loneliness.