English, Department of



Marjorie Bruce

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 28 (1997) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/


The George Eliot Review 2018 (28)


Yesterday evening Pat Williams and I much enjoyed performing our recital based on George Eliot's words and on her concert-going and home musical entertainment experiences. Usually a recital programme of this kind is given once and never heard again (as is the case with most concerts). Performers in opera, and even more in musicals, will have the pleasure, which may eventually turn into the pain, of reproducing the same performance over and over again. Can they, like Browning's wise thrush, repeat their first fine careless rapture? The cry of encore at the end of a recital often elicits one other song only from the performer, although there was the time when an English tenor performing at La Scala, Milan, received so many encores that he could not continue. The audience insisted - 'You will sing it again and again and again, until you get it right!'

Pat and I have been most privileged with our recital. Not only have we had the opportunity to do it again, but the first time we performed in the superb surroundings of the National Portrait Gallery, only a short distance from portraits of George Eliot and many of her contemporaries, and the second time in George Eliot's very own drawing room, or as near as we could get to it bearing in mind that the original has long since ceased to exist. For Pat there was the experience of accompanying on a piano whose keys had been touched, with some skill, by George Eliot herself.

There is a drawback, however, in doing something only once, knowing that if it goes wrong there is no opportunity for correction. It certainly concentrates the mind! Writers do have the advantage over performers in this respect. If they don't like what they've written they can change it as much and as often as they like, up to the time of publication. Even after publication, if they run to a second edition, they can revise and correct to some extent. Our second edition may have been different, indeed inevitably, given the nature of musical performance, it will have been different, and I hope none the worse for that.