English, Department of



Margaret Wolfit

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 34 (2003)


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


Dear George Eliot

You don't know me - but I have been a great admirer of yours for a long time now, since I was at school in fact. I must have been very young when I first had parts of your novels read to me. Later when I was at boarding school I studied Silas Mamer for a literature exam - I can't recall my reaction to other authors at the time - but I know I wrote a letter home saying I thought George Eliot must be a wonderful person because my mother kept the letter.

After leaving school, I went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and subsequently became an actress, not surprising, coming from a theatrical background. A number of years later I spent a period working abroad and during that time was asked to give solo recitals of poetry and drama. It was whilst in Australia that I conceived the idea of writing a programme based on a female author. I explored a number of possibilities. Why did I choose you? I think, at the time, your work was rather neglected. You were sometimes thought of as long-winded, ponderous and humourless, but I felt a great sympathy with your humanity. I have to say that, at the time, I did not think of you as a writer of comedy, but I found wonderful passages of humour and humorous characterization which often surprised me and always delighted me. I often found myself laughing out loud.

I read your novels avidly, and finally decided that The Mill On The Floss seemed to be the most autobiographical and suitable for dramatization as a one-woman show for the theatre. So, I had the temerity to sit down and adapt it. It was quite an undertaking as you can imagine. To condense the novel to just under two hours - forced to miss out some people's favourite passages and even characters - and yet keep the story-line was no easy task. It took a long time. Having finished, and it has been altered over the years, I put it into a bottom drawer and tried to forget about it, a little frightened as to my next move. However, things developed and eventually it went into performance with, I am glad to say, a measure of success.

From those beginnings your life and work became something of a fascination and this, in turn, led me to evolve a biographical programme about you, played in the first person and using your own words. This brought me into contact with the renowned American Professor, Gordon Haight, whose biography of you, and edition of your letters and journals, has proved invaluable to students of your work.