English, Department of



Vic Hopkins

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 18 (1987)


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


The novelist C. P. Snow, reviewing a book on George Eliot by Robert Speaight (1954), seeking an answer to his own question: “Which of the Victorian novelists means much to the younger writers today?", after rejecting most of them, finally selected George Eliot, who, in her time, he explained

"received a complete esteem not given to any other English novelist, and who afterwards became regarded as a faintly comic monument.”

I paused over the statement, puzzled and fearing worse might follow, but mercifully the writer of it, buoyed perhaps by the thought II serious art needs a hard moral core", and satisfied in his own mind that George Eliot's novels fulfilled that requirement, went on to grant near-perfect work-of-art status to 'Silas Marner' and high commendation to parts of the other novels, singling out ‘Middlemarch’ as one of the best novels in the language- despite its faults.

Thereafter, his flow of faint praise exhausted, C.P. Snow was rather less generous, going so far in his disapproval as to admit himself to be "sometimes repelled by George Eliot who often wrote execrably" and cl inching his tirade:

"At times she spread herself in a style half pompous and half-facetious in the very worst English academic tradition"

but at that stage I parted company with him.