[February 1885]

MS location unknown. Printed in Romanes, Appreciation, 178-9.

[To Gertrude Mary Ireland Blackburne]

Here are two proofs of your conversation, which, by-the-by, must be headed ‘A Conversation on Books.’ It will not go in this time, so you will have plenty of opportunity to do what you please with it. A conversation on Archbishop Trench’s book must precede it, to give the old man a chance of hearing it, as it is by a young relation of his own – young, I mean, compared with him.1 If I have this by the 1st of March, it will be all right.

I once had the pleasure of meeting Lord Houghton at Mr. Gibbs’, and I remember talking over with him some curious papers of Hawthorne’s that nobody else seemed to appreciate.2

I am afraid that Life of George Eliot will do a great deal of mischief. It has always seemed to me a fearful thing that, for the sake of her genius and power, her defiance of all moral and religious principle in her own life should be sunk and forgotten as if it had been a sort of heroism. The underlying feeling in all her books seems to be fatalism, and the farther she drifted away from the training of her youth, the more they failed even as works of art. What a contrast between Adam Bede and Daniel Deronda ! I imagine, as the Saturday says, that the real fact was that the essentially feminine character (not genius) was really mastered by Lewes, and that a good man could have made her do grandly good work – so that the whole seems to me a lesson against delivering up our conscience to any leader. It seems to me that what she had was a marvellous power of drawing memorable portraits, but that she gradually used up her stock. Besides this, Maggie Tulliver is a special pleading for herself – and in that way very touching – like that little poem about brother and sister; but her ideals, like Daniel Deronda himself, are utter failures. Romola fails – the book, I mean – because she had no religious power left wherewith to appreciate Savonarola, and so made him political. Of course Tito is one of her terrible successes.

1Blackburne's review was of J. H. Shorthouse, The Little Schoolmaster Mark (1885). Richard Chenevix Trench (1807-1886) was Archbishop of Dublin. The review by his cousin Maria Trench of his Brief Thoughts and Meditations appeared as 'A Conversation on Books' MP 3s 9 (March 1885) 284-94.
2Perhaps Hawthorne's American Note-books (1869), which had been favourably noticed in MP (May 1869), 518: 'It is just the book to lie open on the table of a busy mother who likes a fresh idea to brood over at her needle-work.'

Cite this letter

The Letters of Charlotte Mary Yonge(1823-1901) edited by Charlotte Mitchell, Ellen Jordan and Helen Schinske.

URL to this Letter is: https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/yonge/2801/to-gertrude-mary-ireland-blackburne-3

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