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George Eliot
by [?]

She had already translated Strauss’s “Life of Jesus” in a manner that was acceptable to the author. When Ralph Waldo Emerson came to Coventry to lecture, he was entertained at the same house where Miss Evans was stopping. Her brilliant conversation pleased him, and when she questioned the wisdom of a certain passage in one of his essays the gentle philosopher turned, smiled, and said that he had not seen it in that light before; perhaps she was right.

“What is your favorite book?” asked Emerson.

“Rousseau’s ‘Confessions,'” answered Mary instantly.

It was Emerson’s favorite, too; but such honesty from a young woman! It was queer.

Mr. Emerson never forgot Miss Evans of Coventry, and ten years after, when a zealous reviewer proclaimed her the greatest novelist in England, the sage of Concord said something that sounded like “I told you so.”

Miss Evans had made visits to London from time to time with her Coventry friends. When twenty-eight years old, after one such visit to London, she came back to the country tired and weary, and wrote this most womanly wish: “My only ardent desire is to find some feminine task to discharge; some possibility of devoting myself to some one and making that one purely and calmly happy.”

But now her father was dead and her income was very scanty. She did translating, and tried the magazines with articles that generally came back respectfully declined.

Then an offer came as sub-editor of the “Westminster Review.” It was steady work and plenty of it, and this was what she desired. She went to London and lived in the household of her employer, Mr. Chapman. Here she had the opportunity of meeting many brilliant people: Carlyle and his “Jeannie Welsh,” the Martineaus, Grote, Mr. and Mrs. Mill, Huxley, Mazzini, Louis Blanc. Besides these were two young men who must not be left out when we sum up the influences that evolved this woman’s genius.

She was attracted to Herbert Spencer at once. He was about her age, and their admiration for each other was mutual. Miss Evans, writing to a friend in Eighteen Hundred Fifty-two, says, “Spencer is kind, he is delightful, and I always feel better after being with him, and we have agreed together that there is no reason why we should not see each other as often as we wish.” And then later she again writes: “The bright side of my life, after the affection for my old friends, is the new and delightful friendship which I have found in Herbert Spencer. We see each other every day, and in everything we enjoy a delightful comradeship. If it were not for him my life would be singularly arid.”

But about this time another man appeared on the scene, and were it not for this other man, who was introduced to Miss Evans by Spencer, the author of “Synthetic Philosophy” might not now be spoken of in the biographical dictionaries as having been “wedded to science.”

It was not love at first sight, for George Henry Lewes made a decidedly unfavorable impression on Miss Evans at their first meeting. He was small, his features were insignificant, he had whiskers like an anarchist and a mouthful of crooked teeth; his personal habits were far from pleasant. It was this sort of thing, Dickens said, that caused his first wife to desert him and finally drove her into insanity.

But Lewes had a brilliant mind. He was a linguist, a scientist, a novelist, a poet and a wit. He had written biography, philosophy and a play. He had been a journalist, a lecturer and even an actor. Thackeray declared that if he should see Lewes perched on a white elephant in Piccadilly he should not be in the least surprised.

After having met Miss Evans several times, Mr. Lewes saw the calm depths of her mind and he asked her to correct proofs for him. She did so and discovered that there was merit in his work. She corrected more proofs, and when a woman begins to assist a man the danger-line is being approached. Close observers noted that a change was coming over the bohemian Lewes. He had his whiskers trimmed, his hair was combed, and the bright yellow necktie had been discarded for a clean one of modest brown, and, sometimes, his boots were blacked. In July, Eighteen Hundred Fifty-four, Mr. Chapman received a letter from his sub-editor resigning her position, and Miss Evans notified some of her closest friends that hereafter she wished to be considered the wife of Mr. Lewes. She was then in her thirty-sixth year.