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George Eliot
by [?]

The couple disappeared, having gone to Germany.

Many people were shocked. Some said, “We knew it all the time,” and when Herbert Spencer was informed of the fact he exclaimed, “Goodness me!” and said–nothing.

After six months spent at Weimar and other literary centers, Mr. and Mrs. Lewes returned to England and began housekeeping at Richmond. Any one who views their old quarters there will see how very plainly and economically they were forced to live. But they worked hard, and at this time the future novelist’s desire seemed only to assist her husband. That she developed the manly side of his nature none can deny. They were very happy, these two, as they wrote, and copied, and studied, and toiled.

Three years passed, and Mrs. Lewes wrote to a friend:

“I am very happy; happy with the greatest happiness that life can give–the complete sympathy and affection of a man whose mind stimulates mine and keeps up in me a wholesome activity.”

Mr. Lewes knew the greatness of his helpmeet. She herself did not. He urged her to write a story; she hesitated, and at last attempted it. They read the first chapter together and cried over it. Then she wrote more and always read her husband the chapters as they were turned off. He corrected, encouraged, and found a publisher. But why should I tell about it here? It’s all in the “Britannica”–how the gentle beauty and sympathetic insight of her work touched the hearts of great and lowly alike, and of how riches began flowing in upon her. For one book she received forty thousand dollars, and her income after fortune smiled upon her was never less than ten thousand dollars a year.

Lewes was her secretary, her protector, her slave and her inspiration. He kept at bay the public that would steal her time, and put out of her reach, at her request, all reviews, good or bad, and shielded her from the interviewer, the curiosity-seeker, and the greedy financier.

The reason why she at first wrote under a nom de plume is plain. To the great, wallowing world she was neither Miss Evans nor Mrs. Lewes, so she dropped both names as far as title-pages were concerned and used a man’s name instead–hoping better to elude the pack.

When “Adam Bede” came out, a resident of Nuneaton purchased a copy and at once discovered local earmarks. The scenes described, the flowers, the stone walls, the bridges, the barns, the people–all was Nuneaton. Who wrote it? No one knew, but it was surely some one in Nuneaton. So they picked out a Mr. Liggins, a solemn-faced preacher, who was always about to do something great, and they said “Liggins.” Soon all London said “Liggins.” As for Liggins, he looked wise and smiled knowingly. Then articles began to appear in the periodicals purporting to have been written by the author of “Adam Bede.” A book came out called “Adam Bede, Jr.,” and to protect her publisher, the public and herself, George Eliot had to reveal her identity.

Many men have written good books and never tasted fame; but few, like Liggins of Nuneaton, have become famous by doing nothing. It only proves that some things can be done as well as others. This breed of men has long dwelt in Warwickshire; Shakespeare had them in mind when he wrote, “There be men who do a wilful stillness entertain with purpose to be dressed in an opinion of wisdom, gravity and profound conceit.”

Lord Acton in an able article in the “Nineteenth Century” makes this statement:

“George Eliot paid high for happiness with Lewes. She forfeited freedom of speech, the first place among English women, and a tomb in Westminster Abbey.”

The original dedication in “Adam Bede” reads thus:

“To my dear husband, George Henry Lewes, I give the manuscript of a work which would never have been written but for the happiness which his love has conferred on my life.”