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George Eliot
by [?]

Lord Acton of course assumes that this book would have been written, dedication and all, just the same had Miss Evans never met Mr. Lewes.

Once there was a child called Romola. She said to her father one day, as she sat on his knee: “Papa, who would take care of me–give me my bath and put me to bed nights–if you had never happened to meet Mamma?”

* * * * *

The days I spent in Warwickshire were very pleasant.

The serene beauty of the country and the kindly courtesy of the people impressed me greatly. Having beheld the scenes of George Eliot’s childhood, I desired to view the place where her last days were spent. It was a fine May day when I took the little steamer from London Bridge for Chelsea.

A bird-call from the dingy brick building where Turner died, and two blocks from the old home of Carlyle, is Cheyne Walk–a broad avenue facing the river. The houses are old, but they have a look of gracious gentility that speaks of ease and plenty. High iron fences are in front, but they do not shut off from view the climbing clematis and clusters of roses that gather over the windows and doors.

I stood at the gate of Number 4 Cheyne Walk and admired the pretty flowers, planted in such artistic carelessness as to beds and rows; then I rang the bell–an old pull-out affair with polished knob.

Presently a butler opened the door–a pompous, tall and awful butler in serious black and with side-whiskers. He approached; came down the walk swinging a bunch of keys, looking me over as he came, to see what sort of wares I had to sell.

“Did George Eliot live here?” I asked through the bars.

“Mrs. Cross lived ‘ere and died ‘ere, sir,” came the solemn and rebuking answer.

“I mean Mrs. Cross,” I added meekly; “I only wished to see the little garden where she worked.”

Jeemes was softened. As he unlocked the gate he said:

“We ‘ave many wisiters, sir; a great bother, sir; still, I always knows a gentleman when I sees one. P’r’aps you would like to see the ‘ouse, too, sir. The missus does not like it much, but I will take ‘er your card, sir.”

I gave him the card and slipped a shilling into his hand as he gave me a seat in the hallway.

He disappeared upstairs and soon returned with the pleasing information that I was to be shown the whole house and garden. So I pardoned him the myth about the missus, happening to know that at that particular moment she was at Brighton, sixty miles away.

A goodly, comfortable house, four stories, well kept, and much fine old carved oak in the dining-room and hallways; fantastic ancient balusters, and a peculiar bay window in the second-story rear that looked out over the little garden. Off to the north could be seen the green of Kensington Gardens and wavy suggestions of Hyde Park. This was George Eliot’s workshop. There was a table in the center of the room and three low bookcases with pretty ornaments above. In the bay window was the most conspicuous object in the room–a fine marble bust of Goethe. This, I was assured, had been the property of Mrs. Cross, as well as all the books and furniture in the room. In one corner was a revolving case containing a set of the “Century Dictionary” which Jeemes assured me had been purchased by Mr. Cross as a present for his wife a short time before she died. This caused my faith to waver a trifle and put to flight a fine bit of literary frenzy that might have found form soon in a sonnet.

In the front parlor, I saw a portrait of the former occupant that showed “the face that looked like a horse.” But that is better than to have the face of any other animal of which I know. Surely one would not want to look like a dog! Shakespeare hated dogs, but spoke forty-eight times in his plays in terms of respect and affection for a horse. Who would not resent the imputation that one’s face was like that of a sheep or a goat or an ox, and much gore has been shed because men have referred to other men as asses–but a horse! God bless you, yes!

No one has ever accused George Eliot of being handsome, but this portrait tells of a woman of fifty: calm, gentle, and the strong features speak of a soul in which to confide.

At Highgate, by the side of the grave of Lewes, rests the dust of this great and loving woman. As the pilgrim enters that famous old cemetery, the first imposing monument seen is a pyramid of rare, costly porphyry. As you draw near, you read this inscription:

To the memory of
Who departed this life
Deeply lamented, Jan. 20, 1889.
Her dog, Emperor.

Beneath these tender lines is a bas-relief of as vicious-looking a cur as ever evaded the dog-tax.

Continuing up the avenue, past this monument just noted, the kind old gardener will show you another that stands amid others much more pretentious–a small gray-granite column, and on it, carved in small letters, you read:

“Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence.”

Here rests the body of
Born 22 November, 1819.
Died 22 December, 1880.