The 1870s / Daniel Deronda (1876)

  • Kerry McSweeney
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)


In August 1871, while at work on Middlemarch, Marian received the first of a series of extravagantly admiring letters from a thirty-year old Scot named Alexander Main. As her publisher reported after meeting the young man: ‘He bears the mark of enthusiast about with him and you are his particular idol’. Lewes encouraged the correspondence because of its positive effect on what Marian described as her ‘often-recurring hours of despondency which, after cramping my activity ever since I began to write, continue still to beset me with, I fear, a malign influence on my writing’ (L, v, 207, 229). Before the year was out Main had sent her over twenty copiously effusive missives, in one of which he asked permission to prepare a volume of ‘sayings’ extracted from her works. Lewes and Marian liked the idea and at the end of the year the volume appeared under the title Wise, Witty, and Tender Sayings in Prose and Verse, Selected from the Works of George Eliot, with a dedication to the author ‘in recognition of a genius as original as it is profound and a morality as pure as it is impassioned’. Two years later Marian was equally agreeable to the proposal for a second edition which would include selections from Middlemarch. But she was given pause by a statement in Main’s draft preface concerning his compilation as compared with the works themselves:


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  1. 3.
    See K.M. Newton, ‘Daniel Deronda and Circumcision’, Essays in Criticism, 31 (1981), 313–27.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    William Baker, ‘A New George Eliot Manuscript’, in George Eliot: Centenary Essays and an Unpublished Fragment, ed. Anne Smith (London: Vision, 1980 ), 10–11.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Jerome Beaty, ‘George Eliot’s Notebook for an Unwritten Novel’, Princeton University Library Chronicle, 18 (1957), 175–82.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. M.O.W. Oliphant, ed. Mrs. Harry Coghill (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1899), 7.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kerry McSweeney 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerry McSweeney
    • 1
  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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