Essay prize

 

The George Eliot Fellowship is pleased to offer its annual prize of £500 for a previously unpublished paper on George Eliot's life or work.  Each winning entry is published in the next year's George Eliot Review. The author also receives honorary membership of the Fellowship for two years.

The competition is open to all, but may be of particular interest to graduate students. Essays should not normally exceed 4,000 words, and should be typed (or printed out) in double spacing on one side of A4 paper, leaving margins of approximately 3.5cms. Entrants may choose whether to submit two copies by post, not later than Monday 18th December 2017 to:

The Chairman
George Eliot Fellowship
39 Lower Road
Barnacle
Coventry
CV7 9LD

or to submit an electronic copy through the process below, or direct to the chairman at johnkburton43@gmail.com

The George Eliot Fellowship will appoint a panel of judges which will include a member of the Editorial Board of the George Eliot Review. The decision of the panel will be final. The prizewinner will be announced  at the AGM of the Fellowship on 10th March 2018.

 

 

Essay competition

Complete the form below and upload your essay to enter the competition




 

 


Winning Entry for 2018 Essay Prize

 

Congratulations to Trenton B. Olsen for winning this year's Essay Prize. Trenton is Assistant Professor of English at Brigham Young University–Idaho. He earned his PhD at the University of Minnesota in 2014, and his first book Wordsworth and Evolution in Victorian Literature: Entangled Influence is forthcoming from Routledge. This work is supported in part by a research fellowship from the Idaho Humanities Council.


T Olsen Photo

Trenton wins £500 and two years membership of the Fellowship. His essay will be published in the 2018 George Eliot Review, available in late summer 2018, and below on our website.

 

 

Wordsworth, Darwin, and the Growth of the Mind in George Eliot’s Late Fiction

            As Robert Ryan’s Charles Darwin and the Church of Wordsworth has demonstrated, Wordsworthian and evolutionary philosophies conflicted in the late Victorian period. Darwinian theory raised fundamental questions, inextricably associated with Wordsworth, about nature and its relation to human character, origins, and morality. As the poet’s revered status affected Darwin’s reception, evolutionary theory prompted reinterpretation and reevaluation of Wordsworth’s poetry. In this way, Ryan argues, the dialogue between the century’s two defining visions of nature was “mutually transformative” (11). While Ryan’s study focuses on this cultural relationship “beyond the literary sphere,” the simultaneous influence of Wordsworth and Darwinism on Victorian creative writers has been overlooked (3).

            In the autumn of 1859, a few weeks before Darwin published On the Origin of Species, George Eliot reread The Excursion with G.H. Lewes (Pinney 20). The influences of Wordsworth and evolutionary theory became increasingly entangled for Eliot in the years that followed—an intersection which illustrates Sidney Colvin’s 1872 reflection that Eliot “walked between two epochs, upon the confines of two worlds” (142). In 1858, Eliot describes immersing herself again in Wordsworth’s poetry “with fresh admiration for his beauties and tolerance for his faults” (Letters II.423). As her career advanced, both Eliot’s appreciation for Wordsworth’s “beauties” and reaction to his “faults” were shaped by her interest in Darwinism.

Though Wordsworth’s and Darwin’s individual influences on Eliot have long interested critics, the neglect of their intersection is largely due to a disproportionate focus on Wordsworth’s role in Eliot’s early work.[1] Stephen Gill claims that “there is no strong case for arguing that Wordsworth’s poetry was an active, shaping agent in the later direction of George Eliot’s art as it was in the earlier” (165). The critical consensus that “after Silas Marner, Wordsworth’s role in George Eliot’s creative life diminished,” however, is inconsistent with Eliot’s lifelong reading of the poet’s canon (Gill 164, Pinney).[2] If Wordsworth’s influence became less noticeable, Darwin’s became more central over the course of Eliot’s career, as critics such as Gillian Beer and George Levine have shown. Far from abandoning the poet’s influence, her engagement with Wordsworth—a literary dialogue best understood in relation to Darwinism—helped shape her emphasis on overcoming selfishness in favor of sympathy in her final novels Felix Holt, Middlemarch, and especially Daniel Deronda. Unwilling to accept Darwinism’s “ugly” moral implication that “our gain is another’s loss,” Eliot turned to Wordsworth with renewed urgency (Deronda 284). She enlisted his assistance in revising evolution’s perceived flaws and corrected his poetry in light of Darwin’s discoveries.

The Wordsworthian “faults” which most concern Eliot are isolation and egotism. She objects to Wordsworth’s suggestion that the imagination is best turned inward.  In "Reply to Mathetes,” the poet describes a process of intellectual development from concern for others to self-analysis. Prescribing “Nature and Solitude,” he cautions against placing the “admiration or too hasty love” for others over one’s “prime business to understand himself" (119). In Book II of The Prelude, Wordsworth writes that it is a “hard task to analyze a soul” (232-234). While the soul that Wordsworth finds so difficult to analyze is his own, Eliot’s fiction suggests that sympathetic understanding of others is the imagination’s highest and hardest objective. Eliot echoes Wordsworth’s language in Middlemarch in reference to Fred Vincy: “The difficult task of knowing another soul is not for young gentlemen whose consciousness is chiefly made up of their own wishes” (121). Here Eliot suggests that self-focus comes easily and naturally to the self-centered, whereas sympathy takes exceptional vision and imaginative capacity.

Eliot’s portrayal of Daniel Deronda on the Thames shows how she uses both Wordsworth and Darwin to revise one another as their mutually disruptive influences intersect. She makes Daniel’s Wordsworthian status explicit with a quotation from the “Intimations Ode,” noting that he is “trailing clouds of glory” from his childhood (157). Daniel takes to his boat because “he could nowhere else get the same still seclusion which the river gave him,” just as Wordsworth seeks “a more deep seclusion” at the Wye and Derwent rivers (157). A poetic figure, Deronda sings as he rows. He lodges his boat, and reposes in an attitude of “solemn passivity” similar to Wordsworth’s state of “wise passiveness” in which nature “can feed [his] mind” (“Expostulation and Reply” 24, 23). Deronda “looks out for a perfect solitary spot,” but his Wordsworthian search for solitude “against the bank” is frustrated by its Darwinian entanglements. The setting recalls Darwin’s metaphor for nature’s workings at the conclusion of Origin of Species: “an entangled bank, clothed with many plants . . . birds . . . [and] insects . . . so different from each other, and dependent on each other . . . [all] produced by [natural] laws” (425). Unlike Wordsworth, Deronda finds that in a Darwinian world “the river [is] no solitude” (158).  Others repeatedly interrupt his solitary introspection, as he passes several people and a barge. Given the crowded environment, Deronda's thoughts wander from himself to others. While Deronda “had been occupied chiefly with uncertainties about his own course,” his reflections take on “wide-sweeping connections with all life.” With his thoughts extending outward, he reflects on “the hopelessly entangled scheme of things,” reinforcing Eliot’s allusion to the entangled bank (160). Darwin revealed an interconnected natural world with organisms and species “bound together by a web of complex relations” in which human solitude is unconducive to survival (Descent 81). The “struggle for Existence,” Darwin writes, “include[s] dependence of one being on another” (Origin 62). For Eliot, Romantic solipsism is neither realistic nor ethically viable after Darwin, and must be overcome by a “sense of fellowship deep enough to make all efforts at isolation seem mean and petty instead of exalting” (Middlemarch 344). While solitude helps Wordsworth find poetic subjects in nature’s “common life” and “ordinary things,” Daniel’s “strong sense of poetry in common things” focuses on others (597, 321). Eliot suggests that Wordsworthian isolation will no longer work morally or poetically: “How should all the apparatus of heaven and earth make poetry for a mind that has no . . . tenderness [or] sense of fellowship?” (175).

Recognition of the bank’s entanglements causes Deronda’s reflections to differ sharply from Eliot’s view of Wordsworthian self-contemplation. The scene revises Wordsworth’s extended simile describing himself in The Prelude “as one who hangs down-bending from the side / Of a slow-moving Boat” (IV.256-257). The Wordsworthian boatman is characteristically concerned about “part[ing] / The shadow from the substance” in the water as he “sees many beauteous sights” and “fancies more” (261-264). Deronda mirrors this dual consciousness with “half-speculative, half involuntary” thoughts—a phrase which also recalls Wordsworth’s “half-create[d],” half “perceive[d]” vision in “Tintern Abbey” (160, 107-108). For all of the scene’s Wordsworthian language and imagery, Deronda’s boat carries him far from the poet’s inward reflections, as his experience becomes externally focused and social. Wordsworth’s mind, rather than natural surroundings, becomes his focus as his boat-side view is “crossed by a gleam / Of his own image” (258-259). In contrast to this self-focused figure, Deronda “lay . . . level with the boat’s edge, so that he could see all around him, but could not be seen.” “Forgetting everything else,” he attempts “to shift his centre till his own personality would be no less outside him than the landscape” (160). Thus, while Wordsworth’s boat ride becomes an occasion for an almost narcissistic self-contemplation, Deronda’s selfhood fades out from the scene, giving way to the world around him.

Even these unselfish solitary reflections become entangled, as movement “on the bank opposite” Daniel draws his attention to Mirah, a distressed woman attempting suicide (160). Fortunately, Mirah’s plans are thwarted by the interactive setting as she is brought out of “apparent solitude” by “the sign of discovery from the opposite bank” (161). Daniel saves Mirah, and she changes the course of his life, preparing him to discover and accept his Jewish heritage, and ultimately marrying him. Thus Deronda’s “solitary excursion” (another Wordsworthian phrase) becomes a profoundly consequential social experience through Darwinian interconnection (160).

Just as Darwinian language and imagery undermine the scene’s Wordsworthian elements, Eliot subjects evolution to a Wordsworthian revision. She presents Deronda as one of a “type” or species (158). Daniel and Mirah’s meeting can be read through Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. Eliot notes that Daniel’s “appearance was of a kind to draw attention” (158). According to Darwin, such a distinction is a significant advantage in the competition for females (Origin 214). We can also hear a mating call like “an insect murmur” in Deronda’s song, as Darwin theorized that the male vocal chords were better developed through sexual selection (159). Mirah later returns this call and sings for Daniel with a beautiful though weak voice like “a bird’s wooing” (315).  For Darwin, sexual and natural selection render the entangled bank not only a site of interdependence but of deadly competition. While Mirah offers a religious justification of suicide (“death and life are one before the Eternal”), the Victorian struggle to accept an indifferent, brutal nature in which life and death are “hopelessly entangled” and equally insignificant could lead to the same conclusion (160).     

            Eliot uses the scene’s Wordsworthian presence to temper Darwinism’s dark side. Deronda “bore only disguised traces” of his childhood, recalling Darwin’s point that we “still retain traces of our primordial [state], a shore washed by tides” (Descent 161). Daniel, however, shows signs of origin not from an animal ancestry, but a “seraphic” childhood, from which he is still “trailing clouds of glory” (141). Eliot applies Wordsworth’s sense of exalted origins to Daniel, not to object to Darwin’s science or endorse the poet’s theology, but to emphasize that “you could hardly have seen his face . . . without believing that human creatures had done nobly in times past, and might do more nobly in time to come” (141). In spite of Darwin’s arguments on The Descent of Man, Eliot’s Wordsworth allusion emphasizes an origin of benevolence and inherited potential goodness. Like “later-born Theresas,” Eliot emphasizes, humans can overcome their selfish animal nature as “the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur” (Middlemarch Prelude). Transcending Darwinian instinct, Deronda doubts the value of the competitive struggle, “question[ing] whether it were worth while to take part in the battle of the world” (157). Wordsworth wondered the same thing at Cambridge, and concluded that it was not.[3]

            At the core of Eliot’s Wordsworthian revision of Darwin is the poet’s proposition that “Love of Nature Lead[s] to Love of Mankind” (The Prelude VIII).  For Wordsworth, human interaction with nature prepares the affections, “fastening on the heart . . . so that we love, not knowing what we love” (The Prelude VIII.169-171). In this way, nature becomes the “guide . . . of all [our] moral being” (“Tintern” 110-112). Unwilling to link the amoral natural world to the self after Darwin, she makes Deronda’s connection with nature unselfish and externally focused. Deronda’s concentration on the natural setting transfers to his kind and selfless treatment of Mirah, or leads to the love of mankind. Rather than killing to survive, Deronda swears, “I will die before I let any harm come to you” (161).[4]

        In her personal copy of The Prelude, Or Growth of a Poet’s Mind, currently in Yale’s Beinecke Library,Eliot notes instances of Wordsworth’s solipsism. Every quotation referenced in the following discussion is marked in her edition.Eliot’s insistence on communal fellowship makes her penciled line feel like a mark of disapproval next to this phrase: “I had stood / In my own mind remote from social life . . . Like a lone shepherd on a promontory” (III.510-513). Whereas Wordsworth reflects with gratitude that he “was guarded from too early intercourse / With the deformities of crowded life,” Eliot emphasizes isolation’s warping effect in Silas Marner’s experience (VIII.331-332). Wordsworth’s emphasis on isolation likely led Eliot to apply his description of Newton “voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone,” to the poet (III.63). Part of Eliot’s concern with solitude is that it can easily lead to the kind of egotism that prompts the young Wordsworth to reflect: “to my conscious soul I now can say – / I recognize thy glory” (VI.599-598).

       Eliot’s markings also reveal her interest in Wordsworth’s progress—the growth of his mind in The Prelude’s subtitle—from self-centeredness to sympathy. Through this process of moral evolution, his perceived “faults” become “beauties.” Eliot often represents moral development in terms of biological growth. As Deronda guides Gwendolen towards greater compassion, he says, “you will find your life growing like a plant” (658). Still in her “spring-time,” she has the potential for either “growing or degenerating” morally (345). “Goodness,” Eliot writes, grows organically with “delicate green blades” (56). Marked instances of Wordsworth’s progression in Eliot’s edition of The Prelude are also linked to the natural world, as “love of nature [leads] to love of mankind”: Nature “sank down / Into [his] heart” and “thus were [his] sympathies enlarged” (II.173-175). The natural world shows Wordsworth “the great social principle of life coercing all things into sympathy” (II.389-390). The interconnectedness that Darwin recognized in nature also helped Wordsworth see “the whole human race [as] one brotherhood” (XII.87). A model of moral evolution emerges from Eliot’s markings. Through the “growing faculties” of sympathy, “the mind of man becomes / A thousand times more beautiful than the earth” (my emphasis, XIV.448-450). If in Book I Wordsworth can “recognise / A grandeur in the beatings of [his own] heart . . . in solitude,” by Book XIV he condemns “selfish passions” and recognizes that “by love subsists / All lasting grandeur” (413-414, 422. 168-169). The Wordsworth of Book IV walks the public road “disposed to sympathy” only when his “exhausted” mind is “worn out by [the] toil” of self-contemplation (380-381). For the more mature poet of Book XIII, however, the “lonely roads / Were open schools in which I daily read . . . the passions of mankind” and “saw into the depths of human souls, / Souls that appear to have no depth at all to careless eyes” (162-168). It is this empathy that likely led Eliot to declare after reading Wordsworth’s collected works in 1839, “I never met with so many of my own feelings, expressed just as I could like them” (Letters I.34). This sympathetic reading of Wordsworth shows “tolerance for his faults” and recognizes that— even in the most seemingly self-absorbed passages of The Prelude—the poem is addressed to Wordsworth’s friend Coleridge.

Eliot’s late fiction also reflects her interest in Wordsworthian moral development. She explicitly and repeatedly evokes the poet in key moments of characters’ ethical growth. In the eighteenth chapter of Felix Holt, the self-centered Esther Lyon shows early signs of a developing sympathy. Esther demonstrates uncharacteristic affection for her father as she brushes his hair and kisses his head. He is deeply “moved by what he thought a great act of tenderness.” Eliot writes that “this very trifling act . . . meant a great deal in Esther’s little history” (195). A chapter epigraph from Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” frames this development: “The little, nameless, unremembered acts / Of kindness and of love” (34-35). Esther’s small but meaningful demonstrations of an incipient sympathy become, in Wordsworth’s phrase, “the best portion of [her] life” (33). Eliot’s reflection on this turning point evokes both the formation of Wordsworthian compassion and biological germination: “in our spring-time every day has its hidden growths in the mind, as it has in the earth when the little folded blades are getting ready to pierce the ground” (my emphasis, 197). Echoing Wordsworth’s subtitle, Eliot also evokes his phrase from Book I— “fair seed-time had my soul”—with the “spring-time” of moral development (197). Whereas Wordsworth’s phrase is surrounded by insistence on his solitude (“[I] stood alone beneath the sky” and “I was alone”), this growth eventually moves towards sociality (296-297, 315). Esther ultimately rejects the “luxurious life” offered by the wealthy and pompous Harold Transome for the “painful effort” required to enter unselfish “sympathy with Felix,” which is probably the wrong choice in the Darwinian struggle for existence, but the correct one in moral evolution (195).

            Eliot draws on Wordsworth again at another important juncture along Esther’s progression towards empathy. When Rufus Lyon confesses to Esther that he is not her actual father, “but had only striven to cherish her as a father,” and “longed to be loved as a father,” she enters a new stage of moral development (252). Evoking Wordsworth’s growth of the mind, Esther’s “mind seem[s] suddenly enlarged.” She acquires “a new sympathy” and “vision” into “the lot of beings who had hitherto been a dull enigma to her.” Esther’s “affectionateness” which “flowed so pleasantly” owes something to Wordsworth’s “spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling” (252). As “the floodgates . . . open . . . she threw her arms around the old man’s neck and sobbed out with a passionate cry, ‘Father, father! Forgive me if I have not loved you enough. I will – I will!’” (253). Rev. Lyon’s reaction to this Wordsworthian overflow of affection also evokes the poet. Eliot writes that “the old man’s delicate frame was shaken by a surprise and joy . . .  almost painful in their intensity,” recalling Wordsworth’s “Surprised by joy,” in which the poet’s “faithful love” for his daughter brings him joy as well as pain following her death (253).

            Wordsworth’s influence functions similarly in Middlemarch, where it restrains sexual competition. Eliot explicitly frames Farebrother’s effort to overcome selfishness with Wordsworth’s poetry. As Fred considers whether to ignore Mary Garth’s wishes and enter the clergy or seek another vocation in the hope of winning her hand, he commissions Farebrother to ascertain Mary’s feelings. Farebrother’s strong, though unspoken, affection for Mary and his newly marriageable status as the Vicar of Lowick make this an especially difficult task. Of course, fulfilling his charge is entirely counter to Farebrother’s Darwinian self-interest, which demands combating the sexual rival. The amateur naturalist understands the biological stakes of his assignment all too well, reflecting, “decidedly I am an old stalk . . . the young growths are pushing me aside” (319). Farebrother’s Darwinian imperative stands in contrast to the chapter’s epigraph from Wordsworth’s “London, 1802”: “His heart / The lowliest duties on itself did lay” (ch. 52). Rather than pursuing Mary, Farebrother takes the “nobler course” of Wordsworthian duty to assist Fred with a “resolute suppression of a pain” (322). When Farebrother declares to his rival, “the satisfaction of your affections stands in the way of mine,” Fred feels their Darwinian relation as if “Farebrother had a beak and talons” (418). Farebrother, however, chooses duty over self-interest. The poem Eliot quotes laments, “Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour. England hath need of thee” in part because “we are selfish men” (6).  Believing that a Darwinian age has need of Wordsworth, Eliot draws on his teachings to counteract instinctual selfishness.

            Eliot also links Wordsworth with Dorothea’s compassion and resistance of sexual competition. As Dorothea seeks to clear Lydgate from unmerited scandal, Eliot writes that “the idea of some active good within her reach ‘haunted her like a passion,’” quoting “Tintern Abbey” (469).[5] The moral climax of Dorothea’s journey, facilitating her most significant advancement in character, is also explicitly tied to Wordsworth. Dorothea mistakenly believes that her beloved Will Ladislaw has entered an illicit affair with Rosamond Lydgate. In her moment of greatest suffering, Dorothea forces herself to consider and address the needs of others in spite of her own grief. This chapter, containing what is arguably the most thematically significant moment in the novel, is framed by an epigraph from Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty”:

                Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dost wear 

The Godhead’s most benignant grace; 

Nor know we anything so fair 

As is the smile upon thy face: 

……

Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong (ch. 80).

 Dorothea “clutch[es her] own pain” and “think[s] of [others],” resolving to help Rosamond in obedience to the “stern lawgiver” of Wordsworthian duty (486). Duty acts as an ethical antidote to nature’s course as it “preserve[s] the stars from wrong.” Thus Dorothea resists Darwinian instinct —“a base prompting” to be “cruel to a [romantic] rival”— through a Wordsworthian moral “art which does mend nature” (Letters IV:364). Dorothea’s powerful feelings of compassion, rather than enmity, spontaneously “[over]flowwith generous heedlessness” toward Rosamond (489).

            Wordsworth’s presence signals a more nascent stage of moral evolution in Daniel Deronda’s conclusion. The penultimate chapter’s epigraph prefaces Gwendolen’s developing sympathy:

The human nature unto which I felt

That I belonged, and reverenced with love,

Was not a punctual presence, but a spirit

Diffused through time and space. (The Prelude.VIII.608-615)

 Gwendolen is shocked to learn of Daniel’s Jewish heritage, engagement to Mirah, and plan to emigrate in their final conversation. With her “egoism of imagination” “blinding her to the separateness of [Daniel’s] life,” the recognition of his distinct desires apart from her comes as “a sudden revelation” (683). Linking Wordsworth’s lines with Gwendolen’s budding compassion suggests that Eliot is more interested in moral development (“a spirit / Diffused through time”) than particular moments of early selfishness (“a punctual presence”) and allows her to explore “human nature . . . with love” notwithstanding its selfish “faults.” Gwendolen finds Wordsworthian morality “look[ing] out” from “human struggle with the awful face of duty,” recalling the poet’s “stern lawgiver.” (689) With a new sense of duty, Gwendolen resolves to “make amends for her selfishness and try to be rid of it.” Having lost the struggle of sexual selection, she writes to Daniel, "Do not think of me sorrowfully on your wedding-day,” explaining, “I only thought of myself, and I made you grieve. It hurts me now to think of your grief." This sympathetic concern for Deronda and a germinal desire "to make others glad that they were born" bodes well for her future moral evolution (694-695).

            In the final verse paragraph of The Prelude, marked in Eliot’s edition, Wordsworth anticipates his impact on future readers: “what we have loved, / Others will love, and we will teach them how” (XIV.446-447). In Eliot’s reading, what Wordsworth loves changes over the course of his development, from solitary communion with nature to sympathetic connection with others. She especially values Wordsworth’s modeling of this moral evolution or growth of the mind. Wanting her readers to transcend selfishness in a Darwinian age, she considers that Wordsworth can help “teach them how.” In engaging with her predecessors, Eliot practices what she preaches. Her criticisms of their perceived failures are tempered with generous acknowledgements of their successes. She notes the sympathetic value of Wordsworthian love of nature and the ethical significance of Darwinian interrelatedness. Bringing their two competing visions into interdependence, she uses both Wordsworth and Darwin to provide moral guidance for a new age.

 

 

 Works Cited

Beer, Gillian. Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1983.

 Colvin, Sidney. “Critical Notices: Middlemarch.” The Fortnightly Review. Ed. John Morley. Vol. 13. London: Chapman and Hall, 1873.

 Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species. New York: D. Appleton & Company,1869.

            --The Descent of Man. London: D. Appleton & Co., 1871.

 Dramin, Edward. “‘A New Unfolding of Life’: Romanticism in the Late Novels of George Eliot.” Victorian Literature and Culture. 26.2 (1998): 273-302. Print.

 Eliot, George. Daniel Deronda. 1876. Ed. Graham Handley. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

 --Felix Holt, The Radical.1866. Ed. Lynda Mugglestone. London: Penguin, 1995.

--Middlemarch.1872. Ed. Gregory Maertz. Toronto: Broadview Press, 2004.

--Silas Marner. 1861. London: Bantom Books, 1992.

--The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet’s Mind. London: Edward Moxon, 1851. Eliot’s Annotated Copy. MS Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. New Haven: Yale University.

--The George Eliot Letters, 9 vols. Ed. Gordon S. Haight. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1954-1978.

 Gill, Stephen. Wordsworth and the Victorians. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.

 Homans, Margaret. “Eliot, Wordsworth, and the Scenes of the Sisters’ Instruction.” Critical Inquiry 8.2 (1981): 223-241.

 Levine, George. Darwin and the Novelists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.  

 Mann, Karen B. “George Eliot and Wordsworth: The Power of Sound and the Power of

Mind.”  SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 20 (1980): 675-94.

 Pinney, Thomas. “George Eliot’s Reading of Wordsworth: The Record.” Victorian Newsletter 24 (1963): 20-22.

 Ryan, Robert. Charles Darwin and the Church of Wordsworth. Oxford: Oxford UP,  2016.

 Wordsworth, William. The Major Works.Ed. Stephen Gill. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1984. Print.

            --The Prelude: The Four Texts (1798, 1799, 1805, 1850). Ed. Jonathan Wordsworth. London: Penguin Books, 1995.

            --William Wordsworth: Selected Prose. Ed. John O. Hayden. New York:    Penguin, 1988.



[1] For studies of Wordsworth’s influence on Eliot’s early work, see Homans and Mann.

[2] Edward Dramin briefly notes that Eliot used Romantic discourse in counteracting the materialism of evolutionary theory, but does not examine the specific ways in which these influences intersect. While noting the dearth of scholarship exploring the influence of Wordsworth in the later novels, “the place of other Romantics, most notably Byron” is, for Dramin, “more significant” (276).

[3] Deronda’s disappointing Cambridge education parallels the poet’s experience in Book 3 of The Prelude (1850). As Wordsworth wished his studies “had an ampler range / and freer pace,” Daniel had a “yearning after wider knowledge” than could be acquired in the university’s “narrow tracks” (499–500, 151). However, whereas Wordsworth neglected to seek a scholarship in pursuit of his poetic vocation, Deronda failed because he was helping Hans Meyrick succeed.

[4] Admittedly, Deronda has an evolutionary interest in protecting Mirah. As Eliot modifies the inherent selfishness of Darwinism, she also recognizes its unselfish elements.  

[5] Again, channeling Wordsworth’s love of nature into the love of mankind requires Eliot’s revision as Wordsworth is “haunted” not by the prospect of doing good for others but by “the sounding cataract” (77-78).