Author: George Eliot
Read: June, 2016
Genre: Horror, Gothic
This book, part of penguin’s little black classics range, includes Eliot’s dark novella The Lifted Veil and the essay Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, which examines the flaws of female writing in Eliot’s time.
The Lifted Veil
“Latimer, a sensitive and intellectual man, finds he has clairvoyant powers: he has a vision of a woman, “pale, fatal-eyed”, who he later meets: she is Bertha Grant, his brother’s fiancee. Entranced and bewildered, Latimer is unwilling to take heed of the warning visions which beset him.” (Summary from goodreads)
I really enjoyed this novella – Eliot examines the supernatural in an engaging and haunting manner. The narrator – Latimer – is not overtly likeable, but his insecurities and isolation, largely self-inflicted as a result of his clairvoyant abilities, are distinctly relatable and unnerving.
Eliot also explores the consuming, blinding nature of attraction and jealously through Latimer’s infatuation with Bertha and how this later leads him into a poisonous relationship. The twist of the story revealed in the particularly unsettling scene with Bertha’s deceased servant at the end of the novella really emphasises this to readers.
Overall, the story was a dark and suspenseful read that I highly recommend.
Silly Novels by Lady Novelists
“Describing the silliness and feminine fatuity of many popular books by lady novelists, George Eliot perfectly skewers the formulaic yet bestselling works that dominated her time, with their loveably flawed heroines.” (summary from goodreads)
This essay was a really interesting insight into Eliot’s opinions on popular feminine literature of her time – she feels that most of it was written poorly and that the characters and stories were overly dramatic/silly. More interesting than Eliot’s direct critiques of these writings however is her concern about how an abundance of such literature would be detrimental to perceptions of women. She felt that through the types of heroine depicted in these novels, harmful stereotypes of women’s intellectual inferiority would be reinforced, or perhaps legitimised. These concerns are communicated effectively, creating a very thought-provoking essay.
“We learn words by rote, but not their meaning; that must be paid for with our life-blood, and printed in the subtle fibres of our nerves.”
“By a peculiar thermometric adjustment, when a woman’s talent is at zero, journalistic approbation is at the boiling pitch; when she attains mediocrity, it is already at no more than summer heat; and if ever she reaches excellence, critical enthusiasm drops to the freezing point.”
If you like this try:
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe