Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eliot & Goethe

George Eliot in Germany

George Eliot visited Weimar in 1854 with George Henry Lewes, more than six years before the publication of The Mill on the Floss. Her experiences there would be used in several of her novels, all of which were yet to be written, including Daniel Deronda and Middlemarch (Haight, p. 151). It was also during this trip that Lewes was writing his life of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
It was Eliot who translated the many quotations from Goethe that were used in that volume (Haight, p. 172). Her view of Goethe as an egoist stems from this visit and her extensive reading of Goethe's complete works. This reading and the views of his thought which she subsequently developed make it unsurprising that we find the connections with Goethe (and perhaps Schiller as well) surfacing in the opinions of young Philip Wakem in his talk with Maggie "In the Red Deeps" (Chapter 1, Book Fifth, The Mill on the Floss, p. 246):

"But I can't give up wishing," said Philip, impatiently. "It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. How can we ever be satisfied without them until our feelings are deadened?"

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. Norton Critical Editions, New York. 1994 (1860)
George Eliot: A Biography
by Gordon S. Haight. Oxford University Press, New York. 1968

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