It’s Thanksgiving day here in America, and it is in the spirit of giving thanks that I offer this. Part tribute, part educational project, here’s my contribution to the Marian Evans Memorial, which is embodied in the totality of information about her to be found in print and on the web. There is no definitive source, and that is as it should be, so this is not an attempt to be that.
Don’t expect scholarly. I’m just a common guy. I’ll include something old and something new about Marian with each post. Old as in, from before a century ago—new as in, anything I might find interesting.
Here’s a bit of both, for starters. I’ve already mentioned a certain old book left me by my father–a century old copy of Silas Marner— The Weaver of Raveloe, that belonged to my aunt Marian when she was a schoolgirl. Here’s an excerpt from that book. It’s taken from the introduction, page 18, and is written by Cornelia Beare instructor in English, Wadleigh High School, New York City.
“George Eliot began her literary work as a translator, essayist, and editor—novel writing was at first a side issue. When she did take it up, her habits of thought were already formed; the translator’s exactness, the scholar’s careful and minute analysis, the critic’s care for perfection of form are all found in her work. Brought up as she was among the middle class and with plenty of opportunity to know the working class from her father’s position, she is at her best in presenting to us the thoughts and lives of the workers. No other writer has quite her gift of entering into the personality of the character and interesting the reader in the seemingly trivial details, the sordid tragedies and comedies of peasant life. Nor is this all. Her works deserve to rank as classics to be placed among the truly great examples of modern art, because they never lose sight of the fact that literature, fiction, though it may be, has a higher aim than merely to entertain—its true purpose should be to teach and guide, to put before us the working out of the great truths which shape life, that, by seeing this, we may guide our own lives aright.”
That was from Merrill’s English Texts, published in 1908. This is what my aunt Marian was reading as a 10th grader! Wonder what they’re reading these days? More from that book in a later post. I promise.
Here’s an excerpt from the afterword to my recent book, Reset by Marian Evans. Keep in mind that I was not trying to portray the Marian of my title as being the one, the only, the real and true Marian of Victorian England, but yes, she is definitely the inspiration. Quirky title and all, I hope it helps to introduce more people to the work of the girl that was George Eliot.
“Yes, my name really is Cool. German immigrant ancestors adopted the spelling because they thought it would be cooler than K-u-h-l. 🙂
“I originally wrote and planned to publish this story using a pen name, Marian Evans, for several reasons, but decided to publish it under my own name for several others. The perceived benefits of using a pen name, compared to the real complications involved, are hard to balance. Growing up with a name like Cool, I knew it was likely that some people would think my real name a pseudonym anyway. I mostly wanted to avoid any limelight that would inevitably follow someone who writes as well as I hope to. I also wanted to avoid any controversy provokeable by the uneasy thoughts I might put on paper.
‘So, I created Marian, and she wrote Reset. I think she’s good, if a little strange. But alas, “words weren’t made for cowards,” says Happy Rhodes. Heeding her advice, I must take the credit, the blame, and any fame, if people recommend this story to others.
“—What’s that? Umm . . . Marian asks me to note that she was NOT conceived and created by me.
“Fine fine–I don’t think I need to point out that (shhh) her initials are M.E. In return, she may be kind enough to refrain from explaining, yet again, that it’s just as likely that she created me, and that I am but a crazy dream of hers.
“Her name sounds like another writer, whose name and works are as liquid on the page, who was obliged to publish as a man, that her words might sell. I always wondered what that says about a man, which is all I meant to point out through the similarity to the late great Mary Ann Evans-Cross (one spelling). She had skill and grace with the written word that far exceeds my own.”