As I celebrate today the birthday of my favorite novelist, George Eliot, and my most beloved late great Aunt Ruth Friedman, a woman who in her life, embodied the qualities of a heroine of an Eliot novels, I had hoped to craft a different post than I had in years past. But, as I reviewed that, I felt it was better than anything I could come up with this week.
So, I’ll repost that piece, but with a different introduction.
On Monday night, while browsing in Barnes and Noble, I chanced on that bookstore’s edition of Silas Marner which also includes two of Eliot’s short stories, “The Lifted Veil” and “Brother Jacob.” Those two stories may be the only works of her fiction that I have not yet read. I started reading the first story and left with a copy of the book (paid for of course).
Last night, I watched the BBC version of the novel (featuring Ben Kingsley). And the story got to me as the book always does. It’s odd I who love books so much and am moved cry so little when I read (yet tear up frequently when watching movies). Wwhenever I hear the story of the lonely weaver of Raveloe, however, whether in print, via the spoken word (i.e., book on tape/CD) or on screen, I am always touched, always lose it, so to speak it.
Ben Kingsley’s Silas plea to keep an apparently orphaned child who had strayed into his home, “It’s a lone thing; I’m a lone thing. . . . It’s come to me,” is the plea of every human being who has ever felt cut off from his fellows. Indeed, that line in quintessetially George Eliot who so understood human loneliness and recognized our need for the companionship of our fellows.
And she delighted in the effect of a child on an adult with an open heart:
She [that child] was perfectly quiet now, but not asleep–only soothed by sweet porridge and warmth into that wide-gazing calm which makes us older human beings, with our inward turmoil, feel a certain awe in the presence of a little child, such as we feel before some quiet majesty or beauty in the earth or sky–before a steady glowing planet, or a full-flowered eglantine, or the bending trees over a silent pathway.
I rediscovered those words just a few nights ago. When I opened the book I had just purchased, I did not quite arrive at the short story I had just begun. I plunged instead right back into the novel, starting this time in medias res, reading well over two chapters before sleep overtook me.
Such is the power of George Eliot’s prose, the images she invokes, the ideas she presents, the emotions she expresses. She helps us find words for our deepest thoughts and shows compassion for our everyday weaknesses. She seems to see into the troubles of all our lives and finds the balm in tender relations with our fellows.
Without further ado, my George Eliot birthday post:
There are holidays we all celebrate. And then there are the personal days, the anniversary of a wedding, the day we first met our beloved, the birthday of a friend, special relative or favorite writer. November 22 is one of those days for me. Not only does it mark the anniversary of the birth of a very dear great Aunt, my Aunt Ruth, who would have been 112 today, it is also the 189th anniversary of birth of the greatest English novelist, George Eliot.