Letter from Reverend W. Griffiths, p.1.

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Description:The Rev. W. Griffiths was married to Isaac Evans' daughter. Isaac Evans was Mary Ann Evans', (George Eliot), older brother. He was writing to Canon Fred Evans, [?relationship], about George Eliots' 'naughtiness'.

George Eliot (born Mary Ann Evans) was a local authoress based in the Coventry and Nuneaton district, from 1819-1880.


Sedgley Vicarage
Dudley 11 March

My dear Fred -

I have quite forgotten where we were in the matter of C Bray and his Instinct - but your questions have led me to formulate and systematize my own little conceptions on the subject of Human Instinct, and I submit the result for your criticism. please to let me have it back some time; because, however faulty, it may serve as a clear staring-point for some better theory, - if such should come. Chambers' Encyclopaedia is the only thing I have read on the subject.

Whence did you get that fact about the last word of so many in all ages being 'Mother'? It is one of the prettiest things I have heard for a long time.

T.N.L.W ( - That Noble-Looking Woman') is very much gratified by your appreciation of her Work: but it ought to be known that I put the stops in.

I quite think with you that George Eliot was on her way back; and indeed that she had never really wandered so far as she seemed even to herself to have done. The amount of reading and work that she got though is perfectly amazing: and I cannot help thinking that, in spite of the mutual love between herself and Lewis, she had to be rather a 'drudge' to him. It was manifestly a sad life; and I think she felt her abnormal position acutely. The utter absence of all humour in the letters of the inventress of Mrs. Poyser, Aunt Gleg, etc, etc, is a most extraordinary phenomenon. - To my mind the great fault of her character lay in this, - that her emotions were so habitually allowed to run-out her actions. It was very much the character which Newman depicts in his Sermon on youth, "I go, Sir", and went not. Still more it was the character which he warns us against acquiring, in that little poem in the Lyra Apostolica:-

'Prune thou thy words: the thoughts control
Which o'er thee swell and throng:
They will condense within they soul,
And change to purpose strong.

But he, who lets his feeling run
In soft luxurious flow,
Shrinks when hard service must be done,
And faints at every woe.'

In illustration of this, compare the course adopted by your Mother and George Eliot when Aunt Chrissy was down with Typhus Fever. Your Mother immediately settled the affairs of her household, sent her children off to Packington to be out of the way of the infection, and then went and turned up her sleeves and nursed the poor patient through her most repulsive illness: George Eliot, having neither Children nor house on her mind, sat down at a safe distance, and wept. The behaviour to Emily Clarke was also quite of a piece with this. - Still, one must not be too censorious. Folk have but a certain amount of force; and the more there goes out in any one way the less there is to go out in other ways. That is the basis of Newman's verse. You cannot have highly emotional writings and highly practical ministries in one and the same woman: or as the over-educated negro housemaid told her mistress the other day, - 'You can't have Algebra and clean corners out of one nigger'.

With regard to what is commonly looked upon as the great blot in G. E.'s life, I think it is a mistake to attempt to nullify the objectionable features of it saying that G. E. might do what no other woman might, simply because she was G. E.: (-though this, by the way, is somewhat after the fashion in which Moses seems to have been excused in Number XII for his naughtiness in marrying the Ethiopian woman -). Such a course s apt to preclude a hearing for what may really be said in mitigation of sentence: namely, (1) that the place which G. E. took, though not legally vacated, was practically void, so that no other woman was in any way wronged or pained by what she did: and (2) that she filled and held that place as loyally and nobly as if she had been appointed consecrated to it by the Archbishop himself.

The Guardian has a good article upon what it calls the Watershed in G. E.'s life: meaning by that the culminating ridge between her religious and non-religious life.

I have not got any of the Library Edition of her books.

When I know of any good Second-Hand Bookseller outside of Birmingham I will tell you of him: but I know of none at present. I should think Cornish of New Street would be a good man to question on the subject, some day when you are in Brum.

This is a long yarn, but here I bite it off.

TN.L.W. joins me in best love

Yours affectionately
W. Griffiths

The two boys have both been 'hors de combat' with serious indiscretions, alias "Colds", and Graham is still under par: but I am myself amazingly well, and exulting in my admitted superiority. Copson Parratt's Magnets have achieved it for me: and they would do you a world of good if ever you ail.


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