Books: Parallelograms of Passion

GEORGE ELIOT, A BIOGRAPHY by Gordon S. Haight. 616 pages. Oxford University Press. $12.50.

"Magnificently ugly," the young Henry James summed her up in 1869, "deliciously hideous." But in the ugliness of "this great, horse-faced bluestocking," James admitted with some awe, "resides a most powerful beauty . . . and sweetness—a broad hint of a great underlying world of reserve, knowledge, pride and power."

Such resounding but paradoxical praise for novelist George Eliot was characteristic in her time. Today, young students and many adults who are obliged to read her worst book, Silas Marner,...

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