Books: Pride and Power Selections From George Eliot's Letters

Ralph Waldo Emerson, upon meeting Mary Ann Evans in 1848, said she possessed "a calm, serious soul." Twenty years later a young American visitor to London encountered Mary Ann, now famous as George Eliot. "Behold me literally in love with this great horse-faced blue-stocking," Henry James wrote to his father. "A mingled sagacity and sweetness--a broad hint of a great underlying world of reserve, knowledge, pride and power." Two years before her death in 1880, Ivan Turgenev raised his glass at a party in an English country house and proposed a toast to Eliot: "The greatest living novelist!"

Through much of...

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