The Letters of George Henry Lewes, 2 vols.
The present collection, containing nearly five hundred letters, is intended not only as a correction of and companion to Haight's monumental work but also as a valuable supplement to Ashton's biography of Lewes. It spans Lewes's correspondence between 1834 and 1878, from the early years as a young journalist to his achievement as a Victorian man of letters whose scholarly publications ranged from the scientific and intellectual interests expressed in Comte's Philosophy of the Sciences, The Physiology of Common Life, History of Philosophy, Problems of Life and Mind, to works chronicling his lifelong interest in drama and literature, culminating in the highly accomplished and successful Life of Goethe. Similarly the list of his correspondents includes many of the most distinguished thinkers and eminent figures of the period: J. S. Mill, Varnheger von Ense, Napier, Comte; Bulwer Lytton, Dickens, Trollope, the publishers Blackwood and George Smith, and many others. But the letters reveal much more than the intellectual and the man of business who nourished George Eliot's genius. 'my private critic' as she called him (Letters, III, 41). In this correspondence we also find Lewes the family man, the devoted husband and father, the best of travelling companions; the correspondence reveals not only intimate details of the private lives of these two highly individual writers but also offers us insights into the domestic life of Victorian England.
William Baker's selection of Lewes's letters is scrupulously edited and impeccably researched, presented in a scholarly and readable format with useful biographical material prefacing each of the ten sections and supplemented with full and accurate notes. It amply fulfils the aims set out in the editor's preface to illuminate the intellectual quality and achievement of Lewes's life in association with that of George Eliot and to bring the reader to a greater understanding of Victorian life and letters.
MARA KALNINS Corpus Christi, Cambridge
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|Publication:||Notes and Queries|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1996|
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