Writing, Chronology and Themes
Part of the
Macmillan Master Guides
After the completion of The Mill on the Floss
(which she had finished on 21 March 1860) George Eliot and Lewes went to Italy to begin research for her projected Italian novel. Her particular focus of attention was Florence, and it was not until the beginning of July that they returned to England. But she turned temporarily away from her Italian novel Romola
(published in 1863) to Silas Marner
; by the middle of February 1861 she had sent Blackwood, her publisher, about two-thirds of the novel. He was as usual full of praise (he knew from past experience that she was in constant need of reassurance), but was moved to observe, ‘I wish the picture had been a more cheery one and embraced higher specimens of humanity.’ George Eliot’s reply shows how she developed the ‘millet-seed’ of thought and what her main concerns were:
I should not have believed that anyone would have been interested in it but myself (since William Wordsworth is dead) if Mr Lewes had not been strongly arrested by it…it sets, or is intended to set — in a strong light the remedial influence of pure, natural human relations. The Nemesis is a very mild one. I have felt all through as if the story would have lent itself best to metrical rather than prose fiction, especially in all that relates to the psychology of Silas; except that, under that treatment, there could not be an equal play of humour.