During the first meeting with Philip at the Red Deeps, Maggie, under the influence of Thomas à Kempis, talks of the desirability of giving up wishing. Philip’s reply points directly to an important connection between George Eliot’s book and Utopia and Rasselas. ‘“But I can’t give up wishing,” said Philip, impatiently. “It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. How can we ever be satisfied without them until our feelings are deadened?” ’ The last sentence here is part of Philip’s subjectively biased argument with Maggie, and the preceding one, moving from feelings to an imperative which carries the narrator’s as well as Philip’s italics, could not have been written by More or by Johnson. But the basic paradox, that wishing for what one does not have is simultaneously of questionable value and an inescapable condition of human life, is in different forms central to this as much as to the two earlier books. The difference I wish to emphasise most in the present chapter is that George Eliot is more optimistic about the possibility of development in the individual (though not, in her novels, in mankind generally) through the interaction of desire and disappointment.


Moral Imagination Preceding Chapter Family Honour Present Chapter Latin Grammar 
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  1. 2.
    The George Eliot Letters, ed. Gordon S. Haight (1954–6), vol. 4, p. 300.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    The nature of George Eliot’s determinism is discussed definitively by George Levine in ‘Determinism and Responsibility in the Works of George Eliot’, Publications of the Modern Languages Association, vol. 77 (1962), pp. 268–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 5.
    The George Eliot Letters, ed. Gordon S. Haight (1954–6), vol. 6, pp. 216–17.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Barbara Hardy, ‘The Mill on the Floss’, in Critical Essays on George Eliot, ed. Barbara Hardy (1970) p. 46.Google Scholar

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© Peter New 1985

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