Marian Evans, George Eliot, and the Work of Sententiousness

  • Ruth Livesey
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


This chapter examines George Eliot’s interest in and experiments with the forms of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French sententiousness and wisdom literature. Despite the evident differences between Eliot’s long-form realist fictions and the short forms of maxims and character sketches, it argues that such works—and those of La Bruyère in particular—provide a counterweight to the author’s anxieties around labour and the mass productions of print culture. By the 1870s Eliot had mass-market fame for her sententious statements, thanks to Main’s serial anthologization of the Wise, Witty, and Tender Sayings of George Eliot. Her final work, Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879), pays complex tribute to her French influences, translating the site of the coterie to the contemporary world of London literary labour and revealing the competitive labour that Main’s anthology concealed.


Alexander Main Anthologies Authorship George Eliot Jean de La Bruyère Labour Sententiousness Theophrastus Such 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Livesey
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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