Monday, June 11, 2012

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot (A Victorian Celebration).

 “We learn words by rote, but not their meaning; that must be paid for with our life-blood, and printed in the subtle fibres of our nerves.” 

I decided to sit down a read a book yesterday afternoon. You see, I came home from work at the park and decided to do some blogging. Then I became utterly depressed because while all the participants in my little event are speeding along with their reading, I was still floundering along back at the start waiting to begin. So, I stood and stared at my bookshelves. For a long time. Then I realized I had a volume with Silas Marner, The Lifted Veil, and Brother Jacob. "Couldn't I read one of the latter two titles? They're short, right?" So I clutched my book, sat on the couch, and told myself I couldn't leave until I finished something (except to go change over the laundry).

I decided on reading The Lifted Veil. I hadn't read it before, so I figured it was about time. I've really only read Eliot's longer works, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this super short piece of fiction (I feel I should mention that I love Eliot. All of her work is simply fabulous with The Mill on the Floss being my ultimate favorite-yes, even more so than Middlemarch). So, I sat on my couch and read.

Well, apparently Eliot had a big of courage in her to try something a little different. Maybe I was expecting the usual-pastoral setting, bickering women-folk, and a girl who doesn't quite fit the "normal" role. Nope. Instead I got a story told in first-person from a male voice, and that was vaguely science-fictiony/gothic. It was odd. And not what I was really expecting from my first Victorian piece.

But I dove in, enjoyed it, then set it aside and said, "huh." Yes, I did enjoy Eliot's voice. I feel like I can always pick her out of a crowd-the way she strings sentences together just sings of her work, and I certainly felt that in The Lifted Veil. I also felt slightly if she was trying to maintain a firm grip on what she was writing about and maybe wasn't all that sure of where her story was truly going...

The main character has the ability to see some things in the future, as well as hear the thoughts of others if he allows himself to get close enough. This has set him aside from his relations and those in his community. So when tragedy strikes and he eventually marries, it doesn't really bode well for his marriage. It is an odd story, and one that seemed all too short (my edition was only 55 pages). I felt like I was just getting into his voice when I flipped the last page. I felt like the climax was too soon and then it was over.

Looking around online, I stumbled onto a few theories on why Eliot may have written the novella in the first place. Her real name was Mary Ann Evans (a fact I already knew), but she wrote under the pen name George Eliot in hopes of her identity as a woman being protected. Her first novel, Adam Bede, was published under her pen name, and there was a search done to determine the identity of the writer. The Lifted Veil was published shortly after and her identity was leaked. I suppose there are some direct comparisons. Obviously Eliot had to feel some pressure to be under the public eye (aren't all celebrities?), and that might be reflected in her main character here. He pulls away from society so as not to hurt himself (by hearing their thoughts or getting too close), so perhaps Eliot was pointing out the need for privacy?

I'm just not sure I buy that, or whether I want to dive into thinking that about the novella.

In any case, I'm glad to have finished one Victorian piece, so now I can feel better about myself as the supposed host of the event. :) I still have Brother Jacob to read, and I might get to it later this week. I think it is supposed to be more in her usual style than this one, so I'll look forward to it. :)

Yep. This was read for A Victorian Celebration, as well as the 2012 Victorian Challenge and as a title for my Classics Club List. But was it on the original 250 list? Nope. :)


  1. I remember thinking that the writing chops were impressive on this one, but the story was a bit odd. It was a decent intro to George Eliot, though. I assumed her longer works would be a better reflection of her talent. I'm curious what you'll have to say about Brother Jacob. I read it alongside The Lifted Veil... last year, I think? :)

    1. This one was very different than anything else I've read by her, so I think that's why I was thrown off a bit. I still enjoyed it...just wasn't what I expected. :)

      I'm hoping to get to Brother Jacob soon...need to make some more progress in my current reads. :)

  2. As a completist, I'm happy to say I read (and reviewed these two) last year :) While 'The Lifted Veil' is a departure for Eliot, it's an excellent story, if a little darker than most would imagine. 'Brother Jacob' is much lighter in tone ;)

    Of course, for the real Eliot addict, 'Impressions of Theophrastus Such' is also a great one to try...

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I am huge Eliot fan and am slowly working through her complete works. :)

  3. This sounds like a great story! I had never heard of Eliot's shortest works but this deffinitely brings some light on identity and gender issues. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It was a good one! I do think her strength is in longer work, but I liked this one. :)