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Lot 72
ELIOT, GEORGE (1819-1880, novelist and poet)
£1,500 - 1,800
US$ 2,400 - 2,900

Lot Details
ELIOT, GEORGE (1819-1880, novelist and poet)
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ('M E Lewis'), to Mrs [Frederick] Lehmann, with whom she and George Lewes had just stayed at Pau, giving a fine account of their travels in Spain, in preparation for the completion of her poetical drama The Spanish Gypsy (published in 1868) by absorbing first-hand the Spanish scene, and containing some fine observations on Spain and the Spanish ('...Until we got into Aragon, I thought I had never seen so many pretty women, or people with such charming manners, as in the few days after we left France. But at Saragossa, the people are brusque, & the beauty had disappeared. Still they are not rude: the Spaniards seem to me to stare less, to be quicker in understanding what foreigners say to them, & to show more good-will without servility in their manners than any other nation I have seen anything of. I longed to be able to sketch one or two of the men with their great striped blankets thrown grandly round them, & a kerchief tied about their heads, who make the chorus to every thing that goes on in the open air at Saragossa. They & the far stretching brown plains with brown sheepfolds, brown towns & villages, & far-off walls of brown hills...I could have fancied myself in Arabia...'); she also describes the cultural life of Barcelona ('...is of the class of mongrel towns that one can never care for much except for the sake of the climate, & this we are having to perfection...the people strikingly handsome, & we have popular theatres, a Spanish opera, & an Italian opera...we saw a mystery play - the Shepherds of Jerusalem...differed little from what people delighted in five centuries ago...the Spanish opera - the music really inspiring. And this evening we are going to hear the Faust at the great opera house...We watch the audience as well as the actors, & we try to accustom our ears to the Spanish pronunciation...'), explains why she has not written before, gives accounts of their health, expresses their pleasure in rail travel ('...the reason probably is that the rate of swiftness is much lower, & objects remain before the eye long enough for delight in them...'), mentions the lack of hardship ('...The odours & insects are hybernating...') and comments on one particular 'bit of genuine Spanish life' ('...such a scene on the brown slope of the high hill which is surmounted by the fort! - groups of women sitting in the afternoon sunshine at various kinds of small womens' work - men gambling, men in striped blankets looking on - handsome gypsies making jokes probably at our expense, jokes which gave us the advantage of seeing the gypsies white teeth. Then the view from the fort was worth a journey to see. No longer a barren plain, but an olive garden...'), 3 pages, octavo, one or two small holes in folds, Barcelona, 3 February 1867

Footnotes

  • GEORGE ELIOT RESEARCHES FOR THE SPANISH GYPSY. The Lehmanns ran an elegant salon in London and were part of the literary scene. In May the Leweses stayed with Mrs Nina Lehmann at Pau who afterwards wrote: 'I have got to know her as I never should have done in years in London, and I think she loves me - we are sworn friends. What a sweet, mild, womanly presence hers is - so soothing too, and elevating above all. It is impossible to be with that noble creature without feeling better, I have never known any one like her - and then her modesty, her humility. A modesty, too, that never makes her or you awkward, as many modesties. I am full of her. She makes a great impression on me, and I long to see more of her. She said, without my asking it, she would write me from Barcelona to tell me how it went with 'George', and if they were going on as they now intend.'
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