Eliot, George; Haight, Gordon (editor); [Greene, Graham]
The George Eliot Letters
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954-1955. Seven large octavo volumes, original charcoal cloth boards with navy blue printed labels and gilt lettering to spine. No dust jackets.
First American edition of George Eliot’s letters, a comprehensive collection designed to rescue her from the pious “protection” of her Victorian biographers. Writing to her publisher after the success of Middlemarch, Eliot shows a sharper side: “good news about the guinea edition, but I emphatically agree with you that it will be well to be cautious in further printing. I wish you could see a letter from California the other day, apparently from a young fellow, and beginning ‘Oh you dear lady! I who have been a Fred Vincy ever so long . . . have played vagabond and ninny ever since I knew the meaning of such terms’ etc.” (V, 387). This set belonged to novelist Graham Greene, who has signed the front free endpaper of each volume, and scrupulously marked the text throughout. Greene clearly read Eliot’s letters in detail, drawing up his own handwritten index to key passages at the end of each of the seven volumes, punctuated by exclamations: “Victorianism!," “humour," “how stupid can a publisher be," “criticism!," “a bit mean?," “dissecting a brain!" A compelling association copy, linking two major English novelists across a century.