Page:Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day.djvu/109

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57
Charles Reade.

are present whom that sermon hits. This is art. A sermon, preached to the reader only, is a mere excrescence on the narrative. It is a wart, though it may not be a blot.

The only situation of any power in 'The Mill on the Floss'—viz. the heroine and her lover drifting loose in a boat, and being out together all night—is manifestly taken from the similar situation in 'Love me Little, Love me Long.' But Eliot's treatment of the borrowed incident is petty and womanish by comparison with her model.

In 'Felix Holt,' the ground is admirably laid for strong situations : but in the actual treatment only two come out dramatically, and they are both borrowed. The young gentleman going to strike his steward, and being met by 'I am your Father;' and the heroine going into the witness-box to give evidence for her lover. The former is borrowed from an old novel, and the latter from Charles Reade's 'Hard Cash;' and it may be instructive to show how the inventor and the imitator deal with the idea.

We print in parallel columns quotations of the evidence given in court by both novelists' heroines.

HARD CASH.
(Vol. iii. p. 294, 1863.)
BY CHARLES READE.
FELIX HOLT THE RADICAL.
(Vol. iii. p. 228, 1866.)
BY GEORGE ELIOT.


Julia Dodd entered the box, and a sunbeam seemed to fill the court. She knew what to do: her left hand was gloved, but her white right hand bare. She kissed the book; and gave her evidence in her clear, mellow, melting voice: gave it reverently and modestly, for to her the court was a church. She said how long she had been acquainted with Alfred, and how his father was adverse, and her mother had thought it was because they did not pass for rich, and had told her they were rich; and with this she produced David's letter, and she also swore to having met Alfred and others carrying her father in a swoon from his father's very door. She deposed to Alfred's sanity on her wedding-eve, and on the day his recapture was attempted.

Saunders, against his own judgment, was instructed to cross-examine her; and, without meaning it, he put a question which gave her deep distress.

There was no blush upon her face: she stood, divested of all personal considerations, whether of vanity or shyness. Her clear voice sounded as it might have done if she had been making a confession of faith. She began and went on without query or interruption. Every face looked grave and respectful.

'I am Esther Lyon, the daughter of Mr. Lyon, the Independent minister at Treby, who has been one of the witnesses for the prisoner. I knew