“Eliot greatly admired Die Wahlverwandtschaften, but she first read it in her twenties and continued thinking about German literature for another thirty years.It would be very difficult to recover what she thought of this work as her ideas developed during this period. She did not have a single view of this work.”
|German literary historian Adolf Stahr with whom Eliot in 1854 argued against in defense of Goethe's Elective Affinities denouement. |
“Friday 29. A fine frosty morning. Wrote to Noel and to my Sister. Worked a little at Spinoza but not well enough to do much . Read a little of Scherr. Read aloud Heine’s Salon. Then we went to Prof. Stahr’s house and spent the evening there. A remarkable miniature of Schiller of which there is not engraving. We talked of the Wahlberwandschaften, amongst other things. Stahr finding fault with the dénouement which I defended. (Concession or license).”
“German culture played a dominate role in George Eliot’s life, beginning with her shift from Evangelicism to free-thought when she studied German historical criticism of the Bible in the 1840s. Her lover George Lewes acknowledge her contribution to his analysis of Die Wahlverwandtschaften in his pioneering biography of Goethe and The Mill on the Floss shares similar scenes to those in Goethe’s novel. George Eliot may be thinking about Die Wahlverwandtschaften in parts of her 1855 article ‘The Morality of Wilhelm Meister’, where she describes how Goethe ‘quietly follows the steam of fact and of life; and waits patiently for the moral processes of nature as we all do for her maternal process.’ George Eliot’s appraisal of Goethe as ‘the man who helps us to raise to a lofty point of observation, so that we may see things in their relative proportions’ [see: advanced perspective] is comparable to Georg Lukacs’s characterization of Goethe’s ‘consistently thought-out systemization of these relationships, contrasts and nuances, and his ability to transform all these features into a vivid plot with can characterize them’. For Lukacs, in the plot of Die Wahlverwandtschaften Goethe comes closest to the designs of the nineteenth-century realist novel, of which Middlemarch is the supreme example.
The chemical theory is the structural backbone of Goethe and George Eliot’s realism. Chemicals are only electively affined when their attraction excludes other chemicals. In his narrative Goethe uses the framework of two pairs of lovers, whose attraction to different aspects of each other reveals their psychological ‘properties’. Eduard and Charlotte are married, having known each other since childhood; the Hauptmann arrives, and links up with Eduard in their horticultural plans while excluding Charlotte for being too fanciful. Charlotte is satisfied by the arrival of the childlike Ottilie, and is also finding her own measured nature in affinity with the Hauptmann’s. Meanwhile, Ottilie appeals to Eduard’s childlike side, but the Hauptmann finds her ideas disturbing. And so the narrative continues.
In Middlemarch George Eliot systematically elaborates on what Goethe only suggests in Die Wahlverwandtschaften, since each of her four characters is also bound to wider social relationships through affinity.”
|Alternative depictions and facial expressions of George Elliot, the late 19th century's greatest literary advocate of German polymath Johann Goethe's 1809 physical chemistry based model of literary realism.|
“The quickest of us walk around well-wadded with stupidity.”— George Eliot (c.1850)
“Goethe was the last true polymath to walk the earth.”— George Eliot (c.1870)