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N one of her many fits of depression over the plot of
journal of July 30, 1861, “struck out two or three thoughts towards an English novel”; and again, on a day in the following November, while still struggling with “Romola,” she was “occupied with ideas” about her “next English novel.” This novel may or may not have been “Felix Holt," which apparently was not attacked in earnest till more than three years later, after “Romola” had been published and while "The Spanish Gypsy” was in its earlier stages. The poem was laid aside February 21, 1865, and George Eliot's journal for March 29 recorded the fact that she had begun “Felix Holt.” She was then living at the Priory, 21, North Bank, Regent's Park, where she had moved in November, 1863.
The work was done under the clouds of depression that so persistently hung over her. On July 23, 1865, she wrote in her journal, “I am going doggedly to work at my novel, seeing what determination can do in the face of despair”; and on December 24, “For two days I have been sticking in the mud from doubt about my construction.” To this last she added, however, “I have just consulted G., and he confirms my choice of incidents.” Lewes, indeed, was constantly her comforter as well as critic. On December 4, she had read
to the end of Chapter 1x to him, and he had been "much pleased” and had “found no fault.” On certain points of law involved in the plot she was materially assisted by Mr. Frederic Harrison, who also read the manuscript at her request, for the sake of any corrections he could make in her treatment of public affairs. It was the first time any book of hers had been read in manuscript by an outsider. She also consulted Blackwood on two or three matters of fact, and she read the Annual Register for 1832, and went through the Times for that year and the next to fortify herself as to details.
On the 10th of April, 1866, she wrote to her friend Mme. Bodichon: “I am finishing a book which has been growing slowly like a sickly child, because of my own ailments.” On the last day of May the book was done, and five days later she wrote to a friend: “Last Thursday only I finished writing, in a state of nervous excitement that had been making my head throb and my heart palpitate all the week before. As soon as I had finished I felt well.”
After seeing the first two volumes in manuscript, Mr. Blackwood wrote to offer £5000 for the novel, and the offer was accepted at once. It is said that Smith, Elder & Co. had refused to accept the book on the same or similar terms. The return to the Blackwoods was permanent, for she never afterward changed her publishers.
“Felix Holt, the Radical,” is George Eliot's only political novel, and, as Miss Blind points out, it is the only one of her writings from which her political views may be inferred, except the “Address to Working Men, by Felix Holt,” which she wrote in November and De