Marcus Clarke, the Two George Eliots, and the History of Two Newspapers

Abstract

This essay is an experiment in a reader-focused historicism. It reconsiders the cultural-political circumstances under which Marcus Clarke rewrote George Eliot's ‘The Lifted Veil’, reframing it as a radical late departure from Eliot’s mid-Victorian realism, and from the Englishness of that realism. In doing so, the essay takes seriously the critical commonplace that texts ‘exist only in their readings’ (Frow 244), their ongoing uses. By recovering something from a later moment (and a sharp lateral movement) in the history of ‘The Lifted Veil’, I aim to show how that side-history, too, can illuminate the story, as well as our understanding of Eliot’s career and the wider history of the mid-Victorian novel.

On 15 January 1881 the weekly Melbourne Leader ran the first instalment of Marcus Clarke’s exclusive translation of a new story written in French by the late George Eliot and published in the September–October 1880 issue of the Paris Revue des demux mondes. 1 Clarke was eager to make the most of his discovery while there was still interest in Eliot’s unconventional life and unexpected death (soon after her marriage to the much younger John Cross). ‘Apart from [the story’s] intrinsic merits’, he explained in a footnote, ‘the fact of its being composed in a foreign language renders it an object of literary curiosity’, and it is all the more ‘remarkable as being the last work of fiction from the pen which wrote ‘Romola’ and ‘Adam Bede’’.2 Clarke’s exact translation of the French title, Le Voile Soulevé, as ‘The Lifted Veil’ reveals it to have been neither of…

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Published 31 October 2015 in Volume 30 No. 3. Subjects: Colonial literature & writers, Newspapers, Plagiarism, Reading, Translations by Australian writers, Marcus Clarke, George Eliot, Victorian Literature.

Cite as: Dolin, Tim. ‘Marcus Clarke, the Two George Eliots, and the History of Two Newspapers.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 30, no. 3, 2015. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.5b9e98db8a.