By Kathleen McCormack
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Extra resources for George Eliot and Intoxication: Dangerous Drugs for the Condition of England
That is the part of the life which affects me most' (218). She reserves her strongest sympathy for the alcoholic/opium addict's father and sisters, who live in daily fear of outrage. Evans raises only one objection to Gaskell's biography: 'She sets down Branwell's conduct entirely to remorse, and the falseness of the position weakens the effect of her philippics against the woman who hurried on his utter fall. Remorse may make sad work with a man, but it would not make such a life as Branwell's was in the last three or four years unless the germs of vice had sprouted and shot up long before, as it seems clear they had in him' (2:218).
Its marginal notations and underlinings reflect at least two careful readings of this edition alone. Like many Victorians' attitudes toward Platonism, George Eliot's improved as the century advanced, and her Platonic allusions increased in frequency. Like Plato's Phaedrus, George Eliot's novels repeatedly employ intoxicant metaphors to deal with the processes by which meaning is embodied in and extracted from language, in particular from metaphorical language. Indeed the metaphors she creates to comment on metaphoricity itself, however they begin, eventually link up with drug metaphors.
The hero of Lewes's 1847 novel Ranthorpe, for example, like many of his youthful and romantic contemporaries, is often 'intoxicated' with love, ambition, or the wine of joy. In such examples, the intoxication representing romantic illusions sometimes results from metaphorical consumption of love represented as opium or poison. Meanwhile alcohol takes its related The Early Fiction 41 but opposite role to that of opium when George Eliot launches her manifestoes. As metaphor, intoxication represents romance; at the same time, honest descriptions of drinking and intoxication enhance what George Eliot sees as her realism.