The Comte connection : George Eliot, positivism and poetry


Fisher, Christine Heather Edwina




George Eliot's poetry has been ignored for practically a century. Critics have passed on adverse comments about her poems without bothering to investigate them. The fact is that George Eliot wrote poetry to explore and to propagate ideas derived from the philosophy of Auguste Comte. An understanding of the relationship between the poetry and Comtean Positivism is an essential preparation for adequate critical assessment. After a brief exploration of the critical disinheritance, the question of George Eliot's Positivism is examined. The biographical facts are re-assembled to demonstrate that from 1854 to the end of her life she studied Auguste Comte's Philosophie and Systems de Politique Positive continually, and in particular during the years in which she wrote poetry (1865-1874). The verse-drama. The Spanish Gypsy, is a Positivist allegory. Later poems deal with the concept of the Great Being of Humanity and subjective immortality. Silas Marner, Romola and Middlemarch are also discussed in the context of their Positivist ideas as they relate to the poems. Finally, an explanation is offered as to why George Eliot never publicly proclaimed herself a Positivist, and why, after 1874, she ceased to write Positivist poetry.


Eliot, George, 1819-1880 -- Criticism and interpretation
Comte, Auguste, 1798-1857




Carleton University

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