It may not be too early to post some essays about George Eliot from that fountainhead of literary opinion and gossip, The New York Review of Books. Perhaps the most relevant piece for us was written by Harold Bloom in 1985. In the course of reviewing Gordon Haight’s book of Eliot’s letters, Bloom devotes a couple of sections to an insightful discussion (it seems to me) of Daniel Deronda.
In a January 1969 number of the NYRB, Noel Annan discussed the (then) new biography, George Eliot, by the same Gordon Haight. For many years, I believe this was the definitive biography. A more general reflection on Eliot’s life and work, Annan’s essay would be useful to anyone wanting to read a bit more about the elusive author.
In 1996, Frederick Karl published a new “definitive” biography, George Eliot, Voice of a Century. Millicent Bell reviewed the book for the NYRB and her comments make interesting counterpoint to Annan’s essay of almost 20 years earlier.
A little to one side of the above discussions, in 1984 Gillian Beer wrote a book called Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. The long title suggests some of the tendentiousness of Beer’s argument but also indicates why a critical review of the book (by David Joravsky) may have some interest for us. This is not the first time we have encountered George Eliot’s fascination with science, in general, and Darwin, in particular. Beer points out (and Joravsky agrees) that these interests form part of the woof upon which Eliot’s weaves Daniel Deronda.