A Comparative Study of the Oeuvres of George Eliot and Edith Wharton, or: Every Good Book Deserves Favour (Eliot, ibid.), With Remarks by Bear

Apr 20th, 2005 | By | Category: Columns

I love Masterpiece Theater. Why? Because it is a magnificent medium that allows me to watch all the books I’ve never read so I can harass others with my blossoming intelligence. Hey, it beats Cliffnotes.

So on a rainy Thursday afternoon, I was quite excited for a version of George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, especially since it had the delectable Hugh Dancy in it. I tried to force resident movie critic Genevieve into watching the festivities. But she dismissed my invite, explaining, “Hugh Dancy ain’t no Ron Perlman.”

Excerpt from "Anamorphica: A Hellboy & Bear Love Story"

I sighed in joy as the show began with beautiful costuming and even more beautiful Hugh Dancy. I wiped the drool from my chin with my Anna Karenina paperback and prepared myself for a great take on George Eliot; hopefully better then Eliot’s books, which I have never been able to read with any enjoyment.

And if you actually like to muck through George Eliot’s prose, then you’re a filthy liar. How can anyone enjoy reading this?!:

George Eliot, Mill on the Floss

Yeah, that’s right! You can’t read it can you? Okay, maybe I took a little liberty with the font. But I’m just proving the point that George Eliot is a rambling description whore who takes every good plot she can think of and then quickly has the above described plow horses crap on it.

George Eliot, a.k.a. Mary Anne Evans, once explained her novels as a kind of revolution against popular Victorian fiction, which to her contained, “the frothy, the prosy, the pious, or the pedantic”. Okay George, I understand you want to show off a smart heroine, but jeez, you know people really hate brainy women! They at least have to have rousing bosoms or flaxen hair or the all too desirable “Deflate When Finished” module. Hey, it worked for Charles Dickens.

Morton Berman, a literary critic, explained that George Eliot’s novels, “were intended to educate, to modify human nature, rather than (like a soap opera) to afford opportunities for self-indulgence”.

Oh, so that’s why her books are boring! They’re educational!

Yet I still foolishly had hope for the luscious Daniel Deronda. So I watched Masterpiece Theater with my fingers crossed, refusing to pick up the book, as I knew what disasters awaited there, such as dialogue like, “A puff o’ wind ‘ud make ‘em blow about like feathers” .

No colloquiums please. I just want to see some spit-swapping! And of course, a reliable plot. Ahem.

Oh, but the Gods were wicked that rainy Sunday night. If only I had known that they had forced PBS to broadcast this series instead of “Manor House” or “Old Antique Crap” to make me hate George Eliot even more!

Anyways, I watched a star-crossed love take shape between Daniel and Gwendolen Harleth, ignoring the ever-growing subplot about Jews in the socially constricted Victorian world. I should have known better. I should have known Eliot would be a “show but no grow.” After all she did it when I read Mill on The Floss. She had the heroine in that novel, Maggie Tulliver not only refuse the very sexy Stephen but also the crippled-but-has-a-heart-of-gold-so-he’s-a-catch Philip.

Why did Maggie give up these potential beaus? Well for a climatic incestuous type drowning with her brother! Wow, only George Eliot has that tried and true talent allowing her to ruin one of my favorite statutory crimes. Sure, maybe I can relate to this. I also want my brother to die sometimes, but I don’t want to go with him!

I should have known better. I should never have watched Daniel Deronda, licking my chops as Hugh Dancy puffed out his sensual lips in frustration as he fought for love and equality and meaning and all sorts of stuff that made him look sexy. I should have known Daniel wasn’t going to pick Gwendolen. I mean, why would he? They just had lots of chemistry and lots of time to stare into each other’s eyes and he had lots of time to VERBALLY ADMIT HIS FEELINGS FOR HER. But George wants us all to forget all that, because she decided Daniel needed to end up with a suicidal Jewish singer because, guess what, he’s Jewish now too! And that helps the whole social message of the plot much more at the end of the story as he sails off to Genoa. That definitely puts those Victorians in their place, George! Daniel really fights the power by, as a Jewish man, marrying a Jewish woman! How common it would have been for him in that period to instead marry a Christian lady very much versed in Victorian tradition. Way to push those social conventions away George and embrace—well, more social conventions.


Edith Wharton would have done it a lot better. Mostly because she is Henry James with balls of brass. This is how she would have written it. Daniel and Gwendolen first would have had a passionate make-out scene while she was married to the detestable Grandcourt (including something involving Daniel rubbing himself in silk, as Wharton has some sort of fabric fetish, note Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome).

Then Gwendolen would have murdered Grandcourt instead of just watching him drown, which was stupid. Following that she’d be put on trial and Daniel would try to stand by his love while also placating his newfound Jewish family, who are against his passion for her as are also his Victorian family (because we all know Victorians are against everything, including piano legs because they are such a symbolic reminder of phalluses) Finally, Gwendolen would have been hung for her misdeed and Daniel would flee the country like a wuss (because all of Wharton’s male characters are wusses).

That would have been brilliant! But no, George had to go and ruin a fantastic plot again.

However, maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was screaming out George Eliot’s name in revulsion like Captain Kirk yelled out “Kahn!” in that Star Trek Movie (how dangerous can a guy in a prosthetic chest be, by the way?).

Excerpt from "Anamorphica: A Hellboy & Bear Love Story"

Therefore I had to get a second opinion. I searched for a literature critic that would be able to explain George Eliot’s vision in the most vivid of terms. I looked to all the best universities, the highest of the high of literary critics. Then I found him. I found the one who knew great written works like the back of his itsy bitsy cutesy wutesy paw!

My stuffed animal, Bear.

After forcing him to join me in a tea party wearing his dandiest of sweaters I knitted for him, Bear first had to involve himself in his usual protests.

“Before we engage in this discussion, I must lodge a complaint with you,” he began. “Would you please, please stop kicking me off the bed. I fall under there every time and I hate it!” He quickly added. “There are dust bunnies!”

“If you’re going to act so grumpy,” I said. “I won’t let you finish your imaginary tea!”

After sipping on invisible peppermint tea, Bear explained that George Eliot was a writer before her time. Not only did she break the rules of society in the Victorian age by living with a married man, Eliot presented the world with an original view of the social classes and how it affected and determined the decisions of her characters in novels such as The Mill on The Floss, Daniel Deronda and Middlemarch.

Bear would have gone on to compare and contrast Eliot’s feminist views with that of my favorite authoress, Edith Wharton, but I had at that moment decided he needed to be thrown in the washing machine because he really was covered with dust bunnies and it was pretty gross.

As I watched Bear turning round and round in my Maytag Front Load Washer, sending me angry looks (and an attempt at showing a middle finger, but it was all paw), I thought that maybe I was wrong. Maybe Bear, in all his cuddly adorable intelligence was right.

Therefore dear readers, I leave you with a line from George Elliot that has grown on my heart like a newborn fungus:



So, what is this shit? You don’t like some author, so you’re going to bitch about it? Lady, I live in a bomb shelter with eight hundred cats. I can’t use my right arm because it looks like a lawn ornament. And did I mention I’m a being summoned from hell by the Nazis? No? Well, guess what.

I never got a chance to read a book growing up, because I was in hell! I didn’t get a chance to go to college, because I’m from hell. And why don’t I have a bear of my own?

Oh, right. FROM HELL.

Movie Poster for the upcoming film: "Anamorphica: A Hellboy & Bear Love Story"



Frequent target of fallen angels, Eileen hides from their seductive wrath in the hallowed confines of Defenestration HQ, where she hopes to erect a wall of words between herself and the forces of evil.

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