I. George Henry, an English author, born in London, April 18, 1817. After receiving an unusually varied education, partly in England and partly on the continent, he became a clerk in the office of a Russian merchant. He soon abandoned mercantile life to pursue the study of medicine; and still later he decided to devote himself entirely to literature and philosophy. With this end in view he spent the years 1838-'9 in study in Germany, and on his return to London he at once began an active literary career, gaining an early reputation as a versatile thinker and brilliant writer, especially upon philosophical and scientific subjects. He contributed to the leading reviews, especially to the "Edinburgh," "Westminster," "Foreign Quarterly," and "British Quarterly," and to Blackwood's and Fraser's magazines. In 1849 he assumed the literary editorship of the "Leader" newspaper, founded in that year, and retained it till 1854. He continued to devote himself almost exclusively to the literature of philosophy and science, and many of his investigations of psychological phenomena and kindred subjects excited much attention among scientific men.
Among the papers prepared by him in this field of study, the most noteworthy are his essays " On the Spinal Cord as a Centre of Sensation and Volition," read before the British association in 1858, and "On the Nervous System" (three papers, 1859). In 1865 he founded the "Fortnightly Review," of which he was editor until the end of 1866, when he resigned the post because of ill health. The philosophical works by which Mr. Lewes is most widely known are his "Biographical History of Philosophy, from Thales to Comte" (1847; 4th ed., partly rewritten, 2 vols., 1871), in which, while giving a review of the different philosophical systems, he shows his own strongly marked positivist opinions; and "Problems of Life and Mind," of which but one volume, on "The Foundations of a Creed," has as yet been published (London, 1874). It may be inferred from this volume that Mr. Lewes intends the "Problems of Life and Mind " to include a very full exposition of his own philosophical opinions, and it would seem that he designs it when completed to be the exponent of his matured views.
In his philosophical writings throughout, Mr. Lewes has attached but small value to merely metaphysical investigation and conjecture, but has advocated devotion to the study of problems from which results of more positive value may be expected, and to which truly scientific methods may be applied. He maintains, however, in " The Foundations of a Creed," that many problems have been hitherto classed as metaphysical which are really to be investigated by these methods; and advises a new distinction in philosophical study, substituting the terms "empirical" and " metempirical" for "physical" and "metaphysical." Apart from his philosophical works Mr. Lewes's most widely known book is his "Life of Goethe" (1855; new ed., partly rewritten, 1873). His other works, both in philosophy and general literature, include "Ranthorpe, a Tale" (1847); " The Spanish Drama: Lope de Vega and Cal-deron" (1848); "Rose, Blanche, and Violet," a novel (1848); "Life of Robespierre" (1850); " The Noble Heart," a tragedy (1850); " Com-te's Philosophy of the Sciences " (1853); " Seaside Studies " (1858); " Physiology of Common Life " (1860); " Studies in Animal Life " (1861); and " Aristotle: a Chapter from the History of Science," with analyses of Aristotle's scientific writings (1864; new ed., 1873).
II. Marian Evans, wife of the preceding, an English author, most widely known under her nom de plume of George Eliot, born in Warwickshire about 1820. Her first work, "Scenes of Clerical Life," originally appeared in "Blackwood's Magazine " in 1857, and was published in book form in London in 1858. It was followed by "Adam Bede" (1859), which at once secured for its author a place among the first of English novelists, and formed the beginning of a series of works each one of which has confirmed Mrs. Lewes in the high position which criticism has almost universally allotted to her. "The Mill on the Floss" appeared in 1860; "Silas Maimer" in 1861; "Romola" (first published as a serial in the " Cornhill Magazine") in 1863; "Felix Holt, the Radical," in 1866; and "Middlemarch," the latest and one of the most remarkable of her prose works, in 1871. She translated Strauss's "Life of Jesus " (1846), and Feuerbach's " Essence of Christianity" (1854). Her poetical works are "The Spanish Gypsy" (1868), and "The Legend of Jubal" (1874). Mrs. Lewes was for a time associate editor of the "Westminster Review." Among the highest characteristics of " George Eliot" as a writer of fiction is her remarkable power in the delineation, not so much of character already formed, as of its development.
Almost unconsciously the reader follows every process in the growth of those strong individual types with which her novels are filled, and sees the logical influence of every circumstance and event brought to bear upon their lives. In all of her works the physical and material difficulties to which her actors are subjected, and all those things which ordinarily constitute the " plot" of a romance, are, without losing their interest in any way, made completely subordinate to this leading design of picturing the development of the individual character under different conditions. Thus her novels form some of the best examples in the English language of the true carrying out of the highest purpose of fiction. Hardly less important characteristics are her singular skill in seizing and embodying thoroughly human types of mind and thought, so that each one of her characters becomes a living representative of some traits which every reader recognizes; and her power of terse and almost epigrammatic expression, which places her works among that small number from which expressions pass into popular and current quotation.
The subjects of her novels, with the notable exception of " Romola," are generally taken from English village and provincial life.