s George Eliot began The Mill on the Floss, debt and money were on her mind in a new way: because, for the first time, she could imagine getting them off her mind. In her earlier years she had witnessed the bankruptcy other sister Chrissys husband and the efforts other brother Isaac to help’ take care of the family following the husband's death. In 1854 she saw John Chapman, the editor of the Westminster Review , face bankruptcy and finally work out an arrangement with his creditors with the assistance of family and friends. And for years during the iSsos she lived with George Henry Lewes in small quarters as they both worked to pay off debts that had quite often been contracted by Lewes's wife. With these experiences, Eliot had enough experience with debt and its effects on the debtors connections to make her reference to the dishonor of debt while thanking Blackwood for an extra payment more than pro forma. The Mill on the Floss, occasioned complicated contractual discussions intended to capitalize on the success of Adam Bede; helped by Lewes, Eliot was able to negotiate terms for the new novel that made her wealthy.
But beyond any personal reasons for the interest in debt, the broader cultural, economic, and political preoccupation with bankruptcy during the i8sos represented a field that offered a ready staging ground for the explora- tions of abstract and embedded or sympathetic modes of knowledge that had absorbed Eliot in her aesthetic reflections and fictional practice.
Hunt, Aeron. Personal Business: Character and Commerce in Victorian Literature and Culture. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014. [Reviewed by George P. Landow]
Last modified 28 January 2015