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ELIOT, George.

Autograph letter signed ("M. E. Lewes") to Anne Thackeray.

London: The Priory, 21 North Bank, Regents Park, 16 January 1872 Stock Code: 139465
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George Eliot invites a fellow female novelist to meet

George Eliot invites William Makepeace Thackeray's eldest daughter to one of her famous literary "at homes". The short letter, dated 16 January 1872, reads: "My dear Miss Thackeray, I shall be at home at 4 o'clock on Thursday, & shall be delighted to see you, & Mrs Sartoris, whom I seem already to know a little 'in the spirit'. Yours always truly, M E Lewes".

Anne Isabella Thackeray (1837-1919), later Mrs Richmond Ritchie, then Lady Ritchie, was William Makepeace Thackeray's eldest daughter and, like her father, a novelist. Her Story of Elizabeth (1863), serialized alongside Romola in the Cornhill, George Eliot thought "charmingly written" (Letters, IV, 209).

As Anne afterwards recalled, she did not enjoy her first experience of meeting George Eliot, feeling "overwhelmed by the importance of the situation, and therefore greatly in the way" (Emily Ritchie, ed., From Friend to Friend, London, Murray, 1919, p. 65). Presumably her older and more experienced friend, Mrs Sartoris, otherwise Adelaide Kemble (1815-1879), the singer and author, did most of the talking.

The following year Anne was able to gather herself, accept another invitation, and relay her pleasure at meeting the greatest author of her generation: "Scene a cup of tea, George Eliot in a beautiful black satin dressing-gown by the fire, snow outside and German paper-books on the table, a green lamp and paper cutter. The shrine was so serene and kind that this authoress felt like a wretch for having refused to worship there before. She looked very noble and gentle, with two steady little eyes. You must go and see her. I am sure she will be a friend just as I felt her yesterday, not a personal friend exactly, but a sort of good impulse, trying to see truly, not to be afraid, and to do good to other people" (To Richmond Ritchie January or February 1873, in Thackeray and His Daughter: The Letters and Journals of Anne Thackeray Ritchie, with Many Letters of William Makepeace Thackeray, ed. Hester Thackeray Ritchie, New York & London, Harper, 1924, pp. 164-5).

The mention of snow in this account of their subsequent meeting dates it to January 1873, when heavy snow fell on London; the January of the preceding year, the date of the present letter, was mild and notably rainy.

The letter was formerly in the stock of Walter R. Benjamin Autographs, of 790 Madison Avenue. Walter R. Benjamin (1854-1943) was one of the very first dealers in New York City to consider modern autographs valuable and noteworthy.

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One page (153 x 96 mm), on sheet of printed letterhead folded once to form a bifolium, paper watermarked Joynson 1869. Housed in a simple green card folder with the dealer's label of Walter R. Benjamin Autographs.


Creased where folded twice for posting, small stain at head, remnants of paper tape on second blank leaf where once mounted, still very good condition.


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