18 February 2013

George Eliot in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

The plaque on the front of the United Services Club, Bridge Street, Gainsborough:
The Novelist visited the town
in 1859 and renamed it St Oggs
in her novel, The Mill on the Floss
published 4th April 1840
Plaque erected by The Delvers'
Kathleen McCormack mentions George Eliot's 'three-day research trip' to Gainsborough in George Eliot's English Travels: Composite Characters and Coded Communications (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2005), in which she states that Eliot's short tours of the shires were for gathering material which she would directly include in her fiction. Eliot and her partner George Henry Lewes went by train from London to Gainsborough in 1859, when she was writing The Mill on the Floss: there, she found both a model for the town St Ogg's and for the River Floss (the Trent), which avoided comparisons with the recognizable models  in her native Warwickshire that she had used in previous novels.

In her novel, Eliot mentions the river's tide and flood, Gainsborough being a place where the river is noted for its tidal wave the Trent Aegir (or Eagre, as Eliot calls it). She also noted the wharves, and on returning to London made alterations to her work in progress, adding to the history of the town and making comments on 'the old hall' which make it evident that she could only have had Gainborough's Old Hall in mind.

No comments: