George Meredith (1828-1909)

Robert Louis Stevenson numbers The Egoist among the books which have most powerfully influenced him, and owns to having read it seven or eight times.

`Meredith read me some chapters', he says, `before it was published, and at last I could stand it no longer. I interrupted him, and said, "Now, Meredith, own up —you have drawn Sir Willoughby Patterne from me!" Meredith laughed, and said, "No, no, my dear fellow, I've taken him from all of us, but principally from myself."'

William Archer, The Critic (New York), 5 November 1887;
reprinted in J. A. Hammerton, Stevensoniana (1903), p. 79.

Alfred Sutro obtained permission from Meredith to make a stage adaptation of The Egoist, and Meredith collaborated with him. ONE typical instance of this collaboration is worth recording. The scene between Clara Middleton and Horace de Craye at the railway station had been, at my request, specially re-written by Meredith—the scene in which Clara is trying to escape from Sir Willoughby, and de Craye is assuring her of his devotion. Meredith read me the new dialogue; it was brilliant and splendid, but, alas, far too long! He looked inquiringly at me; I was silent, I did not know what to say.

`Remember, my dear fellow,' came from him, `remember that we are collaborators. Tell me exactly what you think.'

Thus encouraged, I said that de Craye's protestations after Clara had told him that she merely regarded him as a friend were too long—for an act that was already lengthy. He agreed, and pondered for a moment.

`I have it,' he said, `I have it! After Clara has mentioned the word friendship, Horace shall protest: "Am I to banquet on that wafer?" 'Gloriously Meredithian — and so superbly adequate!

Alfred Sutro, Celebrities and Simple Souls (1933), p. 55.

HAROLD Lowry, the specialist in Victorian literature, ... visiting London before the war, became acquainted with a banker who lived in the same hotel in which he was staying. The banker was in the habit of speaking about George Meredith, though never as Meredith the novelist and poet. When Lowry had got to know him sufficiently well, he asked the banker why he was so fascinated by Meredith.

`Meredith', the Londoner replied, `after his first unsuccessful marriage wanted to wed the woman who later became my mother-in-law. Her family thought his talents were more literary than domestic and discouraged the match. But Meredith always remained her devoted friend and the friend of my wife; he wrote my wife a long letter on our wedding day. I'm sorry that we didn't talk of this before. Just three weeks ago in that very fireplace I burned some seventy-five of Meredith's letters — they took up room, you know. Anyhow, they would not have interested you very much, for they were just personal letters!'

Richard D. Altick, The Scholar Adventurers (New York, 1950), pp. 237-238.

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