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George Eliot, intoxication, Milby, alcohol


English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles


George Eliot's fiction contains a wealth of figures who are touched by intoxication: both through their own imbibing, and (sometimes literally) because of others' drinking. As Kathleen McCormack1 has noted, the instances of drink are closely tied to the "manifestoes of realism in the early fiction" and that "...despite George Eliot's reputation for earnestness, responsibility, and even ponderousness, a remarkable number of her characters stagger through the novels with their perceptions blurred and reason distorted by unwise consumption of brandy, wine, beer, ale, patent medicines, and opium" (2, 40). In drawing freely upon this trait and using it frequently within her fiction, Eliot continued to firmly establish herself as an author of realism—undauntedly portraying all facets of true human existence. This extended to the presentation of a drunken female in her work Janet's Repentance, contained within the collection of stories, Scenes of Clerical Life, written for and serialized in John Blackwood's Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, beginning in 1857. Within this novel is the title-character who, although mentioned by critics (McCormack among them) as perhaps Eliot's "most important treatment of intoxication" still goes largely unexamined.



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