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18 MAGGIE: A NEW SOURCE FOR ESTHER WATERS By Lynn C. Bartlett (Vassar Col 1ege) In GEORGE MOORE: A RECONSIDEFxAViON, Malcolm Brown points out that when Moore first conceived of the novel which was to become ESTIIc;' WATERS "the subject appealed to him because of its possibilities for shocking phi 1 i st i nés." Moore's original intention was to be studiously objective. i,e "e w'i s i o/ied a final product that would give England its first novel in the grim tradition of the Goncourts' GERMINIE LACERTEUX or Huysmans : MARTHiI." Since Che novel which he finally wrote can be regarded as more akin to ADAM BIDE and OL i villi Yv.wST, says Brown, it is obvious that he "altered his original intent :| Βκν.,η attributes what he calls "the sudden shift in Moore's point of view" partly :c a deslÃ-e to appease the reading public. After considering whether or not Moore was sincere in the sentiments which he expressed in ESTHER VATERS and after noting his various contradictory opinions of it after it was written and published, Brown concKdes that it "mirrors a vigor and breadth of feeling and commitment that would be extremely difficult to simulate ; and it asserts, as being indubitably Moore's own, the /ery values he elsewhere loudly denied."! While Moore's attitude certainly changed, that change was neither so great nor so sudden as Brown suggests. One of Brown's principal pieces of evidence for Moore's original conception is the account, in CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN, of the conversations which Moore used to have with the charwoman "Emma" who cleaned his room when he lived in Cecil Street, The Strand« If one looks closely at that account, one sees that Moore's cold "objectivity" was tempered with sympathy and compassion. Brown, who quotes at some length, calls our attention to such sentences as "1 studied the horrible servant as one might an insect under the miscroscope," but he omits from his quotation such passages as these: "I have spoken angrily to you; ! have heard others speak angrily to you, but never did that sweet face of yours, for it was a sweet face—that sweet, natural goodness that is so sublime—lose its expression of perfect and unfailing kindness"; "Poor Emma! I shall never forget your kind heart and your unfailing good humour; you were born beautifully good as a rose is born witF; perfect perfume; you were as unconscious of your goodness as the rose cf its perfume,," Vhese remarks contradict the Young Man's claim that he does not "senti mentalîse" over Emma as Dickens would have» Indeed, even in those parts which Brov.n does quote, Moore compares Emma to a rose and refers to her "kind heart" which "longs for kind words."2 It must be admitted, nevertheless, that coldness does predominate over warmth in Moore's attitude toward poor Emma, It was another servant--~whom Brown does not mention—who helped Moore along the road to ESTHER V/ATERS. If AVE is to be believed (and one must always use Moore's rerniη iscences cautiously), some years later, when he was living in the Temple, ano working on ESTHER V/ATERS, his charwoman, a former dancer, used to tel I him her troubles every day. Thus, "through her," he says, "I became acquainted vith many other poor people, and they awakened spontaneous sympathy in me, and ,oy doing them kindnesses ! was making honey for myself without knowing it., ...she was the atmosphere i required for the book, and 19 to talk to her at breakfast before beginning to write was an excellent préparât ion."3 To step from more or less trustworthy autobiography onto the softer ground of conjecture : still another servant may have contributed to the development of ESTHER WATERS—this one being the purported author of an article entitled "From the Maid's Point of View" which appeared in the August 1891 issue of THE NEW REVIEW.^ Since that same issue contained Moore's A REMEMBRANCE, his tribute to his late friend Mrs. Bridger, whose house at Old Shoreham, Sussex, was the model for the Barfields...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 18-20
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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