George Eliot’s prediction that Romola was destined to be less popular than her earlier works proved to be all too accurate for her new publisher George Smith, whose gamble in paying £7000 for the serialisation of the novel in his Cornhill Magazine failed to pay dividends in the form of increased sales. Undeterred, however, Eliot continued to experiment with new forms, determined with her next project, The Spanish Gypsy, to write ‘rather to please myself than the public’, and uncertain as to whether her new work would ever be published (IV, 176). For the first time in her ‘serious authorship’ Eliot was attempting to write in verse,1 and, almost perversely, after the ‘unspeakable pains’ (IV, 301) she suffered in the preparation of Romola, Eliot chose once again to set her new work in a distant place and time — Spain in the fifteenth century. Accordingly, the end of 1864 saw her immersing herself in Spanish history and learning Spanish grammar.
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