George Eliot left England for Italy within forty-eight hours of despatching the proofs of The Mill on the Floss. She had looked forward to this trip for a number of years, not, as she pointed out with characteristic earnestness, in ‘the hope of immediate pleasure’ but ‘rather with the hope of the new elements it would bring to my culture’.1 She was also anxious to leave the country before her new novel appeared, determined to escape the ‘chorus, pleasant or harsh’ (III, 270) which would greet it. Her anxiety to escape the critical storm arose in part from her sense that there was a ‘very strong disposition’ to see The Mill on the Floss as a ‘falling off’ after her triumph with Adam Bede (III, 270). But this was also the first book to appear after Eliot’s true identity had become public knowledge and hence her pseudonym could no longer protect her from the censure arising from her unorthodox relationship with George Lewes.
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