Chapter 20: George Eliot.
- Correspondence with George Eliot. -- George Eliot's first impressions of Mrs. Stowe. -- Mrs. Stowe's letter to Mrs. Follen. -- George Eliot's letter to Mrs. Stowe. -- Mrs. Stowe's reply. -- life in Florida. -- Robert Dale Owen and modern spiritualism. -- George Eliot's letter on the phenomena of spiritualism. -- Mrs. Stowe's description of scenery in Florida. -- Mrs. Stowe concerning “Middlemarch.” -- George Eliot to Mrs. Stowe during Rev. H. W. Beecher's trial. -- Mrs. Stowe concerning her life experience with her brother, H. W. Beecher, and his trial. -- Mrs. Lewes' last letter to Mrs. Stowe. -- diverse mental characteristics of these two women. -- Mrs. Stowe's final estimate of modern spiritualism.
It is with a feeling of relief that we turn from one of the most disagreeable experiences of Mrs. Stowe's life to one of the most delightful, namely, the warm friendship of one of the most eminent women of this age, George Eliot. There seems to have been some deep affinity of feeling that drew them closely together in spite of diversity of intellectual tastes. George Eliot's attention was first personally attracted to Mrs. Stowe in 1853, by means of a letter which the latter had written to Mrs. Follen. Speaking of this incident she (George Eliot) writes:
The correspondence between these two notable women was begun by Mrs. Stowe, and called forth the following extremely interesting letter from the distinguished English novelist:--
Mrs. Follen showed me a delightful letter which she has just had from Mrs. Stowe, telling all about herself. She begins  by saying, ‘I am a little bit of a woman, rather more than forty, as withered and dry as a pinch of snuff; never very well worth looking at in my best days, and now a decidedly used — up article.’ The whole letter is most fascinating, and makes one love her.
Mrs. Stowe writes from Mandarin to George Eliot:--
During the summer of 1874, while Mrs. Stowe's brother, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, was the victim of a most revolting, malicious, and groundless attack on his purity, Mrs. Lewes wrote the following words of sympathy:--
It was two years or more before Mrs. Stowe replied to these words of sympathy.
In her reply to this letter Mrs. Lewes says, incidentally:
Please offer my reverential love to the Professor, and tell him I am ruthlessly proud of having kept him out of his bed. I hope that both you and he will continue to be interested in my spiritual children. After Mr. Lewes's death, Mrs. Lewes writes to Mrs. Stowe:--
As much as has been said with regard to spiritualism in these pages, the subject has by no means the prominence  that it really possessed in the studies and conversations of both ProfessorStowe and Mrs. Stowe. Professor Stowe's very remarkable psychological development, and the exceptional experiences of his early life, were sources of conversation of unfailing interest and study to both. Professor Stowe had made an elaborate and valuable collection of the literature of the subject, and was, as Mrs. Stowe writes, “over head and ears in diablerie.” It is only just to give Mrs. Stowe's views on this perplexing theme more at length, and as the mature reflection of many years has caused them to take form. In reference to professional mediums, and spirits that peep, rap, and mutter, she writes:--
Each friend takes away a portion of ourselves. There was some part of our being related to him as to no other, and we had things to say to him which no other would understand or appreciate. A portion of our thoughts has become useless and burdensome, and again and again, with involuntary yearning, we turn to the stone at the door of the sepulchre. We lean against the cold, silent marble, but there is no answer, -no voice, neither any that regardeth. There are those who would have us think that in our day this doom is reversed; that there are those who have the power to restore to us the communion of our lost ones. How many a heart, wrung and tortured with the anguish of this fearful silence, has throbbed with strange, vague hopes at the suggestion! When we hear sometimes of persons of the strongest and clearest minds becoming credulous votaries of certain spiritualist circles, let us not wonder: if we inquire, we shall  almost always find that the belief has followed some stroke of death; it is only an indication of the desperation of that heart-hunger which in part it appeases. Ah, were it true! Were it indeed so that the wall between the spiritual and material is growing thin, and a new dispensation germinating in which communion with the departed blest shall be among the privileges and possibilities of this our mortal state! Ah, were it so that when we go forth weeping in the gray dawn, bearing spices and odors which we long to pour forth for the beloved dead, we should indeed find the stone rolled away and an angel sitting on it! But for us the stone must be rolled away by an unquestionable angel, whose countenance is as the lightning, who executes no doubtful juggle by pale moonlight or starlight, but rolls back the stone in fair, open morning, and sits on it. Then we could bless God for his mighty gift, and with love, and awe, and reverence take up that blessed fellowship with another life, and weave it reverently and trustingly into the web of our daily course. But no such angel have we seen,--no such sublime, unquestionable, glorious manifestation. And when we look at what is offered to us, all! who that had a friend in heaven could wish them to return in such wise as this? The very instinct of a sacred sorrow seems to forbid that our beautiful, our glorified ones should stoop lower than even to the medium of their cast-off bodies, to juggle, and rap, and squeak, and perform mountebank tricks with tables and chairs; to recite over in weary sameness harmless truisms, which we were wise enough to say for ourselves; to trifle, and banter,  and jest, or to lead us through endless moonshiny mazes. Sadly and soberly we say that, if this be communion with the dead, we had rather be without it. We want something a little in advance of our present life, and not below it. We have read with some attention weary pages of spiritual communication purporting to come from Bacon, Swedenborg, and others, and long accounts from divers spirits of things seen in the spirit land, and we can conceive of no more appalling prospect than to have them true. If the future life is so weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable as we might infer from these readings, one would have reason to deplore an immortality from which no suicide could give an outlet. To be condemned to such eternal prosing would be worse than annihilation. Is there, then, no satisfaction for this craving of the soul? There is One who says: “I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of hell and of death;” and this same being said once before: “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself unto him.” This is a promise direct and personal; not confined to the first apostles, but stated in the most general way as attainable by any one who loves and does the will of Jesus. It seems given to us as some comfort for the unavoidable heart-breaking separations of death that there should be, in that dread unknown, one all-powerful Friend with whom it is possible to commune, and from whose spirit there may come a response to us. Our Elder Brother, the partaker of our nature, is not only in the spirit land, but is all-powerful there. It is he that shutteth and no man openeth, and  openeth and no man shutteth. He whom we have seen in the flesh, weeping over the grave of Lazarus, is he who hath the keys of hell and of death. If we cannot commune with our friends, we can at least commune with Him to whom they are present, who is intimately with them as with us. He is the true bond of union between the spirit world and our souls; and one blest hour of prayer, when we draw near to Him and feel the breadth, and length, and depth, and heighth of that love of his that passeth knowledge, is better than all those incoherent, vain, dreamy glimpses with which longing hearts are cheated. They who have disbelieved all spiritual truth, who have been Sadduceeic doubters of either angel or spirit, may find in modern spiritualism a great advance. But can one who has ever really had communion with Christ, who has said with John, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and the Son,” --can such an one be satisfied with what is found in the modern circle? For Christians who have strayed into these inclosures, we cannot but recommend the homely but apt quotation of old John Newton:--What think ye of Christ is the testIn all these so-called revelations, have there come any echoes of the new song which no man save the redeemed from earth could learn; any unfoldings of that love that passeth knowledge,--anything, in short, such as spirits might utter to whom was unveiled that which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered the heart of man to conceive? We must confess that  all those spirits that yet have spoken appear to be living in quite another sphere from John or Paul. Let us, then, who long for communion with spirits, seek nearness to Him who has promised to speak and commune, leaving forever this word to his church:--
To try both your word and your scheme.I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you.