George Eliot is to Trollope as Anthony van Dyck is to Rubens


I read Middlemarch recently, and was struck by the evident influence of Trollope on Eliot. In some respects Eliot clearly surpassed Trollope, but I think there are other respects in which he remained superior. Their relation reminds me a bit of the relation between Rubens and van Dyck. Van Dyck certainly improves on Rubens— he is much more polished from a technical point of view. But not only from a technical point of view. There is an elegance and nobility in van Dyck that is not in Rubens. But it seems to be a general rule in human affairs that there is no progress without some concomitant regress. Van Dyck lacks the vivacity and good natured humanity of Rubens.

6 thoughts on “George Eliot is to Trollope as Anthony van Dyck is to Rubens

  1. Yes, Trollope is the most genial of novelists, isn’t he? There’s a fine story of Newman hearing that Trollope was thought to be in danger of death, and writing to him out of the blue (they didn’t know each other) to tell him how much pleasure his books had given him over many years. Trollope wrote back to say that that was the kind of letter that made him think that perhaps his life hadn’t been wholly wasted after all.

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  2. I think I prefer Rubens to van Dyke, and yet far prefer Eliot to Trollope. I have about 300 pages left in Middlemarch, but I can hardly imagine a better English novel! I’ve read the first chapters of a few Trollope books, but it’s never interesting enough to keep me going. Any Trollope recommendations?


  3. Worth thinking about. The Dutch realism was the Protestant art (though some of the masters were Catholics …). I would propose Pieter de Hoch for the lady, and for the gentleman I am less sure, perhaps something of Frans Hals or some of Jan Steen’s work (but from a very unlike man), or even Esaias van de Velde.
    I guess Van Dyck was a Catholic.


    • Why do you consider Trollope to be Dickens’ opposite? I ask because I’ve formulated the relationship between Dickens’ and Eliot in a similarly contrasting way.


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