The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 29. The Spanish Gypsy
The Spanish Gypsy, not completed and published till 1868, fills no such place in the sum of George Eliot’s literary work as it does in her literary life as regarded by herself. The poem, of which the subject was first, more or less vaguely, suggested by an Annunciation of Tintoretto at Venice, is, in form, a combination of narrative and drama, with a considerable admixture of lyric; but, though thus suggesting a certain spontaneity of composition, it is artificial in the result, and, to put it bluntly, “smells of the lamp.” The reader becomes oppressed, not only by the lore poured into the dramatic mould, but by the great amount of guidance bestowed upon him—the characterisation of characters, and the like—and is left cold by the solution of the problem whether racial duty has claims “to high allegiance, higher than our love?” Some of the descriptive passages, above all the popular festival in which the acrobat-conjuror figures with his monkey Annibal, before the lady Fedalma is herself moved to join in the dance, have the brilliant picturesqueness of scenes in Romola; nor, of course, are we left without the sententious comments of a highly intelligent chorus.