An authoritative edition of George Eliot’s elegant translation of Spinoza’s greatest philosophical work
In 1856, Marian Evans completed her translation of Benedict de Spinoza’s Ethics while living in Berlin with the philosopher and critic George Henry Lewes. This would have become the first edition of Spinoza’s controversial masterpiece in English, but the translation remained unpublished because of a disagreement between Lewes and the publisher. Later that year, Evans turned to fiction writing, and by 1859 she had published her first novel under the pseudonym George Eliot. This splendid edition makes Eliot’s translation of the Ethics available to today’s readers while also tracing Eliot’s deep engagement with Spinoza both before and after she wrote the novels that established her as one of English literature’s greatest writers.
Clare Carlisle’s introduction places the Ethics in its seventeenth-century context and explains its key philosophical claims. She discusses George Eliot’s intellectual formation, her interest in Spinoza, the circumstances of her translation of the Ethics, and the influence of Spinoza’s ideas on her literary work. Carlisle shows how Eliot drew on Spinoza’s radical insights on religion, ethics, and human emotions, and brings to light surprising affinities between Spinoza’s austere philosophy and the rich fictional worlds of Eliot’s novels.
This authoritative edition demonstrates why George Eliot’s translation remains one of the most compelling and philosophically astute renderings of Spinoza’s Latin text. It includes notes that indicate Eliot’s amendments to her manuscript and that discuss her translation decisions alongside more recent English editions.