After receiving a letter from Charles Dickens that both praised her work and hinted at her true identity (which we published here last week), George Eliot wrote the below letter to her publisher. “The iron mask of my incognito,” she confides, “seems quite painful in forbidding me to tell Dickens how thoroughly his generous impulse has been appreciated…”
TO JOHN BLACKWOOD
January 21, 1858, Richmond
My dear Sir
I’m sure you will be interested in Dickens’s letter which I enclose, begging you to return it as soon as you can, and not to allow any one besides yourself and Major Blackwood to share in the knowledge of its contents. There can be no harm, of course, in every one’s knowing that Dickens admires the “Scenes,” but I should not like any more specific allusion made to the words of a private letter.
There can hardly be any climax of approbation for me after this, and I am so deeply moved by the finely-felt and finely expressed sympathy of the letter, that the iron mask of my incognito seems quite painful in forbidding me to tell Dickens how thoroughly his generous impulse has been appreciated. If you should have any opportunity of conveying this feeling of mine to him in any way, you would oblige me by doing so….
I remain, my dear Sir,
Yours very truly