I had many a George Eliot moment through last winter with my first reading of Adam Bede and a wander through many of Eliot's journals and letters.I've been a Middlemarch fan for years so it was good to do some background reading.
On 16th March 1857 George Eliot and George Henry Lewes arrived in Plymouth for an overnight stop before heading off on the Truro coach and a stay on The Isles of Scilly.
Here's what the Georges thought
"We reached Plymouth a little after five, and went to the Globe Hotel, from which the Truro coach starts...we walked to the Hoe and saw the Harbour, the breakwater and Drake's Island.Plymouth is a cheerful, clean place, with the finest site I remember to have seen for a sea-port, except Genoa"
Had Waterstone's been open (closes at 5pm down here) this is what would have been in the 3 for 2's in 1857, the journals give a precise record of their holiday reading, much of it read aloud to each other.
Cranford by Mrs Gaskell
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Mrs Gaskell
Cromwell by Thomas Carlyle
Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Physiology by John William Draper
Plymouth is our nearest city, just 20 miles down the road and perhaps not quite the cheerful, clean place it was in 1857, but still a busy naval base, maritime port and garrison city.As you come down off the moors and approach the city the purity and brilliance of the light on a sunny day leaves you in no doubt that you are nearing the sea.
Here are some of the sights the Georges enjoyed and so did we on the most glorious of September days yesterday, plus we added in a few extras we felt sure the Georges would have appreciated.
Enjoy your trip out around the West Country this week.
Standing on The Hoe and looking out across Plymouth Sound to Drake's Island and Cornwall beyond.Far out on the horizon, visible on a clear day and of course always at night, the Eddystone Lighthouse.
In the distance to the left of Drake's Island the breakwater, started in 1812 this would only just have been completed when the Georges looked out on it.
Smeaton's Tower, the old 1750's Eddystone lighthouse was dismantled and rebuilt on The Hoe in 1882. The Georges would have been able to look out to sea and see this lighthouse in action.Smeaton modelled his design on the principle of an oak tree and its need to bend in the wind.1493 blocks all dovetailed together like the rings of a tree and this tower does bend in the wind, that's how it has survived the force of the south-westerly gales. John Smeaton also invented quick-drying cement which was probably quite useful too.
And would a trip to Plymouth be complete without a glimpse of dear old Sir Frankie Drake in his natty doublet and Norah Batty hose taking a break from his game of bowls to check the Armada weren't heading in to spoil the party.