I’ve been working on a project about women writers to amuse myself, and came across the following, quoted in an old Harper’s Magazine “reading” section:
Novel-writing has of late years devolved so largely upon women, that it is quite rare to meet with a well-matured and carefully executed novel by a man of genius. In novels written by women, the exaltation and predominance of one class of feelings, and the slight and inadequate treatment of all that lies beyond their immediate influence, make even the best of them seem disproportionate and unreal. The life which they represent is a kind of Saturnalia of love and the domestic affections, the practical business part of it being either slurred over or ludicrously misapprehended. Novels written by men are nearly always more in keeping with the actual world, have a wider outlook, and embrace a greater variety of interests. Even if they are dull, there is generally some positive, impersonal sort of knowledge to be gained from them; when they are original and clever and artistically constructed, they are more delightful as well as more profitable than the best novels by women. Adam Bede is one of the best of this class of novels… After a course of the feverish, self-critical, posted-up-to-the-latest-dates novels of the present day, reading Adam Bede is like paying a visit from town to the open hill sides, pure air, and broad sunshine of the country which it describes. We trust it may be no longer than is necessary for the conscientious attainment of the high standard reached in this book before we shall meet Mr. Eliot again.
This is The Economist, March 5, 1859, commenting on the work of George Eliot, née Mary Ann Evans.