From The Atlantic Monthly:

Eliott The verdict which public opinion has pronounced, or, rather, is from time to time pronouncing, on the writings of George Eliot is certainly a very complicated one. That she is an acute delineator of character, a subtle humorist, a master of English, a universal observer and a comprehensive student, a profound moralist, — all this is part of her established reputation. That she is, besides this, a poet of great force and originality would, if we took as the test the most widely published criticism, be also established. That she has also succeeded, — in an age in which the public has been satiated with novels, and critics have begun even to doubt whether novel-writing were not a thing of the past, — if not in founding a new school of novel-writing, at least in proving that this literary form could be adapted, in skilful hands, to purposes which her predecessors had never dreamed of. Thackeray, Dickens, Bulwer, Disraeli, — between them and George Eliot there is no relationship; and yet George Eliot, in the hold which she maintains upon the public interest, is certainly their successor. But is this all? Does not everyone who reads generalizations like these involuntarily say to himself, this is nothing? To say of an author like George Eliot that she is distinguishable by this or that abstract quality is very much like trying to revive the effect produced upon our imaginations by a broad and majestic river by describing the general direction of a body of flowing water, the height of the banks between which it flows, the measurements of its soundings taken by the latest hydrographical survey. When we think of all the immense variety of her books, from the Scenes of Clerical Life to Middlemarch, of the range of feeling and thought that they cover, and the wonderful manner in which the work has been done, one is tempted to give up the task of studying this student, of observing this author who has devoted her life to observation, or of analyzing this professor of analysis.

More here.