“I have talked of the Ilfracombe lanes without describing them, for to describe them one ought to know the names of all the lovely wild-flowers that cluster on their banks. Almost every yard of these banks is a ‘Hunt’ picture – a delicious crowding of mosses and delicate trefoil and wild strawberries and ferns great and small. But the crowning beauty of the lanes is the springs that gush out in little recesses by the side of the road – recesses glossy with liverwort and feathery with fern. Sometimes you have the spring when it has grown into a brook, either rushing down a miniature cataract by the lane-side, or flowing gently as a ‘braided streamlet’ across your path. I never before longed so much to know the names of things as during this visit to Ilfracombe. The desire is part of the tendency that is now constantly growing in me to escape from all vagueness and inaccuracy into the daylight of distinct, vivid ideas. The mere fact of naming an object tends to give definiteness to our conception of it. We have then a sign which at once calls up in our minds the distinctive qualities which mark out for us that particular object from all others.”
George Eliot’s Life, Vol. I. Ilfracombe Reflections, June 1856.
Mary Anne Evans (1819-1880), better known as George Eliot, was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She is the author of eight novels, including The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), and Middlemarch (1871–72).