A foreign writer? A spy reporting on his hosts? A literary martian? I liked this unusual triologism of George Eliot’s. Clearly, who- or whatever he was, tales were circulating about him. As I understand it, ‘whatnot’ in this context is an all-embracing ‘whatever’ suggesting the stories going about were mostly tosh and gossip.
Still the image of a pointy-headed intergalactic traveller with a quill and ink-well appeals.
‘There are stories going about him as a quill-driving alien, a foreign emissary, a whatnot.’
Source: George Eliot, Middlemarch (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 406