Looks to me as if George Eliot had project people management in his mind when he wrote the above piece. A project manager (how ever powerful he/she may be), has to complete the project with the help of people who may have their own likes, dislikes and purposes that are conflicting. While this scenario may not sound fun, it is what makes Project Management of any Enterprise class project more complicated and challenging, compared to a game of chess.
This is shared here not because this is a nice quote from a lesser known book, but because there are couple of points a discerning Project Manager has to learn and remember.
#1.People are not Pawns and don't play them like that. Treat people like people (not like pawns obviously).
#2. However much the powers of a Project manager may be, once the stake holders feel that they are being used/played against, then (you) the project manager looses control.