George Eliot turned 200 on 22nd November 2019. Virginia Woolf once described Middlemarch as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”. I’m not really certain what Woolf meant, and do NOT agree with her, but I do adore Middlemarch. George Eliot uses many images of webs within the novel, and the book itself is like a magnificently constructed web, with all strands interrelated and forming a wonderful picture in its entirety. In her home town of Nuneaton in Warwickshire there have been talks, readings, an art competition and dramatic performances. The island of Jersey, which she visited with George Henry Lewes, has created a series of postage stamps featuring her and her words. Her childhood home, Griff Farm, is being renovated (not before time!) and next February the University of Sydney is holding a George Eliot conference.
But the best way to celebrate this truly remarkable woman (who earned more by her own efforts than any other woman in Victorian England) is to read her novels – The Mill on the Floss which is both tragic and extremely funny, moving Adam Bede, the progressive Daniel Deronda and that superb Middlemarch.
I also loved The Road to Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. And for a good biography, you could try George Eliot: The Last Victorian by Kathryn Hughes. You might also like to try a new book which is getting rave reviews, In Love with George Eliot by Kathy O’Shaugnessy. It’s a novel about her life and loves.
Have you read any of George Eliot’s books? Let me know in a comment.
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Adam Bede by George Eliot
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
George Eliot: The Last Victorian by Kathryn Hughes
The Road to Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
In Love with George Eliot by Kathy O’Shaugnessy