George Eliot & Middlemarch

Come with me into a world of passion and ambition, corruption and secrets, loyalty and faithlessness, and discover why Middlemarch is considered one of the world’s greatest works of fiction.

A “magnificent” novel.

Virginia Woolf famously described George Eliot’s Middlemarch as “one of the few English novels for grown-up people”. She also called it “magnificent”, and most critics have agreed. Middlemarch was first published in 8 instalments between 1871 and 1872, in bi-monthly parts. Finally, it was published as a full novel in 1872.

Its history of composition is unique. George Eliot initially wrote it as separate stories, one of which was ‘Miss Brooke’ and another which focussed on Dr Lydgate. She then merged those stories to form the book, although she worried that it was getting too long.

The novel pulls together four plot lines – that of Dorothea, Casaubon and Ladislaw, that of Lydgate and Rosamond, that of Fred Vincy and Mary Garth, and that of the Bulstrodes. In spite of the history of its composition, modern criticism praises the novel for its unity and tight organisation. It is considered her finest and most substantial book.

George Eliot was a fine historian as well as a brilliant novelist. There is a wealth of social and political detail in Middlemarch which covers the period of agitation leading up to the Reform Act of 1832.

Come with me into its world of passion and ambition, corruption and secrets, loyalty and faithlessness, and discover why it is considered one of the world’s greatest works of fiction.

“What do I think of ‘Middlemarch’? What do I think of glory?”
– Emily Dickinson

In any age, Mary Ann Evans would have been extraordinary, but in the Victorian era she really challenged conventional norms. She extended the boundaries of fiction, she rejected religion and, eventually, she gained acceptance as a great writer in spite of the scandal of her life choices.

To be born a female with a formidable brain and an ugly face was a terrible handicap in Victorian England. Mary Ann Evans eventually gained fame as George Eliot and through her efforts made more money than any other woman of the Victorian age. But her life was a constant struggle for love, acceptance and intellectual freedom and as she tried to find her true place in the world, she changed her name to eventually become George Eliot.

I have always admired George Eliot enormously and do encourage you to read some biographies to learn more about her fascinating life.

“What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
― George Eliot

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Discuss it with me

This is a long and wordy novel, but a great one. How relevant is its message today? What did you think of the final chapter of Middlemarch – were you happy with the fates of the major characters? Let me know your thoughts in a comment.

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