Cover image for Middlemarch
Title:
Middlemarch
Author:
Eliot, George, 1819-1880.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Barnes & Noble, [1996]

©1996
Physical Description:
x, 799 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780760701706

9780760701713
Format :
Book

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Summary

Author Notes

George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans on a Warwickshire farm in England, where she spent almost all of her early life. She received a modest local education and was particularly influenced by one of her teachers, an extremely religious woman whom the novelist would later use as a model for various characters.

Eliot read extensively, and was particularly drawn to the romantic poets and German literature. In 1849, after the death of her father, she went to London and became assistant editor of the Westminster Review, a radical magazine. She soon began publishing sketches of country life in London magazines.

At about his time Eliot began her lifelong relationship with George Henry Lewes. A married man, Lewes could not marry Eliot, but they lived together until Lewes's death.

Eliot's sketches were well received, and soon after she followed with her first novel, Adam Bede (1859). She took the pen name "George Eliot" because she believed the public would take a male author more seriously.

Like all of Eliot's best work, The Mill on the Floss (1860), is based in large part on her own life and her relationship with her brother. In it she begins to explore male-female relations and the way people's personalities determine their relationships with others. She returns to this theme in Silas Mariner (1861), in which she examines the changes brought about in life and personality of a miser through the love of a little girl.

In 1863, Eliot published Romola. Set against the political intrigue of Florence, Italy, of the 1490's, the book chronicles the spiritual journey of a passionate young woman.

Eliot's greatest achievement is almost certainly Middlemarch (1871). Here she paints her most detailed picture of English country life, and explores most deeply the frustrations of an intelligent woman with no outlet for her aspirations. This novel is now regarded as one of the major works of the Victorian era and one of the greatest works of fiction in English.

Eliot's last work was Daniel Deronda. In that work, Daniel, the adopted son of an aristocratic Englishman, gradually becomes interested in Jewish culture and then discovers his own Jewish heritage. He eventually goes to live in Palestine.

Because of the way in which she explored character and extended the range of subject matter to include simple country life, Eliot is now considered to be a major figure in the development of the novel. She is buried in Highgate Cemetery, North London, England, next to her common-law husband, George Henry Lewes.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Though not out of print, this popular title is being added to the venerable "Modern Library" line to coincide with a PBS Masterpiece Theatre miniseries. Along with the full text, this edition includes an introduction by A.S. Byatt. All that for $15 makes this a bargain. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

To one who has quickly read through Eliot's Middlemarch once, Hornback's commentary will give more extensive understanding of its meaning. He often argues for its relevance today, and ten chapters bear titles like "Feeling and Knowledge," and "Selfishness,"; the other three summarize background information. Although knowledgeable about the Victorian period (having, for example, written on Dickens in "Noah's Arkitecture": A Study of Dickens's Mythology, 1972, and edited Middlemarch, CH, Apr '78), Hornback says little about the underlying politics of the book (as discussed in, e.g., Daniel Cottom's Social Figures, CH, Jan '88); and indeed only one book published in the 1980s appears in his bibliography of Middlemarch criticism--Barbara Hardy's Particularities: Reading in George Eliot (CH, Jan '84)--Hornback disparages what he calls "plot," criticizing some parts of this novel for "plottiness" and claiming that "plot does not reveal character" (he sees little or no change in the characters). Sometimes, as in Chapter 11, his style becomes so mechanical one feels the material might better be presented in a chart. Hornback's approach to the novel strikes one as Victorian, and that certainly is not all bad. This book would be most appropriate for lower-division undergraduates and secondary-school students. K. A. Robb Bowling Green State University


Excerpts

Excerpts

WHO that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa,' has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand - in - hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled from rugged Avila, wide - eyed and helpless - looking as two fawns, but with human hearts, already beating to a national idea; until domestic reality met them in the shape of uncles, and turned them back from their great resolve. That child - pilgrimage was a fit beginning. Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many - volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her. Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self - despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in the reform of a religious order. That Spanish woman who lived three hundred years ago was certainly not the last of her kind. Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far - resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill - matched with the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion. With dim lights and tangled circumstance they tried to shape their thought and deed in noble agreement; but after all, to common eyes their struggles seemed mere inconsistency and formlessness; for these later - born Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which could perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul. Their ardour alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning of womanhood; so that the one was disapproved as extravagance, and the other condemned as a lapse. Some have felt that these blundering lives are due to the inconvenient indefiniteness with which the Supreme Power has fashioned the natures of women: if there were one level of feminine incompetence as strict as the ability to count three and no more, the social lot of women might be treated with scientific certitude. Meanwhile the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation are really much wider than any one would imagine from the sameness of women's coiffure and the favourite love - stories in prose and verse. Here and there a cygnet is reared uneasily among the ducklings in the brown pond, and never finds the living stream in fellowship with its own oary-footed kind. Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart -beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering in some long recognisable deed. Excerpted from Middlemarch by George Eliot All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.