Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life

by George Eliot

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Overview

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot

Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by English author George Eliot, first published in eight instalments (volumes) during 1871-2. The novel is set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829-32, and it comprises several distinct (though intersecting) stories and a large cast of characters. Significant themes include the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform, and education.
Although containing comical elements, Middlemarch is a work of realism that refers to many historical events: the 1832 Reform Act, the beginnings of the railways, the death of King George IV, and the succession of his brother, the Duke of Clarence (the future King William IV). In addition, the work incorporates contemporary medical science and examines the deeply reactionary mindset found within a settled community facing the prospect of unwelcome change.
Middlemarch is written as a third-person narrative, centering on the lives of the residents of Middlemarch, a fictitious Midlands town, from 1829 onwards - the years preceding the 1832 Reform Act. The narrative is variably considered to consist of three or four plots of unequal emphasis: the life of Dorothea Brooke; the career of Tertius Lydgate; the courtship of Mary Garth by Fred Vincy; and the disgrace of Bulstrode. The two main plots are those of Dorothea and Lydgate. Each plot happens concurrently, although Bulstrode's is centred in the later chapters.
Dorothea Brooke appears set for a comfortable and idle life as the wife of neighbouring landowner Sir James Chettam, but to the dismay of her sister Celia and her uncle Mr Brooke, she marries The Reverend Edward Casaubon. Expecting fulfilment by sharing in his intellectual life, Dorothea discovers his animosity towards her ambitions during an unhappy honeymoon in Rome. Realising his great project is doomed to failure, her feelings change to pity. Dorothea forms a warm friendship with a young cousin of Casaubon's, Will Ladislaw, but her husband's antipathy towards him is clear and he is forbidden to visit. In poor health, Casaubon attempts to extract from Dorothea a promise that, should he die, she will "avoid doing what I should deprecate and apply yourself to do what I desire". He dies before she is able to reply, and she later learns of a provision to his will that, if she marries Ladislaw, she will lose her inheritance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781517564780
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 09/28/2015
Pages: 534
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 1.08(d)

About the Author

In 1819, novelist George Eliot (nee Mary Ann Evans), was born at a farmstead in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where her father was estate manager. Mary Ann, the youngest child and a favorite of her father's, received a good education for a young woman of her day. Influenced by a favorite governess, she became a religious evangelical as an adolescent. Her first published work was a religious poem. Through a family friend, she was exposed to Charles Hennell's An Inquiry into the Origins of Christianity. Unable to believe, she conscientiously gave up religion and stopped attending church. Her father shunned her, sending the broken-hearted young dependent to live with a sister until she promised to reexamine her feelings. Her intellectual views did not, however, change. She translated David Strauss' Das Leben Jesu, a monumental task, without signing her name to the 1846 work. After her father's death in 1849, Mary Ann traveled, then accepted an unpaid position with The Westminster Review. Despite a heavy workload, she translated Ludwig Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity, the only book ever published under her real name. That year, the shy, respectable writer scandalized British society by sending notices to friends announcing she had entered a free "union" with George Henry Lewes, editor of The Leader, who was unable to divorce his first wife. They lived harmoniously together for the next 24 years, but suffered social ostracism and financial hardship. She became salaried and began writing essays and reviews for The Westminster Review. Renaming herself "Marian" in private life and adopting the nom de plume "George Eliot," she began her impressive fiction career, including: Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Romola (1863), and Middlemarch (1871). Themes included her humanist vision and strong heroines.

Read an Excerpt

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, tocommon 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.


Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
George Eliot: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life

Appendix A: George Eliot’s Essays, Reviews, and Criticism

  1. “Woman in France: Madame de Sablé,” Westminster Review (October 1854)
  2. “The Morality of Wilhelm Meister,” The Leader (21 July 1855)
  3. From “Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft,” The Leader (13 October 1855)
  4. From Review of John Ruskin’s Modern Painters (1856), Westminster Review (April 1856)
  5. From “The Natural History of German Life,” Westminster Review (July 1856)
  6. “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists,” Westminster Review (October 1856)

Appendix B: Contemporary Reviews of Middlemarch

  1. From Edward Dowden, “George Eliot,” Contemporary Review (August 1872)
  2. From Richard Holt Hutton, review of Middlemarch, Spectator (7 December 1872)
  3. From Edith Simcox, “Middlemarch,” Academy (1 January 1873)
  4. From [Henry James], unsigned review, Galaxy (March 1873)
  5. [William Hurrell Mallock], unsigned review of Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879), Edinburgh Review (October 1879)
  6. Margaret Oliphant, Chapter XI, “Of the Younger Novelists,” The Victorian Age of English Literature (1882)
  7. From Sir John Emerich Edward Dalberg, first Baron Acton, “George Eliot’s Life,” Nineteenth Century (March 1885)
  8. Virginia Woolf, “George Eliot,” Times Literary Supplement (20 November 1919)

Appendix C: Historical Documents: Medical Reform, Religious Freedom, and the Advent of the Railroads

  1. From “The Apothecaries Act” (1815)
  2. From “The Roman Catholic Relief Act” (1829)
  3. From “An Act to amend the representation of the people in England and Wales” (1832)
  4. From “An Act for regulating Schools of Anatomy” (1832)
  5. Liverpool and Manchester Railroad Company Prospectus (1824)
  6. From [Commentary on the projected Liverpool and Manchester Railway], Quarterly Review (March 1825)
  7. From “An Act to consolidate and amend the Acts relating to the Property of Married Women” (1882)

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What People are Saying About This

A. S. Byatt

It is a hugely ambitious, hugely successful, wise, and satisfying work. I never reread it without discovering something I hadn't noticed before.

Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss the relationship between religious and secular, spiritual and worldly, in the novel. Is it conflicted or not? Why?

2. What is Eliot's view of ambition in its different forms-social, intellectual, political? How is this evident in the novel?

3. In her introduction, A. S. Byatt contends that Eliot was "the great English novelist of ideas." How do you interpret this? How do you think ideas-human thought-inform the plot of Middlemarch?

4. George Eliot is a pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans. How does Eliot's femaleness-and her concealing of it-add resonance to the novel, if at all? Do you see Dorothea's character differently in this regard? Do you see Middlemarch as a "women's" novel?

5. Middlemarch was originally published in serial form, a single book at a time. What kinds of concerns affected Eliot's narrative in this regard? How do these discrete segments differ from the whole?

6. Discuss the convention of marriage in the novel. Do you feel it ultimately restricts the characters? Or is it the novel's provincial setting that proves more oppressive?

7. Discuss the metaphor of Dorothea as St. Theresa. What is Eliot saying here?

Customer Reviews

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Middlemarch 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Middlemarch is a good novel set in the early ninetenth century in England. Eliot gives the novel many character's to show different examples of what life was like in England in 1832. The style is very similar to a modern soap opera. The novel, just as a soap opera, has many families that live in the same town and somehow are all connected. I recommend people read Middlemarch to learn about everyday life during the 1830's. Eliot shows the reader how the lives of the character's in the novel are affected due to all the historical changes and events. The novel is very long and at times a little dry, so I recommend that you have a lot of time to read and enjoy the novel fully. Middlemarch is a great example of victorian literature, creating real enents with Eliot's character's.
tbborrell More than 1 year ago
This version of Middlemarch crashed my Nook repeatedly. I opted to download a different version.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book illustrates the imagination that Eliot had. it is very comlex and deep with content. there are so many different conflicts and themes to learn from in this book. the lessons that are tought throughout the book make this novel worth reading. i do not reccomend this book to people who do not like a challenge when they read because this book calls for a good memory and patience for the parts that get kind of slow. the book switches around a lot on the characters, telling one story and then jumping to another about someone else. this book calls for a lot of thinking and i can see now why this was called a brilliant masterpiece. there is so much to read and so many people to learn about before you can get in to the book . i recommend this book to the advanced readers.
drpeff on LibraryThing 7 days ago
a lot of cultural discussion that I didn¿t understand. I was able to picture the scenes that were described so well. I liked it.
Stensvaag on LibraryThing 8 days ago
An undeniably great book, but tough going for me. Much of it seemed "scholarly" and almost tedious. I'm glad I made it to the end, though!
klarusu on LibraryThing 8 days ago
This classic novel has been languishing on my bookshelf for more than a decade in the 'Books I Really Ought To Read' corner of shame so I was very glad that the Group Reads - Literature group picked it for their next book. It moved me to pick it up and stick with it, not to be seduced away by shorter 200-page-reads.I will state up front that I just loved this book. I approached it expecting to enjoy it, certainly to appreciated it for its classical literary merit, but not necessarily to love it in the way I do some of my favourite more contemporary novels. How wrong I was! I am used to reading classic novels and commenting on their literary merit as if they are a genre apart from their modern counterparts, but what struck me about Middlemarch was how alive and contemporary it was - I raced through to the end empathising and identifying with the characters and situations from my modern perspective. Much has been written about Eliot's depth of characterisation and layered storytelling, about her use of language and development of themes - all undeniably valid. However, what is sometimes missed in these lofty critiques is that Middlemarch is a cracking tale and a great love story. It's one of those rare novels that you live with and are absorbed by so completely and for so long, that on finishing it is as if you have lost a group of friends.Admittedly, in the beginning it took a while to understand where Eliot was heading with the many different character threads and her somewhat verbose style took a few chapters to get into. If you find this difficult, I can only recommend you stick with it. This book more than returns the favour by the end and I found I whipped through the second half, desperate to find out how it would all end up for my favourites.Possibly the best demonstration of its pulling power is that the characters grow and develop so much over the course of the novel that I know that I will re-read it sometime in the future because I want to go back to the early sections knowing what I do now about how each individual ends up.The most worthwhile read I've had in a long, long while and a rare 5 stars from me!
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