Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
On April 10, 1994, PBS stations nationwide will air the first episode of a lavish six-part Masterpiece Theatre production of Eliot's brilliant work, Middlemarch, hosted by Russell Baker and produced by Louis Marks. The Modern Library is pleased to offer this official companion edition, complete with tie-in art and printed on acid-free paper. Unabridged.
GEORGE ELIOT was born in Nuneaton on November 22, 1819. Baptized Mary Anne Evans, Eliot chose to write using a male pen name. She was sent away to school but returned when her mother died in 1836. She later moved to Coventry with her father. After her father's death she became the Assistant Editor of the Westminster Review in 1851. She also met George Henry Lewes this year and they became partners for the rest of his life. Lewes was already married, although he and his wife both considered their relationship to be an open one, but he and Eliot set up home together, much to the dismay of polite London society. In 1857 Eliot published Amos Barton in Blackwood's Magazine and in 1859 her novel Adam Bede was published to great acclaim.
Her first attempt to write Middlemarch, her most famous novel, ended in failure. Abandoning it, she began a short novella entitled Miss Brooke which was eventually integrated into the final version of Middlemarch. The novel was published serially in eight parts in 1871. Lewes died in 1878 and Eliot married again in 1880. Her husband, John Walter Cross was an American who was twenty years her junior. George Eliot died on December 22, 1880 at 4 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea and is buried in Highgate Cemetery next to Lewes.
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.
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?
Middlemarch 3.2 out of 5based on
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.
More than 1 year ago
This version of Middlemarch crashed my Nook repeatedly. I opted to download a different version.
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.
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