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Middlemarch (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by George Eliot

Middlemarch, by George Eliot, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. Often called the greatest nineteenth-century British novelist, George Eliot (the pen name of Mary Ann Evans) created in Middlemarch a vast panorama of life in a provincial Midlands town. At the story’s center stands the intellectual and idealistic Dorothea Brooke—a character who in many ways resembles Eliot herself. But the very qualities that set Dorothea apart from the materialistic, mean-spirited society around her also lead her into a disastrous marriage with a man she mistakes for her soul mate. In a parallel story, young doctor Tertius Lydgate, who is equally idealistic, falls in love with the pretty but vain and superficial Rosamund Vincy, whom he marries to his ruin.

Eliot surrounds her main figures with a gallery of characters drawn from every social class, from laborers and shopkeepers to the rising middle class to members of the wealthy, landed gentry. Together they form an extraordinarily rich and precisely detailed portrait of English provincial life in the 1830s. But Dorothea’s and Lydgate’s struggles to retain their moral integrity in the midst of temptation and tragedy remind us that their world is very much like our own. Strikingly modern in its painful ironies and psychological insight, Middlemarch was pivotal in the shaping of twentieth-century literary realism.

Lynne Sharon Schwartz is the author of fourteen books of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, including the novels Disturbances in the Field, Leaving Brooklyn, and In the Family Way, and the memoir Ruined by Reading. Her poetry collection In Solitary and her translation of A Place to Live: Selected Essays of Natalia Ginzburg appeared in 2002.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080235
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 05/01/2003
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 848
Sales rank: 27,275
Product dimensions: 7.96(w) x 5.28(h) x 1.83(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Lynn Sharon Schwartz's Introduction to Middlemarch

Eliot is not one for indirection or delay, or for obscurity. If anything, she makes things uncomfortably lucid, like a too-bright light that permits no mitigating shadows. On the very first page, Dorothea is likened to Saint Theresa, whose "passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life, . . . some illimitable satisfaction . . . which would reconcile self-despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self"-an arresting comparison, which is immediately qualified. Many Theresas are born, Eliot says, and then doomed to "a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity." Dorothea Brooke, luckily, does not suffer a lifetime of mistakes, but on the brink of adulthood- she's not quite twenty-she makes just one, and a terrible mistake it is. Against the urging of her uncle and guardian, the foolish and nonchalant Mr. Brooke, her shrewd younger sister Celia, and her would-be suitor, the unimaginative but decent Sir James Chettam, she marries the wrong man.

Victorian novels often turn on choices in marriage, and here Middlemarch follows suit. Eliot hints that if Dorothea had had a mother to advise her, she might not have leaped so hastily into error. But as in so many novels of the time (a stunning example is George Meredith's The Egoist, which turns on a young woman's being coerced into a disastrous match), no such mother-figure exists. No doubt this is partly a practical choice: Any marriage plot would be stymied from the start if the heroine avoided her mistake. Besides, readers loved (and still do) watching young women in sexual and emotional peril. But more important, no serious role existed in fiction for sensible, mature women. Until fairly recently, interesting women characters were required to be young, on the threshold of their one momentous decision. Older women in positions of authority tend either to be superannuated or ridiculous and useless-witness Mrs. Bennet, mother of five marriageable daughters in Jane Austen's much earlier Pride and Prejudice.

In any case, Middlemarch, unlike so many notable works of its period, does not end at the altar with the prospect of a settled, if unsatisfying, future; it begins with the marriage and traces the course of its agonies to the final death rattle.

One could hardly imagine a worse choice for a young woman of brimming energy and "a certain spiritual grandeur." Edward Casaubon is devoid of grandeur of any kind. The chapter in which Dorothea meets him opens aptly with an epigraph from Don Quixote: The bemused knight sees a cavalier with a golden helmet approaching on a dapple-gray steed, while the down-to-earth Sancho Panza sees "a man on a gray ass . . . who carries something shiny on his head." A dry, pompous pedant engaged in a huge and hopeless research project on mythology, Casaubon is more than twice Dorothea's age and singularly unappealing, as Celia-playing Sancho Panza to Dorothea's Quixote-points out with sisterly bluntness: "Can't you hear how he scrapes his spoon? And he always blinks before he speaks." Right from the start, then, the situation offers one of those tortured yet delicious moments in fiction when the reader wants to pluck the heroine back from her impetuous rush to folly but at the same time can't wait to see the folly play itself out.

However grotesque it appears, the choice is implicit in Dorothea's nature. In the first chapter, she shows a taste for righteous self-denial, a streak of ascetic Puritanism. When she and Celia divide up their late mother's jewelry, Dorothea tries to "justify her delight in the colors by merging them in her mystic religious joy." She loves riding horses but "felt that she enjoyed it in a pagan sensuous way, and always looked forward to renouncing it." Obviously she is avoiding the sensual, and by implication, the erotic; in that regard, her choice is uncannily protective. Marriage to Casaubon would certainly keep her safe from physical passion. Beyond that, Dorothea is awed by what she takes to be Casaubon's learning; assisting him in his research, she imagines, will be the ideal goal for her restless energies. She goes so far as to envision his estate, Lowick, as the testing ground for her schemes to improve the tenant farmers' living conditions. In a cunningly ironic moment, she is disappointed to discover Lowick in such good order that little remains to be done. Her reforming zeal is so abstract that she would enjoy finding the farmers ground down by miseries she might then alleviate.

Dorothea's notions of married life are comically naive: She views it as an initiation into ideas. But from the first moment, Casaubon's gloomy house, full of "anterooms and winding passages," and Casaubon himself, with his pigeonhole mind, are more stifling than stimulating. Despite her mighty efforts to make allowances, despite her self-deceptions (Eliot's characters are masters of self-deception), in no time at all Dorothea is sunk in a "nightmare of a life in which every energy was arrested by dread." Her limited education abroad is as nothing compared to this schooling in reality.

Casaubon is no less disillusioned. In a grimly humorous passage, Eliot outlines his motives for marrying-entirely willed, painfully rational-and his dismay at the outcome. He had "determined to abandon himself to the stream of feeling, and perhaps was surprised to find what an exceedingly shallow rill it was." If "the quality and breadth of our emotion" is of supreme value to Eliot, then the shallowness of Casaubon's feelings is her supreme censure. Still, it is a measure of her even-handed sympathies that Casaubon is not made wholly monstrous. However unattractive, he is human, and granted human complexity. In the remarkable chapter 29, Eliot reveals his rankling disappointments and self-doubts, his secret awareness of his own failure, with an acuteness that compels a grudging compassion. When his bitterness finally turns against Dorothea, its source is all too clear.

Into this dour nightmare of a marriage steps Casaubon's maverick nephew Will Ladislaw, an unconventional outsider by birth as well as by inclination. Like Dorothea, Will is driven by feeling, not logic. "The bow of a violin drawn near him cleverly, would at one stroke change the aspect of the world for him, and his point of view shifted as easily as his mood." In such volatile natures-maybe even in all natures-ideas are rooted in temperament rather than reason, a notion more congenial to our postmodern sensibility than to a Victorian. Will's feelings do not arise from some vaguely religious morality, like Dorothea's, but from an equally vague aestheticized view of the world. He seems a harbinger of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood of Eliot's own era, those poets, painters and critics (Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Millais, William Morris, and John Ruskin, among others) who indulged in a cult of beauty steeped in nostalgia for the preindustrial simplicities of the Middle Ages.

Will and Dorothea meet, fittingly, in an art gallery in Rome. They show their true-and contrasting-colors in one of their first exchanges. Dorothea declares she believes in doing good. If that proves impossible, simply desiring what is good will succeed in "widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower." Will counters this sweet but hopelessly ingenuous outlook with his own philosophy: "To love what is good and beautiful when I see it. . . . But I am a rebel: I don't feel bound, as you do, to submit to what I don't like."

Some readers, especially those who idealize Dorothea and overlook her naïveté, have found Will an inadequate match for her, a comedown from her high-minded dreams. On the contrary, the pairing perfectly suits Eliot's design. Dorothea is never meant to realize her fantasies of mystical transcendence, of transforming the world; detached as they are from anything practical, they may be impossible in any event. Virginia Woolf, in a 1925 essay in The Common Reader (see "For Further Reading"), illuminates the nature of such longings in Eliot's heroines: "The ancient consciousness of woman, charged with suffering and sensibility, overflowed and uttered a demand for something-they scarcely know what-for something that is perhaps incompatible with the facts of human existence. . . . Save for the supreme courage of their endeavour, the struggle ends, for her heroines, in tragedy, or in a compromise that is even more melancholy" (p. 241).

Only in fantasy can Dorothea ever be a Saint Theresa. "The medium in which [her] ardent deeds took shape is for ever gone"-Eliot's sober acknowledgment, at the very end, of the unheroic tenor of the times. But besides the narrow opportunities at hand, the unfocused nature of Dorothea's ardor precludes any secular sainthood. Her fate, like most fates, is one of compromise, though not especially melancholy. Will isn't a bad bargain. Their passionate, wayward, ineffectual natures complement each other and perhaps grow more effectual in the bargain. Will's carelessness serves as a check to Dorothea's overblown (even self-aggrandizing) sense of responsibility. His lightness balances her gravity. His aestheticism makes him a more congenial partner than Casaubon's suffocating pedantry. In the end, theirs is a marriage of the moral and the aesthetic-unworldly, yes, but benign and enlivening, and definitely sustained by breadth of emotion.

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Middlemarch 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 99 reviews.
lraber224 More than 1 year ago
Do NOT waste your money on this edition of Middlemarch. There are seriously at least 50 typos that I found. Misspelled words, character names switched, missing punctuation. I've never seen anything like it. It was terribly distracting. B&N and the editor of this edition should be so ashamed. Your money and time will be much better spent on another edition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can understand how some readers might become overwhelmed by the 700 plus pages that make up this classic but its well worth the read. George Eliot reminds me of an Austen or Bronte, but with a little more spunk. Everything doesn't always work out perfectly for Eliot's characters and their lives are more complicated and true to life. Dr. Lydgate and Dorthea begin with the best of intentions but their ambitions are soon spoiled through their own folly and misjudgement. The book is a great depiction of human strenghths and weaknesses set in a climate of strict social heirarchy.
HBW More than 1 year ago
This edition of Middlemarch has one of the best introductions to a classic I've ever read--clearly written, informative and free of the pompous nonsense you usually see in these (definitely read it after reading the novel, though; it gives away all the plot points). Because of this alone, I'd say this edition is more than worth the money. On the other hand, it did have a good number of typos. The book was apparently scanned with optical character recognition, judging by their nature. I found it readable, but if you're a stickler for such things, you might want to avoid this edition. Another drawback was the footnotes. They were too sparse, and a handful weren't properly tagged to jump to the footnote section. These aren't fatal flaws, but they keep reminding you you're not reading a top-notch edition. Still, for the money, I'm not sure you could do better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must have. While I have always had an affinity towards the great classics - Great Expectations, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn 'and Tom Sawyer', Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Austen's Pride and Prejudice, etc nothing prepared me for the masterpiece that I found George Eliot's Middlemarch to be.... not even having come highly recommended, and gifted by a fellow avid reader who's interests in the classics sometimes overlay mine. MiddleMarch is an ordinary yet timeless portrayal of people, their interwoven lives, and relationships, idealisms, crises etc - essentially, it is an character rich yet simple storytelling of humanity. It is 'IMO' like a book of life. I collected favorite books for the longest time and would haul them with me whenever I moved. Recently though, I adopted a minimalistic outlook to life and have practically given away all of my favorite books that I haven't read in a while. Currently, there are only 3 favorites that sit on my shelf, and MiddleMarch is the most favored of these favorites. Once you can get past the size - I have the Barnes & Noble Classics which comes to 799 pages, you too may find this your ultimate favorite classic.
JaneClaire More than 1 year ago
Amazing novel, absolutely terrible edition!! Do NOT purchase this B&N Series edition!!! I don't know the correct names of some of the characters because they're misspelled on every other page, not to mention the ridiculous number of typos. I should be getting paid to catch all of them! It's not 1-2; it's nearly every page! Customer Service is of no use either....I've been hung up on twice, and with a twinge of irony, the last one bid me "Farewell!" before hanging up. Sigh...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book itself is a marvelous one, but it is quite obvious that whoever edited the Barnes and Noble Classics edition did not actually read what was written, as there are numerous errors.  Some are obvious typographical errors, while others are words put into the sentences that make no sense. At first, I thought it would just be a few, but the further I read the more I came across. Normally I swear by these editions, but Middlemarch is poorly done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love to read the classics but this is one of my favorites. If you find it a little slow at the beginning stick with it. The characters are so vivid and real you will be pulled into the story and identify with their experiences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have tried on 2 occasions to get thru this book, and after 100 pages or so, find it very uninteresting. I am an avid reader of the Classics and am never afraid to take on any size book, as long as the story holds my interest. Since I own this book, I will try again this winter to get thru Middlemarch,and maybe this time it will light that spark that makes the reader wish the story would never end!! If not, theres always Dickens!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amazing! The first couple hundred pages are rough, but in the end it's worth it. If you enjoy 19th century literature, this is a must-read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What makes Middlemarch so interesting, and Eliot so different from Austen, is that there are no easy ways out for the characters; their futures are not so cut-and-dried. While Dorothea is almost impossibly noble, her sister's cutting remarks and her own human weakness and warmth toward the end bring her to an understandable level. The heart agonizes for the doctor in the parallel story, but his superficiality and aloofness at times also distance him from the reader. In short, idealized characters are brought down, and 'low' characters are proven better than they first seemed, and there is real insight into the hopes and disappointments of marriage. The candid explanations of human behavior are often reminiscent of Tolstoy, another writer whose works are necessary to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I looked forward to getting 'into' this rather long volume. Unfortunately, it was just too flowery for my preference. I passed it on to a friend who thoroughly enjoyed it and would give it 5 stars!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Middlemarch by George Eliot. Highly recommended. It seems that it's nearly impossible to talk about Middlemarch without mentioning its breadth and scope. The irony is that the entire novel takes place within the confines of this small community and within the sometimes-small minds of its various citizens. Although a vast number of characters populate Middlemarch and its environs, each who speaks has a distinctive voice, yet does not fall into being mere type only. The horse dealer sounds like a horse dealer¿but one with a particular background and perspective. The setting itself represents every type of town, suburb, village, or neighborhood where you'll find the complacent, the critical, the aspiring, the intellectual, the earthy, the wealthy, the poor, and the worker in between. As with many English novels, the setting, in this case Middlemarch, becomes as much a central character as any other, whether it's Dorothea or Lydgate. The tapestry Eliot weaves is complex; one character's actions can affect the lives of others he or she may rarely meet, while the unknown behavior and works of Bulstrode in his youth decades ago eventually touch nearly all. How the characters come together is sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle. Dorothy's interest in Casaubon, although a puzzle to her friends and family, is painted in broad strokes to the reader; her later interest in Will Ladislaw, grows somewhat more delicately if based in the same altruistic roots. Mary Garth and Fred Vincy have, in their way, come together in their childhoods; they are still struggling with mutually agreeable terms that will allow both to acknowledge the love and affection that are already there. Lydgate and Rosamond are both more of a puzzle and less of one¿a case of two opposed personalities with opposing views, opposing goals, and opposing personalities drawn together by that most capricious of matchmakers, proximity and circumstance, to form a union that will frustrate both and satisfy neither. Against the background of these four sometimes difficult relationships (Dorothea and Casaubon with its lack of love or eros, Dorothea and Will with the barriers set by Casaubon's will and that of the Middlemarch society who frown on Will and Dorothea's association with him, Fred and Mary with her imposed restrictions to set him on the correct course in life before she can make a commitment to him, and Lydgate and Rosamond with their diametrical oppositions) is the long, happy marriage of Nicholas Bulstrode and his Vincy wife Harriet. Unlike the others, there are no visible barriers to their happiness, and they are happy as a couple¿except for the events in Bulstrode's past that haunt him in the back of his mind and then at the front with the appearance of Raffles. The marriage survives the ensuing scandal, but the individuals¿Nicholas and Harriet¿become poor shadow of their former selves. It is in a town like Middlemarch that a woman like Dorothea will find it impossible to find approbation for her plans and Bulstrode will find the antagonism of those who have come to terms with their own worldly desires. It is in a town like Middlemarch that merely the raving words of a delirium tremens-afflicted Raffles can upset the respectable work of a respectable lifetime. The downfall of Bulstrode validates the town and its modernizing secular culture. Middlemarch is a novel of insight into personality, motivations, social behaviours, and history. In the end, even the happiest characters have failed at most if not all of their youthful aspirations and have become variations on the Middlemarch theme¿husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, day-to-day toilers rather than dreamers and achievers. Middlemarch is Everytown, where you will find an example or two of Every
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Product Review: This edition has a bunch of typos, grammatical and punctual.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm an experienced and avid reader and enjoyed finding a challenge in this novel. Longer sentences that had to be taken apart phrase by phrase (sometimes remaining elusive), vocabulary to look up, and subplots and contexts to keep straight - these were all great fun and inspired my respect. But I would not have kept going through the hundreds of pages for this alone. I was fascinated by her insights into human nature. She is able to handle universal truth as it plays out in human living. All in all, I found it to be a tremendously worthwhile endeavor to finally read Middlemarch.
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Lightpaw padded around, sniffing.
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Sits down on the cliff, looking at the water. A sad look filled her eyes.
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Thrumming pawsteps announced Swiftpaw's arrival. He skidded to a stop on the pebbly ground, almost slipping as the small rocks rolled underfoot. "Hi." He said breathlessly. "I was told to follow you guys, to join whatever else you're doing." He looked expectantly at Adderstrike, asking her permission.
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DawnClan Cliff
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