George Eliot

To many critics Middlemarch is the greatest novel George Eliot ever wrote. Its scope, its variety, its maturity and insight, are indubitable. Yet to others it lacks something of the charm and spontaneity of the author's earlier works, and its very inclusiveness and scope lead to a certain confusion of plan- and blurring of outline that mark it as artistically imperfect. Whichever view is correct, the novel is admittedly great.

Written late in George Eliot's career, it is at once weighty with her considered evaluation of the essential factors in life and rich in her observation and experience of human nature. The plot is the most involved of any that the author has presented, and the characters are numerous even for a Victorian "three-decker." In general there are two main groups of characters, not, it must be confessed, as closely inter-related as artistically they should be. Dorothea Brooke may be regarded as the centre of one group, and Dr. Lydgate of the other. Both represent the tragedy of high aims that fail to take fully into account the actualities of life. Dorothea sentimentally pines to be the helpmate of a genius; but as the wife of the Rev. Edward Casaubon, who is writing a 'Key to All Mythologies,' she is disillusioned, and her misery is ended only by the death of her husband. Dr. Lydgate comes to Middlemarch with excellent training, determined to push forward in biological research. However, he marries the attractive but unpractical Rosamond Vincy, is overwhelmed in debts and his possible career fades into nothingness. But George Eliot's view of life is not distortedly pessimistic...


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