A few quotes to set the stage for our Read-Along of Middlemarch by George Eliot.
BBC History Website:
“She used a male pen name to ensure her works were taken seriously in an era when female authors were usually associated with romantic novels.”
From “George Eliot: A Celebration” by A. S. Byatt, as introduction to Modern Library’s edition of Middlemarch:
“She had no real heir as “novelist of ideas” in England… Her heirs are abroad—Proust in France, Mann in Germany. Which brings me to another reason for loving her: she was European, not little-English, her roots were Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Balzac, not just, as Leavis’s “Great Tradition” implies, Jane Austen. She opened gates which are still open.”
From “Why Read George Eliot”, by Paula Marantz Cohen in American Scholar, Spring 2006:
“Eliot’s voice, in its assumption of a wiser, juster, more all-encompassing perspective, is the ligament of her novels. It elevates them from ingenious storytelling to divine comedy…
As Virginia Woolf observed, Eliot wrote novels for grown-up people. Our society and our relationships would be saner and better if more grownups read her.”
Last but not least, let’s kick off Middlemarch in May with Henry James’s lively reflections on George Eliot, as quoted in Colm Tóibín’s article “Creating The Portrait of a Lady” in The New York Review of Books, July 19, 2007 Issue:
“A specter haunted Henry James: it was the specter of George Eliot. He visited her first in 1869, when he was twenty-six, and wrote to his father:
‘I was immensely impressed, interested and pleased. To begin with, she is magnificently ugly—deliciously hideous…. Now in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a few minutes, steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end up as I ended, in falling in love with her. Yes behold me literally in love with this great horse-faced blue-stocking.’
Three years later, when Middlemarch appeared, James wrote from Rome to his friend Grace Norton:
A marvellous mind throbs in every page of Middlemarch. It raises the standard of what is to be expected of women—(by your leave!) We know all about the female heart; but apparently there is a female brain, too…. To produce some little exemplary works of art is my narrow and lowly dream. They are to have less “brain” than Middlemarch; but (I boldly proclaim it) they are to have more form.”
Let the fun begin!
Other posts from Read-Along participants:
Middlemarch Has Me Laughing So Soon by Gretchen at Gladsome Lights