Middlemarch stands as George Eliot’s masterpiece and as one of the greatest of all novels. It is at once a shrewdly observed portrait of provincial life in 1830s England, a moving story about vividly drawn characters, and a searching exploration of what it means to live a good life. Virginia Woolf called it “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people,” and its time span and interplay of multiple plots allow Middlemarch to convey the complexities of human life with a richness rarely matched in fiction. Throughout, Eliot’s narrator leads us from considering the characters’ lives to examining our own. As Harold Bloom declared, “If there is an exemplary fusion of aesthetic and moral power in the canonical novel, George Eliot is its best representative, and Middlemarch is her subtlest analysis of the moral imagination, possibly the subtlest ever achieved in prose fiction.”
In our discussions we will explore the myriad questions raised by this profusion of riches, seeking to understand both Eliot’s ideas and our reactions to them.
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; published by The Jenson Society, New York, 1910
“The presence of a noble nature, generous in its wishes, ardent in its charity, changes the lights for us: we begin to see things again in their larger, quieter masses, and to believe that we too can be seen and judged in the wholeness of our character.”
– George Eliot, Middlemarch