Synopses & Reviews
George Eliot’s beloved masterpiece in a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition with a foreword by Rebecca Mead, author of the bestselling memoir My Life in Middlemarch.
A triumph of realist fiction, George Eliot’s Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life explores a fictional nineteenth-century Midlands town in the midst of sweeping change. The proposed Reform Bill, the new railroads, and scientific advances are threatening upheaval on every front. Against this backdrop, the quiet drama of ordinary lives is played out by the novel’s complexly portrayed characters — until the arrival of two outsiders further disrupts the town’s equilibrium. Every bit as powerful and perceptive in our time as it was in the Victorian era, Middlemarch displays George Eliot’s clear-eyed yet humane understanding of characters caught up in the mysterious unfolding of self-knowledge.
In this elegant Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, Rebecca Mead introduces the novel that shaped her life and reflects on its joys and its timeless relevance.
For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
"It is possible to argue that Middlemarch is the greatest English novel." A. S. Byatt
"Middlemarch is probably the greatest English novel." Julian Barnes
"No Victorian novel approaches Middlemarch in its width of reference, its intellectual power, or the imperturbable spaciousness of its narrative…I doubt if any Victorian novelist has as much to teach the modern novelists as George Eliot…No writer has ever represented the ambiguities of moral choice so fully." V. S. Pritchett
"The most profound, wise and absorbing of English novels...and, above all, truthful and forgiving about human behaviour." Hermione Lee
"Middlemarch, the magnificent book which with all its imperfections is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people." Virginia Woolf
About the Author
Mary Ann Evans was born on November 22, 1819, at Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, England, the last child of an estate agent. During her girlhood, she went through a phase of evangelical piety, but her strong interest in philosophy and her friendship with religious freethinkers led to a break with orthodox religion. When one of these friends married in 1843, Mary Ann took over from his wife the task of translating D.F. Strauss’s The Life of Jesus Critically Examined (1846), a work that had deep effect on English rationalism. After her father’s death she settled in London and from 1851 to 1854 she served as a writer and editor of the Westminster Review, the organ of the Radical party. In London she met she met George Henry Lewes, a journalist and advanced thinker. Lewes was separated from his wife, who had had two sons by another man, but had been unable to obtain a divorce. In a step daring for Victorian times, Mary Ann Evans began living openly with Lewes in 1854, in a union they both considered as sacred as a legal marriage and one that lasted until his death in 1878.
With Lewes’s encouragement, Mary Ann Evans wrote her first fictional work, "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton," for Blackwood’s Magazine in 1857; it was followed by two more stories published under the pseudonym George Elliot – "George" because it was Lewes’s name and "Eliot" because, she said, it was "good mouth-filling, easily pronounced word." At the age of thirty-nine she used her memories of Warwickshire to write her first long novel, Adam Bede (1859), a book that established her as the foremost woman novelist in her day. Then came The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), and Romola (1863). Her masterpiece and one of the greatest English novels, Middlemarch, was published in 1871-72. Her last work was Daniel Deronda (1876). After Lewes’s death George Eliot married John Walter Cross. He was forty; she was sixty-one. Before her death on December 22, 1880, she had been recognized by her contemporaries as the greatest living writer of English fiction.