Ladies, lady novelists, all of you: Put down your hackles. This formidable piece of criticism, which makes modern arguments about women and fiction sound like pillow talk; which BuzzFeed and its positive-reviews-only policy would not touch with a 27,foot pole; which, placed on one side of a seesaw, would send its opposite number Smarm into the stratosphere—this essay on Silly Novels by Lady Novelists was written by one Mary Ann Evans, better known to the world by her Serious Gentleman Novelist name, George Eliot. Although she is an uncommonly compassionate writer, Eliot has knife skills when she needs them, and the most obvious thing she does here is chiffonade the chick lit of her day.
Yet even while castigating some women, she manages to champion women as a whole. In hindsight, however, perhaps the most interesting thing Eliot does here is trace out, in negative space, the contours of a truly great novel.
Such a novel would represent human beings, in their inner and outer worlds, with nuance and fidelity. It could not be fatuous, frothy, prosy, pious, or pedantic. It would have to be rich and filling when served hot; it would also have to keep. Fifteen years later, Eliot sat down and wrote it. Instead, I want to talk about its goodness. Plenty of reprehensible people love books. Similarly, fiction that is a moral argument makes me wary, not for any prima facie reason but because it tends to be terrible.
And yet, on both fronts, Eliot hushes me. Middlemarch is forever waxing on about how to be good, and it was written with the explicit goal of making us a little better. And, beyond the basic exhortation to be good, what exactly is it that she wants us to do? In My Life in Middlemarch, she weaves the story of that private relationship together with biography and literary criticism; the whole, gracefully executed, makes a pleasing aperitif or digestif to Eliot.
But all this is just a fraction of the tale. Eliot had perfect psychological pitch; I am not sure any other writer has ever captured with such precision what it is like to be a member of our species. When it comes to committing private consciousness to the page, Woolf reigns supreme; but Eliot wrote us down as we actually live, inward and outward at once, selves in a society. And Eliot is exceptionally committed to compassion—to bestowing it on her characters, but also to coaxing it from her readers. Seeing ourselves in her book is just a start. What she really wants is for us to see past ourselves.
One of the oldest and most universal moral precepts is the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want them to treat you. That mandate shows up in Confucianism and in the Code of Hammurabi. It was reiterated by Seneca and by the Buddha. It appears in the Bible, as the command to love thy neighbor as thyself. It might possibly have been taught to more people than any other notion in history.
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Revisiting the Genius of Middlemarch | Literary Hub
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Middlemarch by George Eliot
You must be a registered user to use the IMDb rating plugin. Episodes Seasons. Learn more More Like This. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Certificate: K Drama. Drama History Romance. Comedy Drama Romance. Stars: Mia Fowler, Eliot S. Intertwining tales of love, greed, and secret identities in Charles Dickens's s London. Certificate: K Drama Romance. Drama Romance. He Knew He Was Right Louis Trevelyan's refusal to trust his wife, Emily, destroys their marriage. Adventure Drama Romance. Aristocrats TV Mini-Series Drama History.
Not yet released. Edit Cast Series cast summary: Juliet Aubrey Arthur Brooke 7 episodes, Peter Jeffrey Will Ladislaw 7 episodes, Jonathan Firth Fred Vincy 7 episodes, Julian Wadham Sir James Chettam 7 episodes, Colum Convey Hawley 7 episodes, Simon Chandler Mayor Vincy 7 episodes, Rosemary Martin Caleb Garth 6 episodes, Ronald Hines Standish 6 episodes, Rachel Power Mary Garth 6 episodes, Mary Hanefey Lady Chettam 6 episodes, Elizabeth Spriggs Cadwallader 6 episodes, Jacqueline Tong Vincy 6 episodes, James Garbutt Wrench 5 episodes, Patti Love Plymdale 5 episodes, Cheryl Fergison Pritchard 5 episodes, Roger Milner Pratt 5 episodes, Gabrielle Lloyd Garth 5 episodes, Patrick Malahide Edward Casaubon 4 episodes, Fred Pearson Bambridge 4 episodes, John Savident Raffles 4 episodes, David Belcher Kell 4 episodes, Michael Hordern Peter Featherstone 3 episodes, Roy Holder Hiram Ford 3 episodes, Pam Ferris Dollop 3 episodes, David Sibley Spooner 3 episodes, Richard Butler Powderell 3 episodes, Emily Woof Ben Garth 3 episodes, Susan Porrett Tantripp 3 episodes, Tony Rohr Solomon Featherstone 3 episodes, Jeremy Sinden Captain Lydgate 3 episodes, Andrew Tiernan Dagley 3 episodes, Nathan Valente Alfred Garth 3 episodes, Sally Mates Abel 2 episodes, Judi Dench George Eliot 2 episodes, Robert Blythe Heckler 2 episodes, Ken Campbell Mawmsey 2 episodes, Jonathan Hackett Joshua Rigg 2 episodes, Jane Hollowood Dagley 2 episodes, Sophie Jeffrey Letty Garth 2 episodes, Terry John Sparks 2 episodes, Geoffrey Toone Sir Godwin Lydgate 2 episodes, Geoffrey Wilkinson Edit Storyline This Masterpiece Theatre production, set at the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, chronicles the life, loves, foibles and politics of the fictional English town of Middlemarch.
Language: English. Runtime: min. Sound Mix: Stereo. Color: Color. Edit Did You Know? Trivia The final score composed by Stanley Myers.
He died shortly before the premiere. Quotes Dr. Tertius Lydgate : The reason doctors prescribe so much medicine, Mr. Mawmsey, is because it's the only way they can make their money. If they could charge for their consultation then they wouldn't have to overdose the King's legion.