Middlemarch

(Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Trade Paperback

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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.

Praise

Middlemarch, the magnificent book which with all its imperfections is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.”
—Virginia Woolf

“The most profound, wise and absorbing of English novels . . . and, above all, truthful and forgiving about human behaviour.”
—Hermione Lee

"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

"Middlemarch is probably the greatest English novel."
—Julian Barnes

"It is possible to argue that Middlemarch is the greatest English novel."
—A. S. Byatt

 

"Certainly the greatest [English] novel."
—Martin Amis

 

Excerpt

WHO that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa,' has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand - in - hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled from rugged Avila, wide - eyed and helpless - looking as two fawns, but with human hearts, already beating to a national idea; until domestic reality met them in the shape of uncles, and turned them back from their great resolve. That child - pilgrimage was a fit beginning. Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many - volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her. Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self - despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in the reform of a religious order.
That Spanish woman who lived three hundred years ago was certainly not the last of her kind. Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far - resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill - matched with the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion. With dim lights and tangled circumstance they tried to shape their thought and deed in noble agreement; but after all, to common eyes their struggles seemed mere inconsistency and formlessness; for these later - born Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which could perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul. Their ardour alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning of womanhood; so that the one was disapproved as extravagance, and the other condemned as a lapse.
Some have felt that these blundering lives are due to the inconvenient indefiniteness with which the Supreme Power has fashioned the natures of women: if there were one level of feminine incompetence as strict as the ability to count three and no more, the social lot of women might be treated with scientific certitude. Meanwhile the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation are really much wider than any one would imagine from the sameness of women's coiffure and the favourite love - stories in prose and verse. Here and there a cygnet is reared uneasily among the ducklings in the brown pond, and never finds the living stream in fellowship with its own oary-footed kind. Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart -beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering in some long recognisable deed.

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