Hi everybody, and welcome back for the second week of George Eliot's Middlemarch!
Please feel free to post status reports and/or famous lines as well as comments.
Please don't feel beholden to read any further than this line before commenting! But if you'd like further prompting, I put some random stuff up to perhaps inspire/incite. This week, I did a little fussing around reading biographical information about Ms. George Eliot as well as background on the book and its writing. So, in no particular order and without any guise at journalistic integrity, I'm going to post what struck me as interesting trivia (mostly stolen from my Oxford World's Classics edition):
-Middlemarch was published in 1870 and 1871, in single book installments (so 8 separate installments total), usually two months apart. Then, at the end of it all, they issued a "Cheap" (bumper edition). Not unlike several modern-day marketing schemes I've seen (eg "buy this compilation album! There's a secret song!").
-George Eliot didn't become a novelist until she was 37, which is pretty young in the scheme of things, but perhaps not as young when one considers she'd spent her entire adult life as a professional writer. Middlemarch was published when she was 51.
-George Eliot's birth name was Mary Ann Evans. She took the male pen name so she wouldn't be written off as a romance novelist, like most of her fellow female Victorian novelists.
-Eliot was almost entirely self-educated. She didn't have the means to go to the kind of fancy private school she makes fun of Rosamund Vincy for having attended, but she was a strong believer in self-education and self-improvement. By the end of her life, she had taught herself eight languages: aside from English: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Latin, Greek.
-Eliot's writing was (purposely) idea-driven. That's why we get so much about art, science, and religion in every moment of Middlemarch--Eliot cared a lot about her ideas and was very focused on making what she believed come through in her plots.
-Eliot lost faith in God when she was 20. She wasn't the only Victorian questioning faith--British Christianity had reached a strange point during her lifetime where it was assumed one believed in a Christian God as a default, but people were increasingly less confident in this religion. Religion, its place, and its politics are a major concern throught Middlemarch, as in the second book, where we witness (in close detail) the highly political election of a clergy position, and where the question of fitness to lead congregants is secondary to other concerns, like salary and personal relationships.
Ok, I've lost stamina for typing. Turning over the floor!!
-We get a lot of biting commentary on the role of women (often toward some of the things the female characters do and say themselves), but Eliot--although a feminist by practice and by default--did not want to be associated with the feminists of her era, because she didn't agree with some of their philosophies. (NOTE TO SMARTER PEOPLE--this is taken directly from my edition of the book, but there was no further commentary on what philosophies specifically she disagreed with. Anyone know anything about Victorian feminism and/or George Eliot's opinions? I'm fascinated and would love to know more!)