Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1871-1872. First Edition. Late 19th to early 20th century binding by "Robertson" in Edinburgh. A complete first edition set retaining all four half-titles. Three quarter polished calf over marbled boards. Top edges gilt, marbled end papers. An excellent copy overall.
Praised from the outset of her career, George Eliot was credited by contemporary critics as the founder of "a new school of novel-writing, proving that this literary form could be adapted in sklilful hands to purposes which her predecessors had never dreamed of" (Atlantic Monthly, 1873). Among her major works, Middlemarch stands out for its astute observations of human character and its investment in the ideas of Fate and Destiny directing the course of human lives. "It is almost becoming the fashion to say that the leading trait in all of George Eliot's works is the constant presence of...the helplessness of man in his pitiful attempt to struggle with the eternal forces of nature" (Sedgewick). A complex tale of interwoven lives within a provincial English space, Middlemarch's central characters have become metonyms for the novel as a whole: its heroine Dorothea Brooke, the young doctor Tertius Lydgate and his wife Rosamond, and Dorothea's first husband, the pedantic Edward Casaubon. In an age where courtship and the romance leading up to marriage formed the common plot, Eliot instead used these figures and Middlemarch to explore marriage itself, and how these relationships and lives ultimately fray. Indeed, at the center of it all, Eliot emphasizes two female figures, without whom the climax could never occur.
100 Greatest British Novels.The Feminist Companion to Literature in English 334. (Item #2366)