‘Fits of Spiritual Dread’: George Eliot and Later Novelists
Middlemarch concentrates the strengths and weaknesses of the English middle class more steadily than probably any other novel before or since. And it does this in a way that gathers together some of the stablest forces evident even in later, more ‘modern’ and complex novels by people as different as Conrad, James and Lawrence. But before discussing some of these later writers, it is important I think to look a bit more closely at some of the unstable, even threatening, components evident in George Eliot’s own writing and in the life around her. By this, I don’t mean so much the notorious sentimentalities that weaken parts both of Middlemarch and lesser George Eliot novels; but, rather, a sense in her work that both the mistakes she makes, and, more interestingly, some of her strongest writing, are of a kind that cannot be entirely comprehended or explained in terms of her more widely acknowledged virtues, such as her engagement with society and the challenge and choices it presents to the individual.
KeywordsStable Force Religious Doubt Father Time Narrow Theatre Strong Writing
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