A Dance of Indecision: George Eliot’s Shorter Fiction

  • David Payne
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


To begin reading George Eliot is speedily to encounter the conviction that modernity is best approached from an oblique angle. While Dickens’s earliest fictions are emphatically timely, his persona amounting to what Bagehot called “a special correspondent for posterity” from modernity’s urban front, George Eliot’s fictions usually displace us from that front in two ways: they return us to the provincial settings of Austen and Scott; and they set their action in historical pasts which, as we read along, soon appear quite specific. The earlier of these settings is around the turn of the nineteenth century, as in “Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story” (1857), Adam Bede (1859), and most of Silas Marner (1861); the later is the Reform period of the late 1820s and early 1830s, as in “The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton” (1857), “Janet’s Repentance” (1857), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Felix Holt (1866), and Mid-dlemarch (1871–2).


Religious Ethic Literary Field Sunday Evening Male Narrator Pure Impulse 
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© David Payne 2005

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