Reading Middlemarch in 2019

In this blog, we'll be reading Middlemarch in the 8 parts in which it was first published in 1871-72, as part of the celebrations of George Eliot's bi-centenary in 2019. Whether you've read the novel many times, or you've yet to open its pages, we really hope you'll enjoy reading in good company on this … Continue reading Reading Middlemarch in 2019


Leg-plaiting Oxen

Here’s a bit of Book 1 that I’m not sure I understand. In chapter 11 Fred Vincy, just down from university, banters with his sister Rosamund over breakfast (much to the delight of their mother: ‘“Dear me, how amusing it is to hear young people talk!” said Mrs. Vincy, with cheerful admiration’). They’re discussing the … Continue reading Leg-plaiting Oxen

Book 1: Ch. 6-10: In which Mrs Cadwallader does what she can

Now, why on earth should Mrs Cadwallader have been at all busy about Miss Brooke's marriage; and why, when one match that she liked to think she had a hand in was frustrated, should she have straightway contrived the preliminaries of another?Ch. 6 If Mrs Cadwallader had written Middlemarch, what would it have looked like? … Continue reading Book 1: Ch. 6-10: In which Mrs Cadwallader does what she can

How do you pronounce Will Ladislaw’s name?

Whenever I've read Middlemarch previously I’ve assumed Will's surname shares its final syllable, pronunciation-wise, with ‘coleslaw’. That’s probably how most people say it. But by the end of Book One we’ve learned a few crucial details about his background. In chapter 9 Casaubon tells Dorothea that his mother had a sister, but that ‘my aunt made an … Continue reading How do you pronounce Will Ladislaw’s name?

Sappho’s Apple

This is a small, perhaps pedantic (but hopefully not full-on Casaubonic) note on a reference Eliot makes in the sixth chapter of Middlemarch. So: the expectation had been that Dorothea would marry Sir James Chettam, an eligible, hearty and rather dim young baronet. Her betrothal to Casaubon puts paid to that plan, but matchmaker Mrs … Continue reading Sappho’s Apple

What Middlemarch means to me

I first encountered Middlemarch during an undergraduate module with the Open University. 'The 19th Century Novel' (sadly no longer running) explored the century from Jane Austen through to Kate Chopin (among others), and Middlemarch sat alongside Dickens' Dombey and Son in the Realism section. OU students are busy people: many combine full-time employment or raising a family with studying, and so there … Continue reading What Middlemarch means to me


[Some, mild spoilers for the larger story of Middlemarch in this post; probably worth avoiding until you've read the whole novel.] I’ve never been quite sure about the place of Casaubon’s ‘Key to All Mythologies’ in Middlemarch. Well: in one sense, I suppose it's obvious enough. This unfinished and perhaps unfinishable project is indicative of … Continue reading Mythlemarch

Fashion in Book 1 ch.1-5

The subtitle of Middlemarch - a study of provincial life - gives a hint that what we're going to get in this novel is the opposite of fashion. From the 1800s probably up until the rise of global, instantaneous fashion 'influencers', to be provincial meant to be a bit behind the curve of latest trends. … Continue reading Fashion in Book 1 ch.1-5

Book One: Miss Brooke, Chapters 1-5

It was this that made Dorothea so childlike, and according to some judges, so stupid, with all her reputed cleverness...Ch. 5 Yes, Dorothea is a bit stupid. That's my first response to reading these chapters again. She's gloriously wonderful; she's also stupid in the way this novel keeps on reminding us that most people are. … Continue reading Book One: Miss Brooke, Chapters 1-5

My Middlemarch

Middlemarch is the sort of book that is read and returned to many times. My own copy - a battered old Penguin Classics from the 1990s, now held together with tape and interleaved with dozens of crumpled sticky notes, illegible scrawl signalling something I once wanted to talk about in a lecture or seminar - … Continue reading My Middlemarch