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Middlemarch (Penguin Classics) by George…

Middlemarch (Penguin Classics) (original 1872; edition 1994)

by George Eliot, Rosemary Ashton (Editor)

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11,360197244 (4.2)14 / 1432
Title:Middlemarch (Penguin Classics)
Authors:George Eliot
Other authors:Rosemary Ashton (Editor)
Info:Penguin Classics (1994), Mass Market Paperback, 880 pages
Collections:Your library, Lawrence, Read 2012
Tags:pb, classic, quizbowl

Work details

Middlemarch by George Eliot (1872)

  1. 111
    Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (christiguc, Hollerama)
  2. 113
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (shallihavemydwarf)
  3. 60
    The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (Booksloth)
  4. 41
    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (PensiveCat)
  5. 20
    My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: One reader's relationship with this novel; also some biography of Eliot and a literary criticism.
  6. 20
    South Riding: An English Landscape by Winifred Holtby (Booksloth)
  7. 20
    Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders (susanbooks)
  8. 10
    The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson (thesmellofbooks)
    thesmellofbooks: The Getting of Wisdom is the rare sort of book that provokes deep self-reflection and a nudge in the direction of peace-making with self and life, and in this way brings to mind [[George Eliot]]'s [Middlemarch]. I am gobsmacked. The novel begins as an entertaining tale of a headstrong young Australian girl going to meet the world at boarding school. It gradually evolves into a subtle, simple, and stunningly real observation of the pressures of conformity and the intolerance of naïveté, which, when paired with a strong desire to be accepted, can lead to many and often rending responses in an imaginative young person. Yet it is not a tragedy. I am left moved, affectionate, a little worried about the future, and yet joyful at the intactness of the protagonist's resilient soul. Bravo, Ms Richardson.… (more)
  9. 00
    Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These 19th-century classics portray complex romantic relationships with vivid descriptions and a strong sense of place. With intricate, twisting plots, both offer their protagonists bleak outlooks that end in satisfying resolutions.
  10. 01
    George Eliot. by Elsemarie Maletzke (JuliaMaria)
  11. 03
    Ulysses by James Joyce (kara.shamy)
    kara.shamy: Similar -- almost unique really -- in their tremendous breadth and depth...
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Showing 1-5 of 187 (next | show all)
Had trouble getting into but it was worth while ( )
  blgriffin | Apr 27, 2016 |
I have just read this wonderful book again after many years. I was reminded very much of the comment by one of my English Lit lecturers years ago: "you really want Dorothea and Lydgate to get together. But they never do --- no matter how many times you read it!"
  PollyMoore3 | Apr 25, 2016 |
It's true, what all those people said about this book. This is one of those books that alters your lens on life. I was not kind to this book, and did not give it its proper due because I took much too long to read it, being frequently distracted by more superficial discourses, which only diluted the richness of the style and depth of the prose.
But despite that, it waited for me patiently and did not fail to reward, and nor did I fail to marvel. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
I read the abridged version of this, which was probably a mistake. Virginia Wolf said "Finally, a book for adults." We have plenty of books for adults these days, so this seemed old hat to me -- however, the truth is that this book was at the forefront of that "how many pounds a year" formula. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
George Eliot


Penguin Classics, Paperback, 2003.

8vo. xxiv+852 pp. Edited with an Introduction [vii-xxiii] and Notes [pp. 839-852] by Rosemary Ashton.


Suggested Further Reading
A Note on the Text

Book One: Miss Brooke
Book Two: Old and Young
Book Three: Waiting for Death
Book Four: Three Love Problems
Book Five: The Dead Hand
Book Six: The Widow and the Wife
Book Seven: Two Temptations
Book Eight: Sunset and Sunrise



It’s definitely a classic – a classic slog.

Was it worth the effort? Yes and no. Yes, because I can now boast that I have read “the greatest novel ever written”, “the most perfect book ever written”, etc., etc. No, because I plan neither to revisit this novel nor to explore Eliot’s works further. Who said “beware of the man of one book”? There’s wisdom here. Applies to women, too.

To cut the long story short, I have two major problems with Middlemarch. The first is, of course, the writing. Eliot’s prose is ponderous, pretentious, ungraceful and, worst of all, often obscure. She does have some fascinating insights into her characters in particular and the human condition in general, but in order to appreciate them you have to struggle with horrid passages like this one:

Dorothea's inferences may seem large; but really life could never have gone on at any period but for this liberal allowance of conclusions, which has facilitated marriage under the difficulties of civilization. Has any one ever pinched into its pilulous smallness the cobweb of pre-matrimonial acquaintanceship?

There is perhaps some perceptive, even profound, here. But I had to read the passage three times to grasp its meaning. I'm still not quite sure that I do. And this is not an isolated example. It happens on each and every one of these 850 pages.

The fact that the prose is staggeringly humourless doesn't help the matter, either. Eliot's "jokes" are so heavy-handed and self-conscious, they sound like a shrill mobile phone during a piano recital. Rather than make me smile, they make me wince. Ever heard a mobile phone ringing in the middle of a Chopin's nocturne? Well, it's quite painful.

I was wrong to expect any purple prose from Eliot. Indeed, her stiff and stilted formality would have been much the better for some purple shades. But they seem to have been beyond her appallingly intellectual make-up. Where Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter, Melville in Moby-Dick and Wilde in Dorian Gray create breathtaking and passionate visions using poetry in prose, Eliot creates monotonous desert landscapes, beautiful in their own and rather limited way, but quite, quite tedious.

The second problem was best summarised by Somerset Maugham. He once praised Eliot's masterpiece from every conceivable angle, but then concluded that she lacked one and only one thing. Romance.[1] The remark is profound, much more so than it looks at first glance. Dorothea's "intellectual passion" (or "passionless romance" if you like, either way it's an oxymoron) is not just unconvincing and impossible to believe. It is a single instance of the general tendency that ruins the book for me. I don't believe in Eliot's characters. People are not that intellectual. They don't think that much. They don't analyse their minds and their deeds at such length. To quote Maugham again:

One great difference between the persons of real life and the persons of fiction is that the persons of real life are creatures of impulse.[2]

This is what Eliot's missing completely. Herself being "morbidly intellectual" (in the apt words of Herbert Spencer), she couldn't have written the book in any other way. All the same, for all its craftsmanship and scope, it's a book full of false characters, untrue to life. By no means is it a coincidence that the minor characters are more believable.

While reading Middlemarch I often caught myself comparing it to Pride and Prejudice. To be blunt, Jane wins over George at all fronts. Both ladies have a great deal more elaborate writing styles than is customary today. But while Jane's prose is melodious and rhythmic, Eliot's is just heavy-handed and noisy. To continue the musical simile, Jane's writing is like a Mozart's piano sonata, angelic, witty and profound; Eliot's is like Alkan’s: massive, impressive, virtuosic, unwieldy, empty. Above all, Jane has charm, liveliness, humour and romance. These are things well beyond George: her stupendous intellect is also her curse, for it confers upon her a vastly disconcerting lack of feeling, let alone passion. Serious writing is not necessarily deeper than humorous writing. In fact, the opposite is more often true.

I am glad I have read Middlemarch. It was an interesting experience. But I don't see myself re-reading anything from it, not even in the distant future. Another book by George Eliot I would read only if I happen to be handsomely paid to do that. Life's much too short to be so rigidly intellectual.

[1] Preface to Books and You, Doubleday, Doran & Company, pp. 18-21.
[2] The Summing Up (1938), Chapter XV. ( )
1 vote Waldstein | Feb 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 187 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (73 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eliot, Georgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ashton, RosemaryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Creswick, ThomasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Faber, MichelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harvey, W. J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, JulietNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woolf, GabrielNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl waling forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? (Prelude)
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
The nineteenth century was an age of intense intellectual ferment. (Introduction)
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.
What we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.
Riding was an indulgence which she allowed herself in spite of conscientious qualms; she felt that she enjoyed it in a pagan sensuous way, and always looked forward to renouncing it.
Some discouragement, some faintness of the heart at the new real future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotions of mankind.
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Book description

This title is in public domain in the USA and the e-book is available free online.  

GUTENBERG.org is the origin for most of the human and well-edited FREE kindle editions online in various languages. Scam sites will ask for money for the hard work and titles which Gutenberg volunteers provide free. ARCHIVE.org provides a huge selection of FREE e-pub & PDF public domain titles in various languages also. (easily readable with the Free CALIBRE-ebook.com app]. Project Gutenberg is a great organization. They will never ask you for money before allowing you to download their books (though voluntary donations are welcome).   

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Haiku summary
dorothea cares

in a world not quite ready

to accept her views

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439548, Paperback)

It was George Eliot’s ambition to create a world and portray a whole community—tradespeople, middle classes, country gentry—in the rising fictional provincial town of Middlemarch, circa 1830. Vast and crowded, rich in narrative irony and
suspense, Middlemarch is richer still in character and in its sense of how individual destinies are shaped by and shape the community.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:03 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Set in a provincial Victorian neighborhood, the author explores the complex social relationship and the struggle to hold fast to personal tragedy in a materialistic environment.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 26 descriptions

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21 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439548, 0141199792, 0143123815

Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102162, 1400108632

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