Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 26 (1995) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
In the past few years, there has been considerable renewed interest in serial literature in the form of single author and general studies. Martin's book on Eliot takes its place alongside works such as Mary Hamer's book on Trollope, Writing by Numbers (1987), Hughes's and Lund's The Victorian Serial (1991), and Harris's and Myers's (eds.) Serials and Their Readers (1993). Martin's study focuses on Eliot's four full-length serializations of Scenes of Clerical Life in Blackwood's Magazine, Romola in Cornhill Magazine, and Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda in part-issue, and provides a publishing and writing history of each. Her analysis uses Eliot's letters and journals as a way of demonstrating how the author utilized the serial form as a way of constructing her narratives. Martin provides a number of insights into serial narratives, such as the need for a contained structure within each installment, and addresses the question of the reader and the text through her exhaustive research of the reviews and through adopting a type of reader-response criticism.
The book opens with a brief overview of serialization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and addresses questions of form and structure in dealing with publication in parts. Unfortunately, Martin relies heavily on R. M. Wiles's 1957 book on serialization and misses the opportunity to reconsider the whole notion of serialization in light of more recent scholarship and theoretical work, the result being that much of this chapter seems both familiar and under-developed in places. For example, in discussing the author-public relationship in serials, Martin asserts that an 'intimacy sometimes led the public to see themselves as co-authors ....' (26). This presents an opportunity to consider the whole vexed question of authorship and authority in serial texts, and how this publication form dictates or perhaps negotiates with categories such as the author and the book.