English, Department of


Date of this Version


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The George Eliot Review 29 (1998) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/


The George Eliot Review 2018 (29)


In 1902, the essayist, Leslie Stephen, wrote that Daniel Deronda was 'two stories put side by side' and the 'Gwendolen Story' taken by itself was a 'masterly piece of social satire'. In his biography of George Eliot, Gordon Haight makes a general reference to 'Gwendolen's story' as part of the whole narrative of Daniel Deronda including the Jewish portion. He showed some disdain towards 'careless readers' who thought the Jewish elements could be separated from the story of Gwendolen.

George Eliot herself, writing to Barbara Bodichon, seemed displeased with readers who 'cut the book up into scraps and talk of nothing in it but Gwendolen. I meant everything in the book to be related to everything else there'. The character Daniel is central to the novel in holding together the strands of the narrative.

Gabriel Woolf originally separated the Gwendolen strand of the novel for his serial reading for the BBC Woman's Hour programme. There is also a stage adaptation, as well as this tape recording, for the two voices of Rosalind Shanks and Gabriel Woolf.

I listened to this recording in the company of two others who had not read George Eliot's Daniel Deronda. All of us felt that great concentration was needed to grasp the story, but we responded readily to the dramatic dialogue between the two voices. Those who had not read the novel were puzzled by the beginning and the flashbacks. We agreed that, before listening, it was essential to read the synopsis of the novel on the tape notes. The careful reader of the novel receives some help from the author when she reads the mottoes which begin each chapter. The motto at the beginning of Chapter 1 makes it quite clear that we are plunging into the middle of things.