Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 20 (1989)
When Middlemarch was being issued in Eight Parts from December 1871 until December 1872, there was a strong readership interest in the fact that Dorothea and Lydgate had made, in each instance, a wrong choice of marriage mate. It went farther than this, some readers even expressing the view that Dorothea and Lydgate would have been ideally suited. With Daniel Deronda, which was also issued in parts from February to September 1876, readership sympathy was also involved. There was much dissatisfaction in Daniel's forsaking of Gwendolen at the end ('I said I should be forsaken: says Gwendolen in her anguish) and going off to marry Mirah, embrace Judaism, and perhaps come back 'some time: Indeed, so strong was this sense of frustration in one reader, that het she wrote a sequel to Daniel Deronda. It was published in 1878. The title-page has Gwendolen: A Sequel to George Eliot's Daniel Deronda. library Edition. Ira Bradley and Company. 1878, but the first page of the novel has the word RECLAIMED at the top, followed by the first chapter, the latter headed by a motto in the George Eliot manner. The binding of the volume, incidentally, is exactly the same as that of the two-volume American edition of Daniel Deronda published by Harper and Brothers in 1876. I had heard about the sequel vaguely some years ago, and was excited when I found this copy in Coventry Central library during my visit last October.
The notorious Newby did not issue his sequel Adam Bede Inr, either because of the threat of legal proceedings or because it didn't get written. Unhappily, Reclaimed got written and my excitement on opening it quickly cooled. The opening is sensational enough, the author's wish-fulfilment being quickly translated into fictional fact. Daniel is initially happy with Mirah, but abandons his Jewish views 'consequent upon his observing Jewish life in reality: We are told that 'the East was growing irksome to him'. He goes on a journey (the journeys in this novel are always fraught with crisis and discovery), having left Mirah in Cairo. He is summoned back: Mirah's child dies, followed shortly afterwards by Mirah herself, at the end of the first chapter. Daniel, whose memory extends back to his first meeting with Mirah on the Thames at Richmond, recites the words he was then singing. The author's translation of these words is given in a footnote, just like the original footnote in Daniel Deronda. An eerie feeling comes over the reader (or perhaps I should say this reader) at this stage. Imagine all the sequels that could have been written after certain novels, and I don't mean sequels like Jean Rhys's to lane Eyre, for Wide Sargasso Sea has its own fasdnations and a particularised artistic independence. But think of a sequel to Tess of the D'Urbervilles. What kind of domestic life did Angel Gare and Liza Lu have? Was she always throwing his love for Tess in his face? Or suppose there was a sequel to Women in Love. Who else did Gudrun help to destroy? Is it possible that she might have an affair with Birkin? I remember in the 1960's a romantic novelist called, I think, Patricia Robins, producing a sequel to the most discussed novel of that decade. She called it Lady Chatterley's DauKhter. It was salacious and almost permissive. Reclaimed is dull and Gothic. Gwendolen (unrecognisably dull, conscience-stricken, unvibrant despite the author's use of the word 'elasticity') is brooding.