English, Department of



Rosalind Holt

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 21 (1990)


Published by The George Eliot Review Online https://GeorgeEliotReview.org


Gaps in appreciation.

The rash boast of many an English teacher - that Middlemarch is the greatest novel in our language - is enough to put most people off literature for life.

City Limits

Dinah Morris ... played ... has a warm humanity which is a distinct improvement on the preachifying original.

The Staines Informer

Some of our best stories are buried in thick tomes, accessible only to literature students who often fail to appreciate their beauty, or to academics.

Surrey Comet

.... thankless task ... as Seth Bede, the least satisfactory character in the novel

Financial Times

I remember repeatedly falling asleep over the book at university ... [the adapter] sensibly excludes ... many interminable passages of description and lofty authorial comment; and he has unearthed more humour in the novel than I dreamt was possible ... the plot unfolds with a speed which will astonish and delight those who have dawdled laboriously over Miss [ouch!] Eliot's closely-printed pages ... performance as Adam entirely avoids the priggishness of the character on the printed page ... works similar wonders with the Methodist preacher Dinah.

Daily Telegraph

These comments are from reviews of a recent theatre presentation of Adam Bede. It's strange that middlebrow critics (who surely aim to reflect their readers' taste at least as much as their own) think it necessary to apologise for recommending a version of this Victorian classic. I'm reminded of the undoubtedly true comment that George Eliot's novels were much read between the Wars regardless of the slump in her literary reputation. For the generations of ordinary readers who have enjoyed and enjoy George Eliot's novels, such old-fashioned and patronising assumptions about common taste raise an eyebrow or a smile. Despite the critics' warnings, shopkeepers in the theatre's locality have had to order extra stock of the novel. I wonder what knowledge and half-knowledge of the book the audiences had had; the elderly folk surrounding me at a matinee knew the plot -seemed long familiar with it.