English, Department of



Ian Sutton

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 25 (1994) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/


The George Eliot Review 2018 (25)


A seminar on George Eliot's novels was held at Birkbeck College, London, on Saturday, November 13th, 1993. It was chaired by Laurel Brake, of the Extra-Mural Department of London University, and the speakers were Rosemary Ashton, Professor of English at University College, London, Sally Shuttleworth, Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Leeds, and Gillian Beer, Professor of Literature and Narrative at the University of Cambridge.

Rosemary Ashton's paper, was 'The Mill on the Floss and Natural History', which drew interesting parallels between the novel and Darwin's Origin of Species. Ideas on the science of natural history,- evolution, survival and inheritance from one generation to the next were very much in the air (particularly in the circle of G. H. Lewes), but Ashton's final verdict was that they could not be seen as central to the story. A suggestion in the discussion which followed that Maggie's choice between the crippled Philip and the fit Stephen was symbolically an evolutionary one found no general favour.