English, Department of


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The George Eliot Review 28 (1997) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/


The George Eliot Review 2018 (28)


Readers of Middlemarch, it is a pleasure to report, are now spoil for choice. Joining an already saturated market are three new paperback editions, attractively produced at a very reasonable price with full critical apparatus, including textual notes, explanatory notes, introductions, chronologies, recommendations for further reading and even, in the case of the Everyman Paperbacks edition, a synopsis of the plot chapter by chapter (although the editors are quick to point out that this is 'intended to serve as an index, not as analysis', nor presumably as a substitute for reading the novel itself). The Everyman edition claims on its back cover to be 'the most comprehensive paperback edition available', a claim which further investigation will in fact justify.

To begin with the chronology: the Penguin provides nothing beyond the customary opening page's summary of the author's life, World's Classics has four pages focusing entirely on the events of George Eliot's life but the Everyman places its 'Chronology of George Eliot's Life' on parallel pages with a 'Chronology of Her Times', split between literary and historical events. Beginning with the invention of the stethoscope in 1816, this includes the founding of the Lancet, the opening of the first railway, the introduction of the Catholic Emancipation Act and of the First Reform Bill, as well as details of major cholera outbreaks, of election rioting in Nuneaton and other events of the times in which the novel is both set and written, details which the most old-fashioned of New Critics could hardly claim to be irrelevant to a reading of this most self-consciously historical of novels.

All these editions, following what the Everyman refers to as W. J. Harvey's 'pioneering Penguin English Classic' edition of 1965 and 'David Carroll's magisterial Clarendon Edition' of 1986, take the one-volume second edition of 1874 as their base text since it was, in Carroll's words, quoted in the Everyman 'Note on the Text', 'the last version of the novel which was thoroughly revised and corrected by George Eliot'. In this respect there is little to choose between these editions, although the Penguin again gives less detail about these revisions, notably the famous changes to the penultimate paragraph of the Finale. The other two editions provide in their notes the versions of this passage in both the manuscript and the first edition; the Penguin gives just the latter.