English, Department of


Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 47 (2016)


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


Take a woman's head, stuff it with a smattering of philosophy and literature chopped small, and with false notions of society baked hard, let it hang over a desk a few hours every day, and serve up hot in feeble English, when not required . (Eliot 1992:305)

'Silly Novels by Lady Novelists', George Eliot's vitriolic overview of popular novels of the 1850s, which is the source of the mock-recipe above, was published in 1856, shortly before Eliot started writing her first work of fiction, 'The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton' . More than ten years then passed before she began work on Middlemarch, her fifth novel, so it would certainly be far-fetched to assume that there is a direct connection between the opinions she voiced in 'Silly Novels' and the composition of Middlemarch. However, in my essay I am going to argue that the plot of George Eliot's masterpiece can in fact be seen as a reaction against stereotypical novelistic plot devices which she had ridiculed in her Westminster Review essay.