Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 46 (2015)
Most Victorian novels avail themselves of tidying codas in which the author projects the story into a future-turned-present and, counterpointed by wedding bells, maps out as close an approximation to the 'happily ever after' formula as the constraints of realism will allow. The locus classicus for this procedure occurs at the end of Martin Chuzzlewit:
And coming from a garden, Tom, bestrewn with flowers by children's hands, thy sister, little Ruth, as light of foot and heart as in old days, sits down beside thee. From the Present, and the Past, with which she is so tenderly entwined in all thy thoughts, thy strain soars onward to the Future. As it resounds within thee and without, the noble music, rolling round ye both, shuts out the grosser prospect of an earthly parting, and uplifts ye both to Heaven!
George Eliot also avails herself of this standard template at the end of Felix Halt: The Radical, its 'Epilogue' sketching the future course of her characters' lives through present-tense clauses (,As to the town in which Felix Holt now resides'2), clauses that catapult the reader from 1833 to the date of composition, thirty-three years on. Futurity here becomes largely notional, its proleptic force bled into the narrative present, and this in turn causes the foregoing narrative to recede in time, investing the novel's closure with a paradoxical sense of retrospection.