PLEDGE NOW
Life, Wisdom And ‘Middlemarch’

Life, love and “Middlemarch.” Rebecca Mead on why she can’t stop reading George Eliot’s great Victorian novel.

A portrait of the British novelist George Eliot at age 30, by Alexandre-Louis-François d'Albert-Durade. (Creative Commons)

A portrait of the British novelist George Eliot at age 30, by Alexandre-Louis-François d’Albert-Durade. (Creative Commons)

George Eliot was a woman.  A Victorian.  A rebel.  Her great book, a novel,  was “Middlemarch.” 1874.  It went deep, deep into the lives of provincial English men and women.  Their marriages.  Their dreams and ambitions. Their failings and delusions and small triumphs.  It’s a Victorian-era book of wisdom on life and love.  A century later, Rebecca Mead made “Middlemarch” a kind of personal Bible for life.  A guidebook on how to live.  How to see and empathize with others. This hour On Point:  New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead on George Eliot and living with Middlemarch.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Rebecca Mead, staff writer at The New Yorker. Author of “My Life in Middlemarch” and  “One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding.” (@Rebeccamead_NYC)

From Tom’s Reading List

Boston Globe: ‘My Life In Middlemarch’ By Rebecca Mead — “Mead illustrates how the reversal of the 19th-century marriage plot for which ‘Middlemarch’’ is famous is inextricably linked to Eliot’s personal experience of a long lasting, committed union as a state of happiness that far outpaced the seemingly all-consuming tribulations of young love. This state of equal partnership is mirrored in Mead’s life, and it’s no wonder that this ‘home epic’ speaks to her and has continued to appeal to generations of readers, regardless of gender.”

Salon: How great books shape us — “There’s a lot more going on in ‘Middlemarch’ than that, but the two bad marriages are what you notice if, like Mead, you’re a brainy young woman who wants to make something of herself and whose knowledge of life comes mostly from books. Eliot herself — born Mary Ann Evans, the daughter of a Midlands estate manager — was once just such a girl, and many readers first encounter ‘Middlemarch’ when they’re making the same sort of life decisions that confront Dorothea and Lydgate. ‘My Life in Middlemarch’ follows both Eliot and Mead as they obtain their educations and take their hard knocks from the world, while Mead explores which parts of Eliot’s life and social circle may have inspired parts of the novel.”

The New Yorker: George Eliot’s Superfan — “As I read Main’s copious correspondence I found myself alternately appalled and moved by the glimpses it offered into the life of this sad, shadowy man. There was something alarming, almost stalker-like, in his attentions. Over and over again he wrote Eliot long, effusive letters, then followed up with a demand for reassurance that his effusion had not given offense, then offered apologies for his neediness. On one occasion he told her, ‘I should like to see you in your home, but I think I should myself choose to be unseen the while—if that could be. I could not be disappointed in you, but you might easily be disappointed in me.'”

Read An Excerpt Of “My Life In Middlemarch” By Rebecca Mead

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Feb 11, 2016
In this Oct. 21, 2013, file photo, Vern Lund, president of Liberty Mine in central Mississippi near DeKalb, Miss., holds some of the lignite coal planned for use in the nearby Mississippi Power Co. carbon capture power plant. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

The Supreme Court hits the brakes on the heart of President Obama’s push to fight global warming. We’ll dig in.

Feb 11, 2016
A sampling of same of the great books author David Denby thinks could help encourage young readers to love books. (National Post)

David Denby on the 24 great books that can bring even today’s kids to reading. And maybe you, too.

RECENT
SHOWS
Feb 10, 2016
In this Feb. 1, 2016 photo, a technician from the British biotec company Oxitec, inspects the pupae of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a vector for transmitting the Zika virus, in Campinas, Brazil. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Taking on the Zika virus, from tackling the disease itself, to killing the mosquitoes that carry it to the challenge of birth control.

 
Feb 10, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves to the crowd before speaking during a primary night watch party at Concord High School, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The winners and losers in New Hampshire, and the path ahead in the presidential primary race.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Notes From New Hampshire, #9: Remedy Or Replica?
Wednesday, Feb 10, 2016

Jack Beatty offers one last note from New Hampshire, and looks beyond to the primary races yet to come in both parties.

More »
Comment
 
Tom Ashbrook’s Note From New Hampshire
Tuesday, Feb 9, 2016

Fresh off the New Hampshire Presidential Primary results, host Tom Ashbrook reflects on his trip to New Hampshire, and on what comes next in the race to the White House.

More »
Comment
 
Notes From New Hampshire, #6: Bernie v. Hillary — The Electability Debate
Monday, Feb 8, 2016

Bill and Betty are not real New Hampshire voters. But their arguments about the Democratic race for President most certainly are.

More »
Comment