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during parts of the story of the early years of the Cambridge Apostles, the blame lies with the subject, not the treatment; for it is not the author's fault that his solid contribution to the intellectual history of the Victorian period does not have at its centre a dominant intellect of major achievement and great intrinsic interest, as does, for example, Dwight Culler's The Imperial Intellect: A Study of Newman's Educational Ideal. (KERRY Me SWEENEY) John Clark Pratt and Victor A. Neufeldt, editors. George Eliot's Middlemarch Notebooks: A Transcription University of California Press, Iii, 305. $27.50 This volume makes accessible the contents of two notebooks compiled by George Eliot as she was beginning to write both 'Miss Brooke' and the Lydgate story and reaching a decision to fuse the two into a single novel. They precede the Quarry for Middlemarch - indeed, a number of the notebook entries were recopied into the Quarry - so that their publication provides additional evidence of Eliot's thought and reading in the early stages of the novel's conception. However, they contain a good deal of miscellaneous material, much of it not related to Middlemarch and not all of it equally significant. Eliot was evidently rereading English poetry in a systematic way; she was also taking notes for an novel about Timoleon , later abandoned. The editors' introduction focuses on patterns in the material which can be related to Middlemarch: it emphasizes her general interest in history, in the concept of the hero, and in the idea of progress; it documents also her extensive reading in mythology, including standard German works inaccessible to Casaubon, her fascination with the new science of comparative philology, without which Casaubon's efforts were doomed to failure, and her research into medical theory and reform and the doctor's training. The value of the material depends a great deal upon its annotation, and the editors have made a generally successful attempt in their generous notes both to expand upon these important themes and to establish specific links with the details of Middlemarch. Sometimes indeed they are rather too specific: I am not entirely convinced that the notebook records the very moment when the analogy between Lydgate's and Casaubon's endeavours became apparent to Eliot, in a quotation about incompetent use of scientific evidence drawn from an 1830 treatise on fever (p I), nor that there is a subtle irony in the fact that Lydgate 'ignores' this particular monograph, merely because he is never shown reading it (pp 142-3). But often their thorough knowledge of the novel results in useful identifications : small details like Fred's 'making a meal of nightingale' (p 141), Raffles's carrying his suit of mourning in his portmanteau (p 148), and Lydgate's quotation about 'sugared inventions' (p 102) have their source in these notebooks, as do many of the chapter epigraphs. The notes are particularly interesting in their attempt to trace the exact sequence of Eliot's reading on a particular point (see, for example, the suggestion about the source of Will Ladislaws name, p 104) and to supply a significant context for seemingly inconsequential notebook entries (e.g. on the 'Dietary of Cornaro: pp 94-5). It is unfortunate therefore that the notes are so difficult to use. The shape of the volume is unusual: it is short and wide, and each page holds two columns of material. The editors have numbered Eliot's pages, although she herself did not (p xv); their practice of keying their footnote numbers not to their own pages but to hers results in duplication and causes real confusion. The notes are not collected at the end of the volume but placed after each notebook unit, and there are no running heads. All of these features make locating - and holding onto - the relevant reference a frustrating process. The editors define their editorial principles in rather general terms, stating that they 'have not always indicated missing accent marks, errors of capitalization, slight differences in punctuation, omitted quotation marks, and the like' (p xiv). Attempting to deduce these principles by an examination at the pages reproduced in facsimile is neither very illuminating nor very reassuring...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 427-428
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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