The Egoist: A Comedy in Narrative

The Egoist: A Comedy in Narrative

George Meredith

Fiction / Poetry

Comedy is a game played to throw reflections upon social life, and it deals with human nature in the drawing-room of civilized men and women, where we have no dust of the struggling outer world, no mire, no violent crashes, to make the correctness of the representation convincing. Credulity is not wooed through the impressionable senses; nor have we recourse to the small circular glow of the watchmaker's eye to raise in bright relief minutest grains of evidence for the routing of incredulity. The Comic Spirit conceives a definite situation for a number of characters, and rejects all accessories in the exclusive pursuit of them and their speech. For being a spirit, he hunts the spirit in men; vision and ardour constitute his merit; he has not a thought of persuading you to believe in him. Follow and you will see. But there is a question of the value of a run at his heels. Now the world is possessed of a certain big book, the biggest book on earth; that might indeed be called the Book of Earth; whose title is the Book of Egoism, and it is a book full of the world's wisdom. So full of it, and of such dimensions is this book, in which the generations have written ever since they took to writing, that to be profitable to us the Book needs a powerful compression. Who, says the notable humourist, in allusion to this Book, who can studiously travel through sheets of leaves now capable of a stretch from the Lizard to the last few poor pulmonary snips and shreds of leagues dancing on their toes for cold, explorers tell us, and catching breath by good luck, like dogs at bones about a table, on the edge of the Pole? Inordinate unvaried length, sheer longinquity, staggers the heart, ages the very heart of us at a view. And how if we manage finally to print one of our pages on the crow-scalp of that solitary majestic outsider? We may get him into the Book; yet the knowledge we want will not be more present with us than it was when the chapters hung their end over the cliff you ken of at Dover, where sits our great lord and master contemplating the seas without upon the reflex of that within
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The Egoist

The Egoist

George Meredith

Fiction / Poetry

Virginia Woolf said of The Egoist: 'Meredith pays us a supreme compliment to which as novel-readers we are little accustomed ... He imagines us capable of disinterested curiosity in the behaviour of our kind.' In this, the most dazzlingly intellectual of all his novels, Meredith tries to illuminate the pretensions of the most powerful class within the very citadel of security which its members have built. He develops to their logical extremity his ideas on egoism, on sentimentality and on the power of comedy. Meredith saw egoism as the great enemy of truth, feeling and progress, and comedy as the great dissolver of artifice. The Egoist is the extreme expression of his recurrent theme: the defeat of egoism by the power of comedy.
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Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside, with Poems and Ballads

Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside, with Poems and Ballads

George Meredith

Fiction / Poetry

Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside occupies a distinctive and somewhat notorious place within George Meredith's already unique body of work. Modern Love is now best known for the emotionally intense sonnet cycle which Meredith's own contemporaries dismissed as scandalously confessional and indiscreet. While individual sonnets from the work have been anthologized, the complete cycle is rarely included and the original edition has not been reprinted since its first appearance in 1862. This edition restores the original publication and supplements it with a range of accompanying materials that will re-introduce Meredith's astonishing collection of poetry to a new generation of readers.
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The Egoist: A Comedy in Narrative

The Egoist: A Comedy in Narrative

George Meredith

Fiction / Poetry

The Egoist by George Meredith recounts the story of self-absorbed Sir Willoughby Patterne and his attempts at marriage; jilted by his first bride-to-be, he vacillates between the sentimental Laetitia Dale and the strong-willed Clara Middleton. More importantly, the novel follows Clara's attempts to escape from her engagement to Sir Willoughby, who desires women to serve as a mirror for him and consequently cannot understand why she would not want to marry him. Thus, The Egoist dramatizes the difficulty contingent upon being a woman in Victorian society, when women's bodies and minds are trafficked between fathers and husbands to cement male bonds.
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