Three of the best-known of George Eliot’s seven novels have been selected for this study: The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner and Middlemarch. The first two of these novels illustrate contrasting aspects of her early work, and the third is the pinnacle of her later writing. The Mill on the Floss, Eliot’s second full novel, was published in 1860, the year after Adam Bede. It is distinctive in two fundamental respects. With some close parallels in the earlier pages between the protagonist and the author, it is her most autobiographical novel. Its emotive title singles it out not only from Eliot’s other works, but also from the undemonstrative inclination of Victorian writers in general to name novels after a protagonist; it was, indeed, suggested by Eliot’s publisher, John Blackwood. After The Mill on the Floss, next in order of publication was Silas Marner (1861); though it, too, took its origin from Eliot’s childhood, it is a more consciously objective book than its predecessor, with rather more of the feeling of a parable. Middlemarch dates from much later, 1872, after Eliot had produced two further books. It is unique among her novels in taking the name of a town for its title and this reflects its broader scope. The complexity of Middlemarch shows a fully mature control of the elements of structure and theme.
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