All their dreaming’s done

James Francken

  • English Correspondence by Janet Davey
    Chatto, 199 pp, £12.99, January 2003, ISBN 0 7011 7364 5

No one reads George Meredith any more. His novels are thought to be brainy and obscure, his difficulty is seen as suspect. In the four weeks ending 22 February, according to Nielsen BookScan, 1359 people in Britain bought a copy of Middlemarch; of the noteworthy novels published in the same decade, Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes sold 182 copies; Meredith’s The Egoist sold nine. He has had his champions – Wilde, Gissing, Stevenson – but his reputation was perishable. ‘The Home Counties posing as the Universe’ was E.M. Forster’s first impression on reading Meredith, and for many this slight became the last word.

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