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In this sharp and witty essay, No.91, of the Great Ideas series, George Eliot launches a witty and cleverly constructed observation of silly novels by equally ridiculous Lady Novelists. Displaying qualities quite unlike her frilly opposition, she addresses the various crimes of ‘Silly Novel’s’ ranging from the historical to the oracular. Her satire and sharpened wit is delicious and the essay is shaped distinctly by her own voice. I would have very much liked to meet Eliot.
This is very much an essay based, understandably, around the novels that were popular and in discussion at the time. To this extent I was unfamiliar with many of the examples discussed, yet, aside from this rather embarrassing hole in my knowledge of literature, I still found certain elements absorbing.
The chapter on Madame de Sable and the influence of the French salon, paints a picture of 17th Century life which evokes within the reader a longing to have been part of something so influential and unique. In this sense, the essay can be seen not only as an amusing account of a certain breed of novel, but also as a gateway to a new genre. Furthermore we can use the basic elements such as character and plot, cunningly observed by this intelligent writer, and apply them to novels perhaps a little more familiar such as Jane Eyre, or Eliot’s own “Mill on the Floss’.
Something that must also not go unmentioned are the beautiful designs embossed onto the cover of each novel, which both complement the subject matter and unite the series as a whole. The idea behind the series is exciting and not only will I be returning to this little edition, but I’m eager to start reading the next.