How awesomely cool it must be to have people making adaptations of your work over a century later in some futuristic technology of which you couldn’t possible conceive? I mean, how cool that would be if you could know about it, which you couldn’t, because you’d be dead. But it does make me wonder why anyone would bother writing non-fiction at all, because unless it’s The Origin of Species, no one will care about it after a few years. At best they’ll just make dreary documentaries about you instead of feature-length films starring attractive famous people.
When I was reading Middlemarch I remarked on how progressive it was, especially in its treatment of women and religion. Sure, it was written by a woman and so I would expect it to be generally sympathetic towards them. It’s especially sympathetic towards the women who are independent-minded, who aren’t in pursuit of marriage and child production. Sometimes their pursuits are selfish but more often they’re noble. This is a book with a cast of dozens, so sure, there are also female characters who are portrayed positively and do exhibit traditional values, but they tend to fade easily into the background. It’s the honest and independent, or weak and scheming, who draw our attention for better or worse.
The novel is forward-thinking but much more conservative than its author’s life would lead one to expect. At age 22, Marian Evans decided that Christianity was based on “mingled truth and fiction” and she refused to go to church. Eventually she moved to London by herself and began socializing and working with radicals. According to one biographer, “Her social position as a single working woman in London in the early 1850s was extremely unusual. [...] She was now in a society composed entirely of men, and though it was intellectually stimulating to associate with them freely, she was risking her reputation in doing so.” A society composed entirely of men. That sounds totally hot.
Eventually she entered into a relationship with a man in an open marriage. They lived together for decades, during which she wrote her novels under a pseudonym largely because she was already notorious as a political writer. Her non-husband died after many happy years together and and as a result she was “plunged into loneliness, filling her journal with verses from Tennyson’s great poem of mourning, In Memoriam (1850), as Queen Victoria had also done after the death of Prince Albert.” Eventually she resolved the loneliness by marrying a dumb guy twenty years her junior. And then she died. Hell yeah.
The miniseries is really good too, and features Colin Firth’s brother.