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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss George Eliot's Study of Provincial Life, set before the Reform Act 1832 in a small, fictional town in the Midlands surrounded by farmland.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what Virginia Woolf called 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people'. It was written by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans (1819-80), published in 8 parts in 1871-72, and was originally two separate stories which became woven together. One, 'Middlemarch', focused on a doctor, Tertius Lydgate and the other, 'Miss Brooke', on Dorothea Brooke who became the central figure in the finished work. The events are set in a small town in the Midlands, surrounded by farmland, leading up to the Reform Act 1832, and the novel explores the potential to change in matters of religion, social status, marriage and politics, and is particularly concerned with the opportunities available to women to lead fulfilling lives.

The image above shows Rufus Sewell and Juliet Aubrey in the BBC adaptation, from 1994


Rosemary Ashton
Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College London

Kathryn Hughes
Professor of Life Writing at the University of East Anglia


John Bowen
Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

52 minutes

Last on

Thu 19 Apr 2018 21:30


Rosemary Ashton at University College London

Kathryn Hughes at the University of East Anglia

John Bowen at the University of York

Middlemarch – British Library

Manuscript of Middlemarch – British Library

Middlemarch – Wikipedia



Rosemary Ashton, George Eliot: A Life (first published 1997; Faber & Faber, 2013)

Gillian Beer, George Eliot (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1986)

Rosemarie Bodenheimer, The Real Life of Mary Ann Evans:  George Eliot, Her Letters and Fiction (Cornell University Press, 1996)

Karen Chase (ed.), Middlemarch in the Twenty-First Century (Oxford University Press, 2006)

George Eliot (ed. Rosemary Ashton), Middlemarch (Penguin, 1994)

George Eliot (ed. Rosemary Ashton), Selected Critical Writings (Oxford Paperbacks, 1998)

Kathryn Hughes, George Eliot: The Last Victorian (Fourth Estate, 1998)

George Levine (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot (Cambridge University Press, 2001)

Rebecca Mead, The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot (Granta, 2014)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Rosemary Ashton
Interviewed Guest Kathryn Hughes
Interviewed Guest John Bowen
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 19 Apr 2018 09:00
  • Thu 19 Apr 2018 21:30

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