poet as well as a novelist, George Meredith produced a total of fifteen full-length novels, eight collections of poetry, and countless minor works. Most of these are out of print today. Admirers of Meredith tend to be divided on whether The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859) or The Egoist (1879) was his masterpiece.
George Meredith's work was uneven, and only a fraction of his total output is of interest to us today. At his worst, Meredith was verbose, unnecessarily complex and inclined to pontificate. His philosophy has alternately fascinated and exasperated scholars. Meredith's style, which was extremely ornate even for his contemporaries, bothers many modern readers.
However, his best work was characterized by brilliant psychological insights, carefully chosen diction and powerful imagery. Novels such as The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, The Egoist, The Adventures of Harry Richmond and Diana of the Crossways are rich in interesting, realistic characters who come alive for the reader. His children talk and think like children instead of miniature adults. Meredith's dialogue, in general, is lively and convincing. He was also among the first male novelist to recognize the traps that society sets for women. His insights into the minds of his female characters are comparable only to George Eliot's.
Some would say that love of Meredith is an acquired taste. If so, it is a taste worth acquiring.
Last modified 7 September 2007