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1. "Rose-pink," the colour of the notepaper used by Sir Austin's female admirers, has important connotations in Meredith: it is the colour he associated with sentimentalism cf. Diana of the Crossways (13). Meredith hated this because it falsifies, but was drawn to it himself. Does he criticise sentimentalism anywhere else in the novel? Where does he indulge in it himself? Remember that only the original version of Richard Feverel, as used in the Penguin ed., contains this opening description of Sir Austin's fan mail.

2. Compare Lady Blandish's letter to Sir Austin about her interview with Lucy with the shorter one from Adrian Harley (200-201) that immediately precedes it. Why would Meredith want to give these two letters side by side?

3. Little distinction is made in this essay between letters transcribed in full, and letters merely referred to (in contrast, for example, to Ellen Moody's discussion of Trollope's letters). Why are Richard's letter to Ripton after the rick-burning, and his note to Bella, given in full, while Lucy and Richard's letters to each other are not?

4. Even Lady Blandish is guilty of not picking up clues from a letter. Consider Adrian's long letter to her from the Isle of Wight, in which he describes Lord Mountfalcon as an upper-class version of Tom Blaize ("Young Tom Blaize with vantage"). Or is this clue only for the reader? What other part/parts of this letter seem ominous, in retrospect?

5. Perhaps the most famous missed missive in Victorian fiction is the one containing Tess's confession to Angel Clare in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles: in Chapter 33, Tess inadvertently slides it not just under his door but right under his carpet, so that he fails to read it before their marriage (for this incident, see "Thomas Hardy, Tess and Melodrama"). How much difference might it have made if Bella's letter to Richard, or Tess's to Clare, had been read on time? What is the purpose of these letters?

6. As for concluding letters, compare Lady Blandish's letter at the end of The Ordeal of Richard Feverel with the amusing letter of the Countess of Saldar, Evan's sister, that concludes Meredith's next novel, Evan Harrington (1861).

7. How innovative is Meredith's use of letters? Consider, for example, Mr Jarndyce's letter of proposal to Esther Summerson in Dickens's Bleak House (560). Grateful as Esther is, she feels strangely "as if something for which there was no name, or distinct idea, was indefinitely lost to me" (561) — words that betray, of course, her only half-acknowledged romantic attachment to Mr Woodcourt. What is typical of Dickens here, and how does it contrast with what we find in Meredith?

8. Compare Meredith's use of letters with either Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, another controversial work much concerned with education and infidelity, or Bram Stoker's Dracula (discussed in "Science or Séance?: Late-Victorian Science and Dracula's Epistolary Structure"), where the subject matter is even more sensational.

Related Material

Works Cited

Brontë, Anne. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Ed. Stevie Davies. London: Penguin Classics, 1996.

Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. London: Penguin Popular Classics, 1994.

Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman. New York: Scribner's, 1893. Available online here.

Lund, Michael. "Space and Spiritual Crisis in Meredith's 'Modern Love.'" Victorian Poetry. Vol. 16. No. 4 (Winter 1978): 376-82.

Mendelson, Edward. Introduction. The Ordeal of Richard Feverel: A History of Father and Son. By George Meredith. London: Penguin Classics, 1998. xi-xxviii.

Meredith, George. The Amazing Marriage. New York: Scribner's, 1895. Available online here.

_____. Diana of the Crossways. New York: Scribner's, 1905. Available online here.

_____. Evan Harrington. New York: Scribner's, 1900. Available online here.

_____. Letters. Ed. C.L. Cline, 3 Vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1970.Vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1970.

_____. One of Our Conquerors. New York: Scribner's, 1899. Available online here.

_____. The Ordeal of Richard Feverel: A History of Father and Son. Ed. Edward Mendelson. London: Penguin Classics, 1998. See note at the end of Part I.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Ed. Maurice Hindle. London: Penguin Classics, 2004.

Wilt, Judith. The Readable People of George Meredith. Princeton: Princteon University Press, 1975.

Woolf, Virginia. “The Novels of George Meredith.” Rpt. in George Meredith: The Egoist: An Annotated Text, Backgrounds, Criticisms. Ed. Robert M. Adams. New York: Norton, 1979. 531-9.

Victorian Web Homepage George Meredith Letters

Last modified 7 July 2010