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The Gentleman of Fifty   By: (1828-1909)

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In George Meredith's novel, The Gentleman of Fifty, readers are transported to an era of societal conventions, where status and expectations rule. Set in nineteenth-century England, this captivating tale follows the life of Sir Willoughby Patterne, a distinguished gentleman approaching the age of fifty.

The plot unfolds through the perspective of various characters, shedding light on the complex layers of human emotions, desires, and the consequences of societal restrictions. Meredith's writing style is eloquent and engaging, effortlessly transporting readers to the opulent estates and drawing rooms of the Victorian era.

One of the novel's greatest strengths lies in its exploration of the inner struggles of its characters. Sir Willoughby, a captivating figure, is initially portrayed as an embodiment of perfection – admired by society and, seemingly, by his fiancée, Clara Middleton. However, as the story progresses, the facade begins to crumble, revealing a flawed and deeply troubled man. Meredith masterfully delves into the depths of Sir Willoughby's mind, exposing his insecurities and desperation to maintain the societal image he has crafted.

Clara Middleton, the object of Sir Willoughby's affection, brings an added layer of complexity to the narrative. As a young woman constrained by societal expectations, Clara's journey is one of self-discovery and defiance. Her character arc steadily develops throughout the novel, ultimately challenging traditional gender roles and societal constraints.

Furthermore, Meredith's portrayal of the supporting characters adds depth and intricacy to the story. From Vernon Whitford, Sir Willoughby's close friend, to Laetitia Dale, Clara's confidante, each character contributes to the exploration of themes such as love, duty, and societal pressures.

The novel's underlying themes are timeless and universal, making it highly relatable even for contemporary readers. Meredith tackles the intricacies of love, marriage, and societal expectations effortlessly, dissecting the complexities and contradictions inherent in human relationships.

However, some readers might find the pacing of The Gentleman of Fifty to be slow at times, as the narrative delves deeply into the psyche of each character. This deliberate approach, though necessary for character development, may not appeal to those seeking a fast-paced or action-packed plot.

Overall, The Gentleman of Fifty is a captivating examination of human nature, love, and the societal complexities of the Victorian era. With its rich portrayal of characters and thought-provoking exploration of societal expectations, George Meredith's novel remains a poignant and timeless read, offering insights into the human condition that are as relevant today as they were in the nineteenth century.

First Page:


(An early uncompleted fragment.)

By George Meredith


Passing over Ickleworth Bridge and rounding up the heavily shadowed river of our narrow valley, I perceived a commotion as of bathers in a certain bright space immediately underneath the vicar's terrace garden steps. My astonishment was considerable when it became evident to me that the vicar himself was disporting in the water, which, reaching no higher than his waist, disclosed him in the ordinary habiliments of his cloth. I knew my friend to be one of the most absent minded of men, and my first effort to explain the phenomenon of his appearance there, suggested that he might have walked in, the victim of a fit of abstraction, and that he had not yet fully comprehended his plight; but this idea was dispersed when I beheld the very portly lady, his partner in joy and adversity, standing immersed, and perfectly attired, some short distance nearer to the bank. As I advanced along the bank opposed to them, I was further amazed to hear them discoursing quite equably together, so that it was impossible to say on the face of it whether a catastrophe had occurred, or the great heat of a cloudless summer day had tempted an eccentric couple to seek for coolness in the directest fashion, without absolute disregard to propriety... Continue reading book >>

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