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The Egoist

The Egoist by George Meredith
By: (1828-1909)

The Egoist is a tragicomical novel by George Meredith published in 1879. The novel recounts the story of self-absorbed Sir Willoughby Patterne and his attempts at marriage; jilted by his first bride-to-be, he vacillates between the sentimental Laetitia Dale and the strong-willed Clara Middleton. More importantly, the novel follows Clara’s attempts to escape from her engagement to Sir Willoughby, who desires women to serve as a mirror for him and consequently cannot understand why she would not want to marry him. Thus, The Egoist dramatizes the difficulty contingent upon being a woman in Victorian society, when women’s bodies and minds are trafficked between fathers and husbands to cement male bonds.

First Page:

THE EGOIST

A Comedy in Narrative

by GEORGE MEREDITH

PRELUDE

A CHAPTER OF WHICH THE LAST PAGE ONLY IS OF ANY IMPORTANCE

Comedy is a game played to throw reflections upon social life, and it deals with human nature in the drawing room of civilized men and women, where we have no dust of the struggling outer world, no mire, no violent crashes, to make the correctness of the representation convincing. Credulity is not wooed through the impressionable senses; nor have we recourse to the small circular glow of the watchmaker's eye to raise in bright relief minutest grains of evidence for the routing of incredulity. The Comic Spirit conceives a definite situation for a number of characters, and rejects all accessories in the exclusive pursuit of them and their speech. For being a spirit, he hunts the spirit in men; vision and ardour constitute his merit; he has not a thought of persuading you to believe in him. Follow and you will see. But there is a question of the value of a run at his heels.

Now the world is possessed of a certain big book, the biggest book on earth; that might indeed be called the Book of Earth; whose title is the Book of Egoism, and it is a book full of the world's wisdom... Continue reading book >>


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