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The Egoist

George Meredith

Book Overview: 

The Egoist is a tragicomical novel by George Meredith. 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. (Summary from Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .lay of mind in a house that seemed to wear, as it were, a cap of iron. Sir Willoughby not merely ruled, he throned, he inspired: and how? She had noticed an irascible sensitiveness in him alert against a shadow of disagreement; and as he was kind when perfectly appeased, the sop was offered by him for submission. She noticed that even Mr. Whitford forbore to alarm the sentiment of authority in his cousin. If he did not breathe Sir Willoughby, like the ladies Eleanor and Isabel, he would either acquiesce in a syllable or be silent. He never strongly dissented. The habit of the house, with its iron cap, was on him, as it was on the servants, and would be, oh, shudders of the shipwrecked that see their end in drowning! on the wife.

"When do I meet Miss Dale?" she inquired.

"This very evening, at dinner," replied Sir Willoughby.

Then, thought she, there is that to look forward to.

She indu. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This is a fantastic story about Willoughby, a man who is so self-centered he never considers the possibility that other people are separate human beings. Dead-on portrayal of awful social situations (think Jane Austen). I laughed over and over at the awkwardness of Willoughby's bride-to-be, and the

It’s quite sad that people always look eastward for enlightenment, when it can just as easily be found in our own native literature, if not for the sorry fact that ‘education’ makes people frightened of reading. Frightened of thinking in fact.

In any case, thinking about how lovely all the female cha

George Meredith (1828-1909) este un exponent al realismului britanic, una dintre cele mai proeminente figuri ale epocii. Deşi caracterizată puternic de victorianism, opera sa se distanţează timid de acesta, motiv pentru care scrierile sale au constituit un vast subiect de vâlvă, multe dintre operele

”Talking of Meredith, I have just re-read for the third or fourth time The Egoist. When I shall have read it the sixth or seventh, I begin to see I shall know about it. You will be astonished when you come to re-read it; I had no idea of the matter--human red matter--he has contrived to plug and pac

It's hard to explain quite what's not especially readable about this book and why I liked it anyway. Meredith has a distinct, very mannered, dense, allusive style, which is kind of reminiscent of Oscar Wilde and Ivy Compton Burnett but is ultimately more obscure even than the latter. Sometimes this

This is a fascinating literary curiosity: a late-Victorian novel (1879) with remarkable anticipations of modernism in some respects. I was reminded especially of Henry James, whose obliquities and curlicues of style Meredith can match like for like; though I could also see why Virginia Woolf admired

The Egoist is one of the strangest novels I have come across, a psychological analysis of a type particularly interesting because men like him often rise to positions of power in politics or commerce.

The novel would have been tedious, as well as confusing, if George Meredith had used the egoist as

Dense, ornate, tricksy, bewildering, erudite, mannered, humane and witty, this book is likely to either delight or exasperate its readers.

It is the story of Sir Willougby Patterne, a handsome and well-bred young man, and the women he courts, whose names belie their characters: Laetitia being anythi

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