a1 Wake Forest University
In “The Decay of Lying” (1889), Oscar Wilde's speaker calls Victorian novelist George Meredith “a child of realism who is not on speaking terms with his father” (Wilde 976). The comment underscores the idealism running through Meredith's strange and understudied novels. Wilde's speaker announces that Meredith “has made himself a romanticist” (976), a self-conscious reactionary against Victorian High Realism who is nonetheless situated deeply within it. Meredith's uneasy relationship with his own time has likely affected recent critical assessments of his work. Though his canonical status surpassed George Eliot's in the 1940s, and although there was a mini-explosion of Meredith scholarship in the 1970s, more recent work has focused on his sonnet sequence, Modern Love, and his psychological novel, The Egoist. However, with the rise of interest in the history of the book, gender and sexuality studies, and Victorian publishing, Meredith's novels are becoming the subject of renewed attention.
(Online publication May 18 2011)