Letter: A tale ahead of its time

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Sir: Mark Lawson, in his review of the BBC's Middlemarch (8 February), complains of the anachronism of using aerial views in a tale set before the invention of aviation. Apart from the fact that there were observation balloons in the 1830s, this is an oddly literalist criticism. The 19th-century novelist's equivalent of the aerial view was the omniscient narrator's broad, distancing, reflective survey of her material.

It is exactly this practice which made the novel Middlemarch so distinctive and profound a 'study of provincial life' (as the subtitle puts it). The absence from the television adaptation of the wise, reflective and imaginative narrator does indeed reduce the novel to a superior soap opera.

The estimated audience of 6 million for the televised novel compares interestingly with the original circulation figures for the serialised novel, about 5,000. Middlemarch was issued in eight instalments, over a whole year. George Eliot said she was convinced that this slow plan of publication was 'of immense advantage in deepening the impression'.

Yours faithfully,


Canterbury, Kent