Letter: Literal criticism

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your correspondents (Letters, 10 and 15 February) who have objected to the invented bedroom scenes in the marvellous television adaptation of Middlemarch are being unnecessarily prudish. Worse, they are missing the point.

It is quite clear from the novel that George Eliot intends us to infer that both a symptom and a cause of the failure of Dorothea's marriage to Casaubon is the sexlessness of their union. Similarly, George Eliot uses powerful imagery to suggest the sensuousness and sexuality of Lydgate's relationship with Rosamund.

Had the adapter left out his own eminently tasteful bedroom scenes between these two couples, the modern viewer, used to seeing all manner of graphic depictions of sex on the screen, would have wrongly concluded that Middlemarch is yet another Victorian novel whose characters do not have sex lives.

The reason why Middlemarch is entrancing about one-eighth of the nation is not because it is a quaint period piece but because its characters remind us of ourselves. To regard the novel as a dry period relic is to do both the author, and her creation, a great injustice.

In the same way, too many modern fans of Jane Austen admire her because they enjoy indulging in fantasies of living in large country houses, rather than because Jane Austen's best work - like George Eliot's - is no less alive today than when it was written.

Yours sincerely,

JAMES ESSINGER

Canterbury, Kent

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