Study Guide

Felix Holt, the Radical

by George Eliot

Felix Holt, the Radical Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Transome Court

Transome Court. Vintage Queen Anne mansion that is home to the life-defeated Mrs. Transome, who married thirty years earlier to meet social expectations about money and position. The unscrupulous lawyer who is the unacknowledged father of her son and mismanager of her estate has drained her both of energy for daily living and of funds necessary to keep up Transome Court. Mrs. Transome’s enfeebled husband also lives here, occupying himself with relics and specimens of minerals and insects he once studied meaningfully.

From a distance, with her romantic dreams, Esther Lyon thinks of Transome Court as a joyful center of luxury. However, after she discovers that she is the estate’s legal heir and visits it for several weeks, she becomes aware of the pain and despair within, of the uselessness and purposelessness as well as the dead but still agonizing souls there. The court thus represents the past feudal mansion that nineteenth century England is outgrowing.

Malthouse Yard

Malthouse Yard. Name of the chapel of the independent church in Treby Magna presided over by the Dissenting minister Rufus Lyon, whom Esther grows up believing is her father. Lyon is actually her stepfather. It is these early ties, Eliot’s insistence on one’s true roots, that define radicalism as presented in Esther and in Felix Holt, opposed to the more common political radicalism that argued for sudden changes in...

(The entire section is 581 words.)

Felix Holt, the Radical Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Carroll, David R. “Felix Holt: Society as Protagonist.” In George Eliot: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by George R. Creeger. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970. Develops variations on the theme of rebellion among the characters. Characters move from a condition of illusion to a clearer understanding of reality. Distinguishes vision from illusion and justifies the novel’s plot complexity as necessary to its theme.

Coveney, Peter. Introduction to Felix Holt, the Radical, by George Eliot. New York: Penguin Books, 1972. Offers a full historical background for the political context of the novel, including legal complexities, parliamentary activities, and many topical allusions.

Horsman, Alan. “George Eliot.” In The Victorian Novel. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1990. Gives voluminous details that enlighten Eliot’s political views and artistic craft; places Felix Holt, the Radical in context with Eliot’s other works. Bibliography.

Levine, George. “Determinism and Responsibility in the Works of George Eliot.” PMLA 77 (June, 1962): 268-279. Defines Eliot’s sense of the destiny to which human life is subject, comparing it to ideas of John Stuart Mill and distinguishing it from necessitarianism.

Uglow, Jennifer. George Eliot. New York: Pantheon Books, 1987. Chapter 11 analyzes the dialectics, figurative language, mythic allusions, connotative imagery, and ironic narrative voice in the novel. Attends particularly to gender definitions and interaction. Bibliography.