Felix Holt, the Radical

by George Eliot

Start Free Trial

Places Discussed

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 581

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 Great Britain’s parliamentary system. When Esther renounces her legal inheritance of Transome Court and her earlier yearning to be a lady, thereby returning to Malthouse Yard, formerly a place that represented privation to her, she is affirming her own roots as well as her love for Felix.


Outdoors. Fresh, unconstraining open places in nature represent for both Felix and Esther a freedom of emotional and moral feelings and ideas that seems unattainable in close places. For example, Esther feels that Transome Court signals the “oppressive urgency of walls and upholstery.” Felix and Esther first develop feelings of love for each other when they walk together in an open place.


Sproxton. Mining village in which political campaign managers take local coal miners to the pubs to buy their votes. Felix proves to be right in his fear that too much ale may lead to rioting. The episode represents Eliot’s view that some members of English society may not be ready for the franchise and that some election conductors take unscrupulous advantage of the laborers’ susceptibility to free ale.

Treby Magna

Treby Magna. Former market town for an agricultural area that is now an election center. As such, it is vulnerable to violent actions by workers who have been filled up with ale by campaign workers. The novel’s scenes of civil disorder show the frightening possibilities of premature extension of the franchise, especially when the mob will no longer follow Felix and moves instead in the direction of Treby Manor.


Loamford. Town in the fictional county of Loamshire that is the scene of Felix’s trial for appearing to have killed a man he meant only to bring down in his attempts to control the rioters. The trial affords Esther the opportunity to speak publicly in defense of Felix’s sterling character, making both of them aware of her love for him. The court scene provides some of Eliot’s best satire on the ways of lawyers, just as the election practices she depicts show the evils that political reforming intentions can lead to.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 211

Carroll, David R. “Felix Holt: Society as Protagonist.” In George Eliot: A Collection of Critical Essays , edited...

(This entire section contains 211 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

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.


Critical Essays