Group Title: Stasis, change, and the evolution of the ordeal motif in the novels of George Meredith /
Title: Stasis, change, and the evolution of the ordeal motif in the novels of George Meredith
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Title: Stasis, change, and the evolution of the ordeal motif in the novels of George Meredith
Alternate Title: Ordeal motif in the novels of George Meredith
Physical Description: vii, 299 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Kohler, Ingrid Lavinia, 1942-
Copyright Date: 1975
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by Ingrid L. Kohler.
Thesis: Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 292-298).
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00098148
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000165421
oclc - 02801095
notis - AAT1799

Full Text







To my father, without whose encouragement and assistance
this dissertation would never have been written.

To my father, without whose encouragement and assistance
this dissertation would never have been written.

_ _~_~_~I~


I wish to thank Professor John Tyree Fain for direc-

ting my dissertation and Professors Watd Hellstrom and

Ashby Hammond for serving on my committee.

A special thanks is also due the friends, particularly

Dr. Joan Metcalfe, Dr. Marilyn Sherman, Leon Jacobson, and

Ned Allen, whose aid helped me through this personal "ordeal."




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . .

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . .



PUPPET SHOW . . . . . .



AS ALLEGORY . . . . . .



BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . .



. . V

* . 23

* . 67

* . 94








. .

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements.for the Degree
of Doctor of Philosophy



Ingrid L. Kohler

June, 1975

Chairman: John Tyree Fain
Major Department: English

The theme of ordeal has been naturally associated with

George Meredith, chiefly because of its obvious significance

in his first major novel, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel. How-

ever, in all his novels this motif is not only present but is

constantly evolving from a simple to a more complex delinea-

tion of an individual, internal conflict.

Always a consciously philosophical writer, Meredith bases

his elaboration of the ordeal motif on his belief in the per-

fectibility of the individual and, through him, the entire

society, as well as on his reliance on Nature as a guide to

behavior. Man and society are capable of achieving a high

degree of development where, eventually, reason and virtue will

predominate, but, just as struggle and change are inevitable

in physical nature, no progress toward the highest possible


development of either the individual or his society can be

achieved without painful striving.

This study posits that Meredith creates two basic types

of character, the static and the active, and that the inter-

action between the two types creates the ordeal. The static

or inflexible characters are his egoists and sentimentalists.

These characters are representative of primitive levels of

moral and intellectual development; they are unable to ad-

just their behavior to changing circumstances and therefore

unable to gain the insight necessary for growth because they

are locked into a single mode of response. The types of

monomania or single-mindedness may vary among the static

characters, but all existence is evaluated only in terms of

how it affects "the Single Idea."

The second type of character, the flexible character,

or "child of Nature," is the prey of the static character.

While the natural character possesses an almost instinctive.

impulse toward growth, the static character tries to fit him

into a mould dictated by "the Single Idea." He seeks to

force his victim to move along the same undeviating track on

which he himself runs. The efforts of the "child of Nature"

to break away from this externally imposed pattern creates an

external and internal conflict.

However, Meredith experiments with structure and point

of view in the novels in an increasing attempt to emphasize

the psychological process of ordeal. To show how he achieves

this end while at the same time he broadens the nature of the

III_ _

ordeal, I have divided the novels into two groups, the

early and late novels, with The Egoist serving as a turning

point in the development of theme and structure. In the

early novels, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, Sandra Belloni,

and The Adventures of Harry Richmond, the World operates

directly on the static character, who, because he loves its

praise and fears its censure adopts a mask to conceal from

it his excessive sensitivity and vulnerability. In The Egoist

Meredith turns to the female protagonist because he believes

that women are closer to Nature than men are, more instinc-

tively aware of the inflexibilities imposed by ego. In this

novel Meredith also introduces the World as a force directing

the development of the natural character.

In the later novels, Diana of the Crossways, One of Our

Conquerors, and The Amazing Marriage, Meredith expands the

concept of ordeal initiated in The Egoist. Here he shows the

"child of Nature" battling the forces of the dominating static

figure and the moral rigidity of society itself. These pro-

tagonists become aware during the course of their struggles

that they have a duty to the future, and that by opposing the

oppressive elements in society they can point the way to

healthy growth, a growth unimpeded by static moral codes.




George Meredith is frequently read through intellectual

blinders: his poetry is primarily considered versified philo-

sophy, while his novels are principally acclaimed as feminist

tracts. While both considerations contain limited validity,

Meredith must be examined as a much more deeply complex writer

than such generalizations indicate. His concerns may be es-

sentially philosophical and social, but he applies to them the

catalyst of imagination and develops his theories creatively.

As his system of thought evolves, his artistic elaborations of

it likewise change.

According to one's point of view, it is either his blessing

or his curse that Meredith is very consciously a philosophical

writer. His philosophical system arose from eclectic origins.

Influenced by Wordsworth, Swinburne, Morley, Stephen, and others,

his greatest intellectual debt is undoubtedly owed to Darwin,

Spencer and Comte, from whose theories of evolution he devel-

oped a conception of the interrelationships of Nature, Society,

and man.1 Paramount in Meredith's system are the belief in the

inevitability of social progress, and the acceptance of a

generally benevolent but specifically neutral Nature serving

as the central pivot in a constant conflict between man and him-

self, man and man, and man and society.

_ _

The present study in no way purports to be an intensive

examination of Meredith's variations on the theme of evolution,

much work having already been accomplished in this area, par-

ticularly in association with his poetry, where he most didac-

tically enunciates his "social scientific" dicta. Rather, it

is with this author's novels, critically speaking the neglected

stepchildren of his talent, that I wish to deal. Meredith was

not widely read by his contemporaries, and currently few of the

most ardent Victorian scholars have read more than two or three

of his novels. (These are almost invariably The Ordeal of

Richard Feverel, The Egoist, and occasionally Diana of the

Crossways,) Nevertheless, throughout the novels the philosophical

ideas expressed in the poetry are equally important, if more

implicitly developed.

In the novels the union of Meredith's artistry and philo-

sophy finds its most significant expression in his development

of the ordeal motif, a theme the importance of which in this

author's works has not been so much minimized as channelized.

In the past its implications have been generally explained in

reference to the individual character's struggle toward maturity.

Such a narrow view is understandable, since many of the earlier

novels are typical Bildungsromanen which trace the hero's devel-

opment from inexperienced youth to responsible maturity. Not

only was this type of ordeal a main concern in Meredith's first

truly artistic success, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, but it

also suggested the biographical approach Lionel Stevenson uses

in The Ordeal of George Meredith. However, because of their

failure to deal with more than a few selected novels, critics

have disregarded the pervading importance and complex evolu-

tion of the ordeal theme. While the individual struggle towards

maturity is so obvious it cannot be dismissed, the impetus for

the conflict has not been explained in "Meredithian" terms.

In accordance with his evolutionary bias (expressed in

theories more concerned with social than biological phenomena),

the individual becomes a symbol of the species, and he reaches

his fullest development only after the subjugation of the baser

and more selfish elements of his personality. His period of

trial and growth is usually initiated by agencies in the environ-

ment beyond his control. The resultant internal strife is a

reaction to the strictures placed upon his individuality by

other characters who are incapable of healthy adaptation and

by Society. Only in his ability to react maturely, in a way

which will promote growth of character, is the individual in

control of his own existence. The individual character's ac-

ceptance or rejection of the lessons of experience forms a basic

dialectic in the novels; the separation of characters who are

morally "good" from those who are morally "bad," the children

of nature from the offspring of egoism. The conflicts generated

between these opposed sets of characters define them as static

or active.

It is chiefly in explaining what Meredith means by a "child

of Nature" and an "egoist" that the underpinnings of his philo-

sophy must be touched upon. In its simplest sense the tensions

between the two are the result of a conflict between the forces

of stasis and flexibility, stultification and growth. The re-

sponse of the protagonist (usually at the very least a potential


child of Nature) to the strictures and demands of his egoist

antagonists, describes the degree of success with which he has

mastered his ordeal. He either succumbs to the pressures and

becomes an egoist himself, or he breaks the influences of ego

(internal and external), fully comprehending the insidious
effect of its rigidity on human understanding and action. The

adaptable character becomes a complete individual in command,

within the limits of chance and accident, of his own destiny.

The egoist, however, responds only to his own internal, emo-

tional "pattern" instead of learning from the lessons of ex-

perience. Sir Willoughby Patterne's surname was no artistic


Dorothy Van Ghent in her famous essay on The Egoist (The

English Novel: Form and Function) makes the astounding judgment

that, despite its stylistic brilliance, this novel is an artistic

failure because it contains no other character against which the

monstrous self-centeredness of Sir Willoughby can be measured;

that he becomes unbelievably grotesque because all the novel's

remaining characters lack the quality he possesses in superfluity.

I maintain, in contradiction of this argument, that his is merely

the most advanced case of egoism and that to lesser degrees most

of the other characters in the novel are egoists also. Sir

Willoughby's ego-inspired behavior serves as the patternn" which

underlies their less outrageous actions. The conclusion of so

many single egoists astride their respective hobbyhorses is

actually the basis for the humorously dramatic flavor of this



This blind spot in Ms. Van Ghent's critical perception

suggests that characters in other Meredith novels have been

similarly misjudged, since the rigidity, fears, and machina-

tions of Sir Willoughby are discernible to differing degrees

in the antagonists of all the novels. These egoists are static

in their response to everything which exists beyond themselves.

They are "locked into" some self-inspired, self-imposed "system"

which makes them slaves of what is called in The Shaving of

Shagpat "the single idea." In short, they become monomaniacs,

either relatively harmless as is Uncle Hippias in The Ordeal of

Richard Feverel, or extremely dangerous to the happiness of others

as is Sir Willoughby, the egoist par excellence.

Meredith also names this group of rigid characters "senti-

mentalists," not necessarily a derogatory term in his lexicon,

since mankind on the whole must pass through this self-centered

stage in the progression from the primeval slime of elementary

existence to the idea spiritual society of the future. The

individual egoist represents the mentality which never seeks to

rise above this semi-primitive level, hence denying the neces-

sity of change and process. If we consider that in one person

we can see in miniature the social evolution toward an ideal and

unselfish state, the egoist or sentimentalist represents a case

of arrested development--an evolutionary dead end. His chief

desire is to enjoy without sacrifice and, therefore, he rejects

struggle and ordeal. As the Book of Egoism states it: "Possession

without obligation to the object possessed approaches felicity."4

It represents a total rejection of individual responsibility.

-The main reason the sentimentalist cannot be other than

-inflexible-is that he-is-morbidly sensitive. His core of per-

.sonality, because it-is a fabrication, must be protected against

-the.L"outside world" which represents the body of public opinion

-he feels -is capable of "unmasking" him by cutting through the

:facade of control he has carefully contrived. He feels forced

-to appear altruistic and social while he is inwardly selfish and

wary. =Frequently his monomania assumes characteristics of para-

noia, and he posits the operation of supernatural agencies--

-Providence and Fate--to account for his-successes and failures.

-Particularly in the earlier novels, the egoist seeks to become

cthe -Providence,- or directing power, of the protagonist.

'If--this description displays the negative qualities of the

-egoist, one can correctly assume that those characters in closer

-harmony-with Nature will possess quite-contrary characteristics.

-The-principle -of action, opposed to that of stasis, provides

-their-motivation, and -they become increasingly aware of their

-responsibility for their own development. They realize on an

-instinctive level that Nature has given the powers of the senses

not for pleasure or-selfish enjoymentr-but for battle. There is

-a higher state of awareness to be reached; these characters are

in -the -process of-"becoming;" they are not already rigidly

-moulded. The increasing awareness of the necessity for their

wown-active participation in life becomes their ordeal. Although

They may be naive or even egoistical when they enter the conflict,

their trial ultimately reveals a strong nature, willing to face

-reality honestly and to accept the consequences of actions even

at considerable personal peril.

When Meredith speaks of Nature he often becomes mystical

(and, indeed, although the positivists may have been responsible

for the cornerstone of his philosophy, he transcends their

materialistic epistemology and replaces faith in the supernatural

with belief in the spirituality of Nature), but in his most

elemental sense the child of Nature is capable of balancing within

himself the elements of passion and intellect. Lean too far in

either direction and one touches the egoist. On the one hand

the unnatural objectivity of a Sir Austin Feverel or a Lord

Fleetwood emerges, to be balanced on the other extreme by the

sensuality of a Wilfrid Pole or a Victor Radnor.

However, merely to label a character "egoist" or "child of

Nature" is meaningless if moral implications are ignored, and

to define what "morality" means in the context of Meredith's

novels requires a study of how that concept evolves. A character

can be judged "good" or "bad" only in relation to a norm, and

to Meredith this norm is not social approval or disapproval as

it is to the egoist, but the closeness of the individual to our

common Mother. Since Nature represents process and change, and

is a force distributing wisdom derived from suffering, her fol-

lowers are "good," because they likewise are willing to adapt

and change their perceptions and behavior. They are the leaven-

ing which, in the fullness of time, will permeate and enlighten

the entire social fabric and usher in the ideal society of the

future. Meredith demonstrates this potential for growth by

gradually increasing the scope of their ordeal from the essentially

personal to the broadly social. The traditional outlines of the

novel of initiation become blurred as the individual ordeal


becomes most important when it takes place within the framework

of the entire civilization, not simply in the single spirit or

among selected family and friends.

Needless to say, since theme and literary form should be-

come fused into an integral stylistic whole, the reader will

discover Meredith experimenting with the structure of his novels,

seeking how best to probe the growth process of the flexible

character as he resists not only the baser, more selfish ele-

ments of his own nature, but also the demands of antagonists

with rigid characters and, ultimately, those of an artificially

structured Society. The development of style moves generally

from the objective to the psychological, and since Meredith

(unlike Henry James,with whom he does share several other

stylistic similarities) did not develop early in his career a

point of view which consistently satisfied his requirements,

some of the forms he uses are discarded after one trial. For

example, the autobiographical style,which would seem at first

appraisal ideally suited to the study of internal personal con-

-flict, is never used before or after The Adventures of Harry

Richmond, probably because of the bias inherent in first person

introspection and apologia.

To exemplify Meredith's artistic and stylistic development

.as linked to the ordeal motif, I have arbitrarily divided his

novels into an early and a late period, with The Egoist serving

as the line of demarcation between the two. In the-first group

of novels the description of the ordeal is more simple and ob-

-jective, while the structure is more traditional than in the

complex psychological development of the latter group where


narrative line is often totally replaced by juxtaposition

of mental states. As examples of the first period I have

chosen The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, Emilia in England, and

The Adventures of Harry Richmond. The basic paradigm of

the primary conflicts between the flexible and static

characters in these novels can be visually described in this


World > the egoist--> the "child of nature"

ego --> Nature

The World, or Society, strongly operates on the figure of

stasis--the egoist--who in turn inflicts his own rigid ex-

pectations on the potentially active agent. Most striking

in these early novels are the huge dimensions of the pre-

siding ego: there is no mistaking the existence of what

Meredith metaphorically refers to as "the serpent," "the

griffin," or "the hippogriff" (symbols of the guile and in-

flated self-esteem resultant from total reliance on a per-

sonally manufactured view of reality) in the natures of Sir

Austin Feverel, Wilfrid Pole, and Richmond Roy. They are

machine-like in their monomanias. The outgrowth of their

disquieting brushes with the world is the development of an

isolating and protective "system" or "scheme," which enables

them to live out their delusions vicariously through a naive

character (in two of these novels actual children, in the

third a woman childlike in her simplicity). The degree to

_ ~

which.the "active" character counteracts the negative

stresses of sentimentality differs in each case, but there

is always evidence that some self awareness, some balance

between emotion and intellect, is gained by the protagonist

as he strives against the influence of the "controlling


The relationships between the static and active charac-

ters become more complex in the later novels, and the ordeal

motif is redefined. Not only does the protagonist struggle

against elements of ego in himself as well as against the

pressure of the .principle static characters; he additionally

battles the amassed forces of a polite Society which itself

takes the form of a repressive character. Perhaps more in

Meredith's works than in those of any other novelist of the

period does Society itself assume the dimensions of an actual

character, particularly in the later novels. The process by

which this personification takes place directly involves the

relationships between the two types of characters and, although

the-evolution of Society from an amorphous, indirect force

to either a single representative character or chorus of

characters is gradual, there exists in The Egoist a definite

change in Meredith's schematizing of the relationships between

man, Nature, and Society--those relationships which illumine

most clearly the role each character will by his nature assume.

--- The World .
The World the "child of
----> Nature"
The Egoist ego<-> Nature

In this second paradigm the World, that group of

opinion most feared by the egoist, ceases to be presented

in a diffuse manner as the force initiating egoistical be-

havior in the antagonist, affecting only indirectly the

reaction of the protagonist. Instead it becomes the repre-

sentative of ultimate structured, static behavior--a gigantic

multifaceted ego. A great believer in one's duty-to Society

in its broadest and most ideal sense, Meredith nevertheless

believes that when Natural Law (represented by the truest

and most reliable instincts) runs counter to social conven-

tion, the former is the proper guide to behavior. Change

is a natural process and society above all things must not

become impervious to change. However, society fights altera-

tion through its insistence on convention, and the challenge

flung to it by the non-conforming protagonist is returned

with rage (or outrage). Consequently, the individual's

ordeal assumes a scope not found in the earlier works.

The later works I have selected to demonstrate this

altered focus are Diana of the Crossways, One of our

Conquerors, and The Amazing Marriage. It is no coincidence

that the principal active characters in these novels, Diana,

Nesta, and Carinthia are female. Meredith, even in the early

works, believes in the greater instinctive closeness of Nature

and woman, so that in the final confrontations between the

forces of Nature and ego, he enlists the aid of his most

powerful allies. In each of these heroines the principle of

action is strong, and while in some cases the battle against

sentimentality is being waged within, each also struggles

against a rigid social structure which seeks to punish

their nonconformity.

It is interesting to note Meredith's use of the female

protagonist in the later novels, since most of the main

characters in the early novels are male. Sir Austin Feverel

-states that women are man's ordeal (a rather telling comment

as far as the struggle between the static and flexible is

concerned), and indeed it is usually sexual attraction which

initiates revolt against "the system" in those who desire to

expand beyond its bounds. Thus Lucy undoes Richard's educa-

tion, Sandra and Wilfrid create trials for one another, and

Ottilia is responsible for Harry Richmond's revolt against

his father's schemes. Had the woman never appeared, the pro-

gress of ego in these male characters would never have been

-questioned. However, in the intense conflict of the later

novels it is the woman who undergoes the chief ordeal as

she resists an egoistic male as well as an inflexible social

code. Diana, Nesta, and Carinthia initiate a different type

of action. They become the targets of ego and, instead of

being initiators of the ordeal, they endure the main conflict.

The Egoist marks a transition between the early and late

ordeal structures. First, the female character is becoming

the focal point of the ordeal. Who is the protagonist in

-this novel? The reader directly views the emotional agony

of two characters--an egoistic male and a woman of growing

:discernment--and while his sympathies are captured by the

_ I_ ~

latter, the intimate portrayal of the former's torturous

psychology tends to make him morbidly fascinating.

Secondly, this novel marks a change in the role "the

World" plays in the action. It becomes a tangible threat

to both static and flexible characters, whereas previously

it operated most directly on the former. The protagonist's

contact with polite Society was peripheral and secondary

to his conflict with the principal egoist in the earlier

novels. It was the World that initiated the development of

the egoist's "system" and required his constant readjust-

ment of his mask. Although Richard Feverel, Sandra Belloni,

and Harry Richmond must face some social pressures, their

essential conflict is with a person, not a group. Even

though they may experience social disapproval, conflict is

the result of the egoist's actions as he seeks to control

their behavior. It is not, as in the later novels, a result

of the protagonist's conscious.and deliberate rejection of

social expectations. However, in The Egoist one sees simul-

taneously the egoist readjusting his mask and the heroine,

the child of Nature, challenging convention.

With these two modifications in the ordeal structure,

the lines of battle between stasis and flexibility are firmly

drawn in the two main characters, Sir Willoughby Patterne

and Clara Middleton, who clash over the desirability of

their engagement. Clara, one of the liveliest fictional

characters of all time, opposes Sir Willoughby, from whom

the novel takes its title. As he becomes more obsessed with

salvaging his self image from the desecration of the common


herd, she expends great effort on exposing her own weakness

and unhappiness, not only hoping to enlist aid in regaining

her lost freedom, but seeking to understand and modify her

behavior. Never again in the novels will the resolution be

as satisfactory and clear cut as it is here, but the new

definition of the ordeal itself has been outlined. Clara's

battle is internal, within her own conscience (albeit one

tainted by sentimentality, which she recognizes when she

calls herself "an egoist"), as well as with Sir Willoughby

and the world of convention represented by the Ladies Busshe

and Culmer and Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson. But unlike Richard

Feverel, Sandra Belloni, and Harry Richmond, Clara decides to

defy both the egoist and the World on the basis of her own

instincts of right.

As mentioned earlier, the literary style of the novels

changes as the development of the ordeal motif becomes more

complex. Only when psychological action supersedes narra-

tive action in importance does Meredith depart radically from

the traditional development of character through plot. As

the individual's mental response to the ordeal becomes more

significant than his behavioral alteration under it, the

narrative line frequently breaks down, until in his The

Amazing Marriage action is only superimposed on psychological

states. The earlier novels supply standard plot expectations.

For example, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel and Beauchamp's

Career end "unhappily" while Rhoda Fleming and Harry Richmond

end "happily." Even so, Meredith's versatility in adapting

_ __ ~

form to theme is still evident. The objective development

of The Ordeal of Richard Feverel reflects the ordeal generated

by "scientific humanism," while the autobiographical structure

of Harry Richmond demonstrates the struggle into self know-

ledge from the "inside" (by the protagonist's appraisal of

hiw own behavior).

However, the novels following The Egoist have more

ambiguous denouments. The Tragic Comedians, Diana of the

Crossways, Lord Ormont and His Aminta, and The Amazing

Marriage are not neatly tied up and leave the reader with

unresolved tensions. In Emilia in England the "philosopher"

is still subservient to the historian or storyteller, but

in The Amazing Marriage there has been a total reverse.

Furthermore, the use of choruses and commentaries as sub-

stitutes for action become increasingly important as the

author reaches his goal of describing internal effects of

the ordeal.

Metaphor and imagery, as well as structure, reinforce

the theme of stasis and action as the main ingredients of

the ordeal motif. The constant reference to masks, locks,

machinery, Fate, Providence, etc., provides clues to whether

a character is an egoist or a person capable of growth. It

is hoped that as this study traces the evolution of the

ordeal motif in Meredith's novels, these considerations will

at least tangentially aid in showing that a philosopher was

also an artist.

_ ~

SIt is perhaps relevant at this point to indicate the

.critical background of the present study. To the scholar

not directly concerned with Meredith criticism, the pro-

posal to establish one of the most noteworthy Victorian

novelists as an artist must initially sound fatuous, but

Meredith's critical heritage generally represents the worst

of biographical criticism and "spasmodic" rhapsodies, with

little concentration on the artistic merits of the novels.

Within the past two decades secondary materials reveal a

closer examination of the primary works and a withdrawal from

the established "anecdotal" method, but this comparatively

recent type of approach still leaves much work for the

.scholar who seeks tQ define Meredith's aesthetics. The re-

:sults of recent research (most widely influenced by New

,Criticism and the archetypal school), as a friend of Meredith

.once half-jokingly predicted of future generations of readers,

have taught us to respect this author for what in his day

were considered his defects. The tortuous and metaphorical

language, the slowly moving plots, the dislocations of point

-of view which place Meredith closer in style to the twentieth

_than the nineteenth.century, have created accolades for an

artist once scoffed at for "roughness" and obscurity.

-Because the theme of ordeal is so obvious in Meredith's
-- ? ..

novels, it is mysterious that it has been so ignored by the

,new generation of critics. Lionel Stevenson grasps its

significance, but because Meredith's own biographical con-

cerns are his subject matter in The Ordeal of George Meredith,


he gives-little acknowledgement of the ordeal as a motif

IL-the novels.- Others as well have- described the general

pervasion-of this theme, but have only tangentially artic-

.ulated- its nature.

---That Meredith--himself was totally aware of using the

ordeal- as a-method of character development-is apparent in

his-letters as well-as his poetry and novels. Constantin

Photiades quotes ina- letter of July 22,- 1887 Meredith's

famous dictum: "My method has been the prepare my readers

for a crucial exhibition of the personae, and then to give

-the sdene in the fullest of their blood and brain under the

-stress of a fiery situation -"5 In-other words, ordeal be-

tomes the instrument of characterization. -

- -T V. S.. Pritchett has categorized the Meredithian ordeal

as both physical and spiritual. -To the athletic Meredith,

T'bodily pain -is necessary-as well-as- inevitable; the thing

-to ddo is to know how to take a beating or a punch-up . .

and recognize the value of the discipline." Lack of "thwack-

-ihrg-at some stage in-li:fe produces a Richard Feverel, a Sir

Willoughby,- a Percy Dacier, or a Lord Fleetwood. "But,"

Piritchett continues, "the-most important ordeal is spiritual.

-The- soul has to pass through fire. And what has to be burned

away? -Pride and above all self-delusion . .- This is the

theme that dominates all Meredith's novels; it is the only

important theme. His-hero should emerge at the end, fitted

at~Tast'to- face life."6- Unfortunately, Pritchett never devel-

ops his thesis further. _

In Darwin Among the Poets, Lionel Stevenson finds

struggle indispensable to his discussion of Meredith as a

poet of evolution, but the term "ordeal" is given a limited

definition in this otherwise important study: . he

did not hold with Browning, that the values of the struggle,

and the inspiration of the cheerfulness, lay in the devel-

opment of the individual soul in after-life. The struggle

and the cheerfulness bear their fruit in the heritage which

each man leaves in this earthly life for posterity."7 Pritchett's

dichotomy of physical and spiritual struggle become a bio-

logical necessity with Stevenson, certainly important to

comprehend as an underpinning of Meredith's philosophy but

of only peripheral value in determining its working out in

artistic terms.

Phyllis Bartlett feels that Meredith's protagonists
experience a Lawrentian passing through "alltrophic states,"

while Walter Allen stands firm on Meredith's poetic devel-

opment of the ordeal (a view shared by Mary Gretton) when

he argues: "A mind come suddenly to obscure consciousness

of itself, tremblingonthe verge of half-apprehended self-

discovery, can be shown only in poetry. Meredith is the

first master of this kind of poetry in the English novel .

. ."10 While both Lawrentian "philosophy-poetry" and Allen's

more conventional conception are legitimate, if limited,

approaches to the problem of ordeal, they still miss the

breadth of Meredith's vision. For while it has sprung from

biological theory (in part) as Stevenson demonstrates, it is

_ ~

poetically developed, but, most importantly, it is philo-

sophically determined. These critics have not linked these

criteria with what I feel is the basic element of ordeal--

'the ability to act.

The philosopher Ramon Fernandez comes closest to de-

fining the importance of independent action in Meredith's

novels. The character is faced with reconciling two dis-

parate goals: affirming himself absolutely, yet properly

submitting to be estimated, judged, and situated. He states

that Meredith's characters "are because they are and draw

-their reason for being only from themselves; but . they

are because they act, their being depends on their activity."

'This elaboration squares fully with Meredith's expressed

desire merely to set the scene and let the characters work

through their own difficulties. Fernandez adds:

--They begin by going straight ahead, in the
direction of life, along the road of action.
Their first acts, however rich and generous they
.....may be, are simple, normal, not to say conven-
tional. . Since they can live only by acting,
they are at first in perfect harmony with the
circle in which tradition has caused them to be
.: ._born. _But the sensibility, at the first collision,
is awakened. They feel confusedly that they can no
S..longer live in the conditions which at first they
accepted. And there they are, thrown back upon
themselves, attentive, on the alert, seeking
Anxiously among the echoes of experience the key to
the enigma which shall deliver them. To live for
them is to seek to think, but to think in order to
be able afresh to act and bloom.11

Better than most critics, Fernandez has constructed a philo-

_sophical -paradigm which serves as an operational definition

of Merdeith's method of developing the ordeal motif, tying

the theme to social custom as well as personal awareness.

Apart from these sources little concrete analysis of

the ordeal motif and its connection to the novels' structure

has been attempted. Within the past two decades disserta-

tions have been making much of the novels in terms of

structure and point of view, and in the past five years

more attention has been turned to the later novels, but none

focus on Meredith's peculiar problem of stasis, flexibility

and the internal as well as the external confrontation of


In this study I have consistently capitalized the words

such as "Providence" and "Nature," following Meredith's example,

since I feel the reader is less likely to fall into popular

connotations of words Meredith uses with a great deal of

specificity. I have also capitalized "World" when I mean by

it the static body of social opinion which operates against

both static and active characters. Furthermore, for much the

same reason, I have enclosed "children of Nature" in quota-

tion marks, so the reader will remain constantly aware that

I refer to active characters by that term.

~ ~


1Meredith also sees idea as creator, on which Lionel
Stevenson comments: "This credo puts him firmly in the
camp of the idealists, deriving through Coleridge and
Carlyle from Kant and Hegel, in opposition to the mechanistic
determinists who dominated current philosophy and were on the
verge of invading fiction under the banner of naturalism. In
the great debate over the evolutionary hypothesis, it aligns
him with the creative evolutionists, from Lamarck to Samuel
Butler and Bergson, in contradistinction to the Darwinist
believers in blind change." The Ordeal of George Meredith
(1953; rpt. New York: Russell and Russell, 1967), p. 262.
Ramon Fernandez states: "Meredith. . soon convinces
us that the existence of intelligence is indispensable, not
only for full comprehension, but also for perfect realiza-
tion of life, that one lives more intensly and better in
proportion to one's being more lucid. On the other hand
he demonstrates through his work that all valid knowledge
of life is the result of a reflection upon man in the moment
wherein he acts, wherein he undergoes the trial of experience."
Messages, (1927; rpt. New York: The Kennikat Press, 1964),
pp. 166-167.

3Robert W. Watson clarifies the term "sentimentality,"
saying Meredith "primarily means acting on what one believes
one should feel in a given situation rather than what one
really feels, or suppressing a genuine feeling for a sup-
posed one," although the subtle distinctions between "ego"
and "sentiment" are not important to this study since both
are static. (For Watson's discussion, see "George Meredith's
Sandra Belloni: the "Philosopher" on the "Sentimentalists."
English Literary History 24 324.)

George Meredith, The Egoist, Memorial Edition (London:
Constable and Company, 1910), p. 156. All future citations
from Meredith's works are taken from this edition unless
otherwise noted.

5George Meredith: His Life, Genius, and Teaching
(London: Constable and Company, 1913), p. 181.

George Meredith and English Comedy (New York: Random
House, 1969), pp. 57-59.


Lionel Stevenson, "Meredith," Darwin Among the Poets
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932), p. 204.

"The Novels of George Meredith." Review of English
Literature, 3 31-46.

Mary Gretton sees Meredith's philosophy as a chorus
which forces "spectators of the tragedy to view the actors
in incidents presented, not only in this particular, but in
their universal aspect," and that at this point philosopher
and poet coalesce. The Writings and Life of George Meredith
(Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1926),
p. 234.

1Walter Allen, The English Novel (New York: E. P.
Dutton and Company, 1954), p. 285.

11Ramon Fernandez, Messages, pp. 174-175.

12John Hart (Syracuse, 1954) writes of the mythical
ordeal of one's withdrawal from one's environment to undergo
tests in search of self, but he concentrates on symbolic
terms and images (exile and return, entombment, etc.).
Donald E. Morton (Johns Hopkins, 1971) speaks of the neces-
sity of dealing with style and theme but discusses style
in Nature. Brian L. Mimh (University of Pennsylvania, 1971)
feels the self ordeal forces character to be more important
than plot, but deals mainly with the verisimilitude created
by the tension between the characters' world and the authorial
judgment imposed from the outside. Carolyn H. Smith (Duke,
1960) uses both Meredith's prose and poetry to trace the
archetypes of journey and ordeal, and related images of
wandering and rest, death and rebirth, darkness and light,
describing four types of journey and four types of ordeal
(philosophical, economic, political, and social--the inequity
of women).

I __ _ _



Undoubtedly one of his finest artistic accomplishments,

so nearly perfect is it in integration of form, precision

of language, and consummate development of both verbal and

dramatic irony, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel illustrates un-

compromisingly the schema of the ordeal motif found in

Meredith's earlier novels. The actions of the World as well

as those of both static and flexible characters are clearly

discernible, and their various alignments are unequivocal.

On one hand there is a collection of egoists, characters who

have developed disproportionate modes of response that re-

sist any modification, while on the other there are "natural"

characters, usually women, with their instincts alive yet

under the control of reason, able to adapt and grow under

the pressures of circumstances and the inflexibilities of the

presiding ego. Richard Feverel, a character with potential

to become flexible and adaptive in his behavior, falls prey

to the influence of his egoistical family and, despite the

influence of his wife, a Meredithian "child of Nature," the

forces of mechanistic response prove too strong for him.

Ostensibly just another Victorian Bildungsroman, this novel

in a highly sophisticated style also states Meredith's

_____ __

philosophy that an imbalance of passion and reason can

result in nothing less than disaster.

The Ordeal of Richard Feverel uses the Manichean

dichotomy of good and evil as a metaphor descriptive of

this philosophy. Observable even to the most casual reader

is this moral battle expressed in terms of Zoroastrian dualism.

References to the "Magian Conflict" are so explicitly stated

that they cannot be ignored, nor can we disregard the trans-

lation into his adult ordeal of Richard's youthful struggles

with these two moral opposition. Naturally, let the reader

be reminded, when Meredith constructs his system of moral

dualism, he is not relying on the traditionally spiritual

Christian definitions of these two states. He is, instead,

supplying in their place his own theory that the ability to

change and to endeavor to modify one's behavior is desirable

(good), while incapacity or unwillingness to do so is folly,

first in its individual repercussions and, ultimately, in

its social implications.

Meredith dramatizes the Magian Conflict by creating a

battle between Science and Nature, a tension which holds the

novel together thematically and structurally. Richard Feverel

becomes the "battlefield" upon which these opposed forces war,

and the lines of attack shift so greatly at different points

in the plot, that it is uncertain which will ultimately

triumph and claim his spirit as its own: the psuedo-

scientific educational system inflicted upon him by his father,

Sir Austin, the "Scientific Humanist," or the love of Lucy,

'the creature of Nature who is good because it is her

instinct to be so, not because of any particular method of

moral training. At the latter stage of the ordeal when it

appears that Richard will overcome the false moral sensi-

tivity instilled in him by his education and reunite with

Lucy, Sir Austin "could admit now that.instinct had so far

beaten science." Nevertheless, the novel's ultimate pathos

results from the fact that it is Science which triumphs,

blighting Richard's promising youth in the process.

The Magian metaphor is extensively elaborated when,

during the celebration of Richard's fourteenth birthday, he

and Ripton Thompson evade the festivities in order to hunt.

Their eventual poaching on Farmer Blaize's property, the

farmer's ignominious use of the whip to chastize their tres-

pass, and Richard's subsequent revenge of engineering the

firing of the farmer's rick, presents on a juvenile level-

the type of moral conflict which will accompany the older

Richard's fall from "grace" and his self-imposed expulsion

from the paradise Lucy represents. The entire episode of

the boys and Farmer Blaize is referred to as "The Preliminary

Ordeal," and the battle between right-and wrong finds a fit-

ting objective correlative in the tongues of flame that lap

the dark night sky as Richard eagerly watches his revenge

take the form of fire.

Fire and a dualism between good and evil create the

essence of the Magian Conflict, but Meredith's use of the

entire metaphor is loose, frequently passing into Christian

~ ~~ ~i

as well as Zoroastrian symbolism and terminology. Of course,

such metaphorical inconsistency is beside the point, and it

may well be that tension is heightened by uniting the two

conceptions of evil's operation. Although Meredith explic-

itly develops the idea of a Magian Conflict (to the extent

of twice using the term in the titles of chapters), the

novel is rife with Christian imagery of temptation, redemp-

tion, and damnation; it is, in fact, an examination of pre-

and postlapsarian states. "God" and the "Devil" are fighting

for the possession of Richard and, ironically, the man who

feels he is a "Providence" to his son is the cause of his
destruction. The association of Sir Austin and the powers

of evil occurs as Richard watches the swelling fire:

Opaque and statuesque stood the figure of the
baronet behind them. The wind was low. Dense masses
of smoke hung amid the darting snakes of fire, and
a red, malign light was seen on the neighboring leaf-
age. No figures could be seen. Apparently the flames
had nothing to contend against for they were making
terrible strides in the darkness.(p. 37)

Early in the novel Sir Austin has assumed supernatural pro-

portions, and the imagery of this passage strongly suggests

an infernal interpretation of his role in his son's destiny.

It is Sir Austin's henchman, his fellow-egoist Adrian

Harley, the nephew in charge of Richard's formal education

as Sir Austin supervises moral instruction, who affixes the

term "Magian" to the central conflict. Adrian, himself called

by some "young Mephisto" because of his cynical view of human

nature, hears Ripton and Richard discussing a tinker and a

ploughman they overheard theorizing about the relationship

of God and the Devil, so he names the two rustic philosophers

"Magians." An interesting foreshadowing of which force will

prevail in the novel is provided by the conclusion reached

by the ploughman that, in a fairly even fight, God is not

more powerful than the Devil.

Since instinct versus ego, stasis versus flexibility,

man against woman are all conflicts Meredith can elaborate

through the battle between good and evil, the use of reli-

gious imagery is effective in describing the main tensions

in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel. It clarifies the stance

of all characters in relation to "the Hope of Raynham."

For example, Sir Austin pictures himself as God to his son,

but proves otherwise in his performance; yet he ascribes to

the good characters, particularly women, demonic powers.

Because of his individual prejudice, caused by the elope-

ment of his wife with his best friend, woman is a dangerous

animal at best. He classifies the love of Richard for Lucy

as "the apple disease," and he had always "maintained that

young lads might by parental vigilance be kept pretty secure

from the serpent until Eve sided with him: a period that

might be deferred . (p. 10).

Sir Austin is proven wrong on all counts. The appear-

ance of the serpent and Eve cannot be controlled. The whip

with which Farmer Blaize lashes the trespassing boys hisses

like a snake, raising passions in Richard unexperienced until

that moment. The encounter represents his initiation into a

world beyond Raynham Abbey, and soon thereafter he succumbs

to his temptation to punish the farmer for wounding his

pride. However, Lucy as Eve is the most positive force in

Richard's life. She appears unexpectedly and, ironically,

she is exactly the kind of young woman Sir Austin would wish

his son to marry. It is Lucy who almost rescues Richard from

perdition. As she attempts to pray with him before he leaves

to fight Lord Mountfalcon, she radiates "holy sweetness" and

Richard almost succumbs to her pleas that he stay. "Two

natures warred in his bosom, or it may have been the Magian

Conflict still going on. He had come to see his child once

and to make peace with his wife before it should be too late.

Might he not stop with them? Might he not relinquish that

devilish pledge? Was not divine happiness here offered him?"

(p. 550).

Richard at this point has already been instructed by

Nature herself, speaking in the forms of a thunderstorm and

an infant leveret that seeks protection inside his jacket.

Nature attempts to combat his notion that he is a desecrated

temple "fit but for a dance of devils," but he cannot fully

shed the deleterious effects of an education which stressed

unrealistic, hence unnatural, codes of honor and purity.

Richard's character cannot develop normally because he has

never learned to compromise. Falling easy prey to a trans-

parently blatant temptress, Bella Mount, he feels ineradi-

cably soiled. Therefore, he ignores Lucy's angelic welcome

and departs to duel with his lordship, precipitating the

tragedy of Lucy's death.

The tension between "good" and "evil," stasis and

flexibility, while mirrored in the novel's religious imagery,

finds its most characteristically Meredithian manifestation

in the alignment of its personalities: those who merely

respond (the "evil") and those who act and change (the "good"),

the Egoists and the "children of Nature." As in the remainder

of his novels, Meredith portrays more than one egoist in The

Ordeal of Richard Feverel. Although Sir Austin is beyond

doubt the principal figure of stasis, other subsidiary ego-

ists also permeate the action, each in some way the slave of

a scheme, a phobia, an appetite, a delusion, or some form of

"the Single Idea." Existence for Adrian, Mrs. Doria Forey,

Hippias, and even Clare becomes centered about a single facet

of being, throwing all others out of perspective and, in ef-

fect, creating a monstrous absorption.

Adrain Harley is technically second in command as far

as Richard's education is concerned, and although he is al-

most diabolically self-serving, the use of this character

within the novel transcends his interaction in the plot. In-

deed, this faintly corpulent, sensuous, selfish, and cyni-

cally detached young philosopher functions more effectively

through his inaction than in any active sense. It must be

remembered that Meredith has not yet left the traditional

novel form; he reserves the limited right to enter the minds

of his characters and explain what he sees there, but he has

not yet developed the nearly total psychological style of the

later novels. Adrian's detached and ironic (if not always

correct) assessments of situations aid in developing a more

objective point of view--a stance necessary to telling the

tale of a Scientific Humanist and the results of his experi-

ment. Reductio ad absurdum through Adrian's observations is

one technique by which Meredith counterbalances the romance

of the Lucy-Richard relationship.

Hippias and Algernon are undoubtedly the most harmless

of the egoistical swarm, the one with his chronic dyspepsy

and literary constipation, the other enduring the plight of

the military careerist and sportsman defeated by the loss of

a leg. Since Sir Austin is willing to support relatives

whose conceptions of proper conduct conform to his own (he

has already cut off a brother who made an improper marriage),

Hippias and Algernon have much free time to lavish upon their

respective hobby-horses.

Hippias was once considered the genius of the family,

but his brilliant career was early blighted by his digestion.

He who feeds well but possesses poor powers of digestion does

not perform at his peak in the "battle of life" because he is

too absorbed in the war with his dinner. Concentration upon

his interior chemistry causes Hippias to leave the Bar and

retire to the life of a literary recluse, compiling (in a

manner reminiscent of Mr. Casaubon's similar efforts in

Middlemarch) after years of effort a "ponderous work on the

Fairy Mythology of Europe."

Hippias shows not only the inability of the egoist to

change his pattern of behavior in the face of the necessity

to readjust; he exhibits as well the extreme sensitivity

typical of the egoist. _The "Single Idea" becomes-the_

measure of existence,. and so much concern is-lavished upon_

it-that all other parameters of living are submerged. The

schemes devised by Hippias for the improvement of his diges-

tion become a parody of Sir Austin's overwhelming concern

about the sacred System for Richard's education.3 Hippias's

monomania isevident.when in all seriousness he confides to

Richard: -

"Do you know, Richard, my dear boy, I've often
thought that if we could by any means appropriate
to our use some of the extraordinary digestive
power that a boa constrictor has in his gastric
juices, there is really no manner of reason why
we should not comfortably dispose of as much of
an ox as our stomachs will hold, and one might
eat French dishes without the wretchedness of
--_- thinking what's to follow. And this makes me think
that those fellows may, after all, have got some
truth in them: some secret that, of course, they
require to be paid for." (p. 224)

Although it is pointed out in the novel's first chapter

that Hippias had little influence over the manner in which'

the System operated upon Richard, he is used several times

as a prop, a deus ex machine in the events of the Ordeal.

During "the first ordeal" Hippias relates to a singularly

disinterested family group at breakfast a dream he had, in

which he was forced to pick his way carefully across a mea-

dow which, instead of daisies, sprouted sharp razors. Sir

Austin-notes that the dream is analogous to his son's pre-

sent moral dilemma, where one false step causes ruin. How-

ever, this nearsighted parent cannot see in his brother's

nocturnal ordeal the plight which will long plague Richard--

the-bcstant adjustment of his behavior to cruelly inexorable

forces beyond his control. Incidentally, it is also Hippias

who unwittingly leads Richard from Raynham to a reunion in

London with Lucy. During an optimistic moment, enjoying

temporary digestive calm, he asks that his nephew accompany

him to town for some amusement and incidental medical con-

sultation. Once arrived there, the services of Uncle Hippias

become subservient to the services of Chance.

Algernon's behavior is as simplistic as that of Hippias.

He also reflects on a lesser scale than the Baronet the dangers

of obsession. His is the task of training Richard in the manly

arts of boxing, shooting, and fencing. Algernon's remaining

energies are devoted to animadversionss on swift bowling."

He preaches throughout the county against bowling, also strug-

gling through laborious compositions addressed to sporting

magazines on the "Decline of Cricket." Meredith ironically

characterizes Algernon as "a simple man" who feels his pur-

pose in life is automatically cut short when he loses a leg.

Algernon is so "simplistic" and unadaptive that all aspects

of life bow to his missing anatomical member and, like Hippias,

existence is evaluated only in terms of what might have been.

Mrs. Doria Forey, like her three brothers, has single-

mindedly built her existence around a scheme which parallels

in its female application Sir Austin's System for Richard's

upbringing. (An interesting presage of Meredith's basic yet

constantly broadening concept of the innate flexibility of

the female may be operating in the case of this character,

who is the only one of the four to exhibit any growth at the

end of the novel.) No amount of martyrdom and self-sacri-

fice is too great for this mother who entertains plans of

marriage between her pallid, sensitive daughter, Clare, and

"the Hope of Raynham." While both children are barely out

of infancy, this determined lady inviegles an invitation to

Raynham and, once there, establishes herself and Clare as

household fixtures.

Although Mrs. Doria finds her brother's System ridicu-

lous and unrealistic, never seeing the fatuity of her own

scheming, she does bow, albeit often unwillingly, to Sir

Austin's dictates. She mutters over the policy adopted by

the Baronet regarding the boy's lack of knowledge about his

mother. Her feminine heart even protests that the complete

exclusion of the unfortunate Lady Feverel from any contact

with her child is needlessly rigid. Nevertheless, in order

to protect her own monomaniacal scheme, she does not antago-

nize the System for another person, since she does not know

for certain when she may have to bow to it herself.

Her preliminary bow is forced by Sir Austin's insis-

tence that during the period of Richard's maturation dubbed

"the Magnetic Age," all manifestations of sexual attraction

be kept from him. Clare is interdicted as a fellow inhabit-

ant of the Abbey because of her potential incendiary effect

upon the youth's emotions. Mrs. Doria submits wisely but

not gracefully: she refuses to follow her brother's sug-

gestions that seventeen-year-old Clare either be married off

or placed in a convent, and she carries her daughter away to

await the time when she can safely renew her forays.

Her final submission to the System occurs only when the

entire family, including Sir Austin, is forced to acknowledge

that the System has worked too well. Richard has been kept

so virtuous, so cut off from the passionate side of human

nature, that when he finds Lucy in London, his repressed

emotions rise in a surge which destroys reason and caution,

and his only solution to the dilemma appears to be the honor-

able road of marriage. At this, its finest moment, the System

becomes a monster to both those who nourished and those who

tolerated it, because it has suddenly ceased to show any prom-

ise of fulfilling the dreams they required of it, even though

it has apparently produced a morally upright young man who

has mated with a woman thoroughly worth of his esteem.

Of all the shocked relatives, Mrs. Doria is the most

vindictive upon hearing of her nephew's marriage, anxious

for an annulment because she sees in this event the ultimate

thwarting of her great plans. So intent has she been on her

own schemes that she misses the most obvious hints of Richard's

own matrimonial intentions when she, Clare, and Adrian

accidentally encounter him on his way to the church. Clare,

however, recognizes the significance of the dropped wedding

ring, accepting her own bitter disappointment in silence at

the very moment her mother is attempting to attach an omen

of good luck to Clare's having found it. When she orders her

daughter to try the mysterious ring on one of her own fingers

and Clare does so, demonstrating a perfect fit, Meredith

reveals the self-deluded Mrs. Doria's reflections:

_ _

To find a wedding ring is open to any woman; but
to find a wedding ring that fits may well cause
a superstitious emotion. Moreover, that it should
be found while walking in the neighborhood of the
identical youth whom a mother has destined [italics
mine] for her daughter, gives a significance to the
gentle perturbation of ideas consequent on such a
hint from fortune. (p. 297)

Inability to adjust her behavior to the requirements of

reality sows the seeds of eventual disaster, and the mono-

maniacal plans of the mother literally result in the death

of Clare.

Minor egoists may voice their plaints and pursue their

selfish plans and goals in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel,

but all pale beside the colossal ego of Sir Austin Feverel.

In this character Meredith creates a pattern of inflexible

behavior which he heightens or mellows in later egoists, but

which does not alter in its essential features. If nothing

else, the design of his baronial crest with its brace of

griffins surrounded by wheatsheaves defines him as a self-

serving egoist. The griffin is one of the creatures Meredith

uses to personify the monstrous characteristics of ego, and

the fact that it appears in conjunction with golden growing

wheat makes the crest an emblem of this father's sinister in-

fluence on his maturing son.

While Sir Austin's ego does not strut as prominently

as that of Sir Willoughby in The Egoist, it is founded upon

the same principle stated in The Book of Ego: "Possession

without obligation to the object possessed approaches feli-

city." Damning his own behavior, the writer of The Pilgrim's

Scrip speaks with the same intent when he advises Lady

Blandish and Adrian that "to feel, but not to feel to excess,
is the problem."4 The Scrip itself defines Sentimentalists,

those out of tune with Nature due to a morbid preponderance

of sensitivity, as those "who seek to enjoy without incur-

ring the Immense Debtorship for a thing done . a happy

pastime and an important science to the timid, the idle, and

the heartless; but a damning one to them who have anything

to forfeit" (p. 220). Ironically, in his two most important

personal relationships, with Lady Blandish and his son, the

Baronet exhibits sentimental weakness. From the Lady's

blushes he draws "joy of new life without incurring further

debtorship for a thing done," while he blames the failure of

his System on irrelevant factors, not the immorality of its

very existence. He proves himself a fool by his own theoret-

ical standards because he has indeed engaged in a heartless

experiment in an area where he had the most to lose. What

he says and does are opposed: the theories preserved in

The Pilgrim's Scrip are wise, but unpracticed by the author,

and he is so intellectually self-deceived he cannot see the


Like the other egoists in the novel, Sir Austin is in-

ordinately sensitive, preserving at any cost the facade of

wisdom and virtue with which he has surrounded his vulner-

ability. Those who pierce through to the emotional core of

the man are "cut off" much as Sir Willoughby performs neces-

sary social surgery on his family tree. When the nursemaid

finds him weeping over Richard's cradle and exclaims in pity

for his obvious suffering, she is turned away from service

at Raynham. That the dismissal is accompanied by an annuity

does not alter the Baronet's primary insistence on protecting

his inner core of self from any Human scrutiny.

Also in common with other Meredithian egoists, Sir

Austin is extremely sensitive to alterations in glances and

tones. He expects from others responses which fit what he

feels is the ideal pattern of behavior. When the "proper"

response is not elicited, he withdraws still further into

the mantle of self-righteousness he has spun about himself.

During the reconciliation at Raynham, Richard, angered by

his father's behavior because it has virtually destroyed

his hopes for a happy marriage, answers his father ironi-

cally, and "sensitive to tone and feeling as he was, his

ebullition of paternal feeling was frozen" (p. 542).

The sensitivity thus exhibited rises from a warped sense

of pride and, in terms of the Magian Conflict, Sir Austin

becomes, in an even more sinister manner than Adrian, a

Lucifer figure. His excessive pride and over-sensitivity,

he admits to himself, are his chief flaws, but though he vows

to trample them under, his resolution does not result in any

modification of his behavior. If this pride, as in Lucifer's

case inverted to a belief in godlike capacities, does not

make Sir Austin a totally diabolical figure, Meredith at least

makes clear that this self-deluded man nurses evil in his

heart. However, this devil's name is "Ego." When, after his

period of playing Providence to Richard his ambitions for his

son are thwarted by the marriage, he attempts to rationalize

intellectually his role in the situation, very nearly com-

mitting blasphemy by comparing his present disillusionment

with the fate of all who "would save humanity but instead

perish on a cross." He "nurses the devil" as he thinks:

Richard's parting laugh on the train--it was
explicable now: it sounds in his ears like
the mockery of this base nature of ours at
every endeavor to exalt and chasten it. The
young man had plotted this. From step to step
Sir Austin traced the plot . .. A Manichean
tendency, from which the sententious eulogist of
nature had been struggling for years (and which
was partly at the bottom of the system), now
began to cloud and usurp dominion in his mind.
As he sat alone in the forlorn dead-hush of his
library, he saw the devil. (p. 345)

As usual, the devil's advice, or the promptings of ego,

prove as disastrous in this case as in any other where he is

summoned as a counselor. The conclusion, totally erroneous,

that Richard has planned to deceive his father and that it

is the deception, not the marriage, which has wounded the

Baronet, drives the fatal wedge further between father and


Meredith makes clear that Sir Austin is a monomaniac

either unwilling or unable to adjust hiw view of life and

effect his own spiritual cure. Adrian, frequently an acute

if cold-blooded observer, visualizes the Baronet in precisely

this manner: as a "monomaniac" large in proportions, hover-

ing over the fates of those under his roof. Lady Blandish,

perspicacious dame that she is, long before her complete

disillusionment with her idol, sighs that, unlike Balaam's

ass, Sir Austin had no redeeming sense of humor which could

have "relieved him of the blight of self-deception, and

oddness, and extravagance; had given a healthier view . .

of life" (p. 195). By broadening his perspective, the man

might have discovered a saner mode of response to life and

the World.

In his single-minded belief that his System will create

a youth innocent and unsceptical, who will always operate in

the guiding light of his early instruction, Sir Austin is

unshakable. He assures Dr. Clifford that just as his son

is sound in limb, he is stalwart in spirit, and Meredith


To talk nonsense, or poetry, or the dash between
the two, in a tone of profound sincerity, and to
enunciate solemn discordances with received opinion
so seriously as to convey the impression of spirit-
ual insight, is the peculiar gift by which mono-
: maniacs, having first persuaded themselves, contrive
to influence their neighbors, and through them to
make conquest of a good half of the world for good
or ill. Sir Austin had this gift. He spoke as if
S he saw the truth, and persisting so long, he was
accredited by those who did not understand, and
silenced them that did. (pp. 99-100)

Meredith argues that it is precisely this channelization of

Sir Austin's mental and emotional powers that makes of him

an instrument of evil and destruction, just as the lesser

monomanias of his relatives aid in forwarding his folly.

He becomes a "moral dyspeptic" and the delicate "systems"

of Hippias, Algernon, and Adrian are objective correlatives

of the perverted "System" to which the Baronet sacrifices

all his energies.

S The System shows Meredith's conception of the incep-

tion and growth of egoism as the reaction of the overly

sensitive individual to the judgments and scrutiny of the

"World," from which he wishes to protect his core of Self

and which isolation he achieves by strengthening his facade.

Sir Austin's response to his wife's desertion. has made him

a-full-blown egoist. While it is natural for a husband in

such a-situation to respond in a deeply emotional manner to

a double blow of infidelity (one suspects Sir Austin's sin-

cerity when he vehemently protests he finds more unforgivable

the .deception and flight of his friend than that of wife),

he relieves himself from suffering and, incidently, any

blame by intellectualizing the problem, feigning to be above

insult, and-concentrating on the education of his son, an

education significantly placing an unrealistic emphasis on

sexual chastity. Richard's ordeal, then, his struggle to

escape the emotional strictures he has internalized under

this tutelage, is indirectly brought about by the World.

Ironically, his father raises him with the least knowledge

of that social animal, the World, which has most influenced

his upbringing. Furthermore, it is his very ignorance of the

principles upon which the World operates that results in his

tragic adulthood.

Sir Austin's fears of the World's opinions are united

with a general distrust of women. The sexual infidelity of

his wife excites emotions he escapes from by devotion to an

inanimate ruling principle, so women and the World become

psychologically united. Women also, being "closer to Nature,"

have an instinct for probing one's weaknesses, so Sir

Austin's amorous potentials are satisfied with an innocent

pupil-tutor dalliance with Lady Blandish and the passionate

espousal of his system: "He remembered that he had divorced

the world to wed a System, and must be faithful to that exact-

ing Spouse, who, now alone of all things on earth could fortify

and recompense him" (p. 132). The association in Sir Austin's

mind of his son's educational system with the perfidy of wo-

men is again demonstrated in his explanation of the System to

Richard. It is an explanation couched in Manichean terms and

significant in its foreshadowing. Attempting to reason his

son out of his passion for Lucy, the Baronet delicately refers

to the boy's early loss of his mother, and the dedication with

which his father, who "chose to isolate himself from the world,"

has replaced the lack of maternal affection. In devoting him-

self entirely to his son's welfare, he believes,

". .. it is not vanity that tells me now that
the son I have reared is one of God's most hope-
ful creatures. But for that very reason you are
open to be tempted the most, and to sink the
deepest. It was the first of the angels who made
the road to hell." (p. 183)

Sir Austin's reactions to the World precipitate Richard's

preliminary ordeal (the struggle against the forces of stasis

in his youth, exemplified in the rick burning incident when

Sir Austin manipulates his son's reactions to his immoral

deed), as well as his ultimate ordeal (the separation from

Lucy and his fall from "purity"). Deceiving both family and

society, the Baronet reacts to his wife's elopement by pre-

serving in "the presence of that world, so different to him

now," his usual behavior, making "his features a flexible

mask." His closest associates and housemates assume the

blow lies lightly on his heart. However, his behavior is

generally deceptive and, while he hides behind the facade

of stoic wisdom, he is utterly incapable of adjusting his

perceptions to his misfortune and he becomes passive in the

face of unhappy circumstance. As Meredith comments, "If

the Baronet had given two or three blazing dinners in the

great hall he would have deceived people generally as he

did his relatives and intimates. He was too sick for that:

fit only for passive acting". (p. 4).

His adjustment to the facade he wishes the World to

behold dictates the behavior of Sir Austin toward Richard

after he hears of his son's marriage. Responding to his

inflexible pride, he does not realize that the rational

course he intends to follow in reaction will prove emotion-

ally destructive to Richard. His main concern is the pro-

tection of the self-made image he wishes to project to the


The Aphorist read himself so well, that to
juggle with himself was a necessity. As he
wished the world to see him, he behelf himself:
one who had entirely put aside mere personal
feelings: one in whom parental duty, based on
the science of life, was paramount: a Scientific
Humanist, in short. (p. 479)

Once again the direct influence of the World on the egoist

has indirectly affected a character with potential for

spiritual and social growth.

Sir Austin's egoism and its relation to the World

appears more sinister as Meredith depicts the seriousness

of his conviction by contrasting his view of public opinion

with that of other characters in the novel, of whom Adrian

and Richard are probably the best examples. They themselves

represent two poles in their consideration of the role of the

World in human affairs--experience versus naivete, cynicism

versus optimism, objectivity versus involvement. Meredith

treats both extremes with irony. Adrian reacts to the world

hypocritically because it presents him with the problem .of

satisfying his appetites: without compromising his character.

As Meredith puts it, "Adrian had an instinct for the majority,

and, as the world invariably found him enlisted in its ranks,

his appellation of wise youth was acquiesced in without

irony." (p. 8).

Richard's problems in respect to the world, on the other

hand, arise from a lack of knowledge about its operations.

Adrian accurately diagnoses the morbid manifestations of his

cousin's ignorance as naivete and idealism. Small tastes of

the World tend to convince Richard at every stage of his or-

deal that he has finally fathomed every secret of its behavior.

In the rick-burning incident it becomes evident that the boy

with the "inferior" education, Riptom Thompson, has more

practical knowledge than "the Hope of Raynham," whose naivete,

which he passes off as savoir faire, discloses their implica-

tion in the incident. Adrian discreetly muses on Richard's

first taste of life and analyzes the boy's main weakness as

his behavior reveals it. All his emotional safety valves

have been clamped tight by the System, and an unhealthy

head of steam has been building up:

"See," thought he, "this boy has tasted his
first scraggy morsel of life today, and he
already talks like an old stager, and has,
if I mistake not, been acting too. My respected
Chief," he apostrophized Sir Austin, "combustibles
are only the more dangerous for compression. This
boy will be ravenous for earth when he is let loose,
and very soon make his share of it look as foolish
as yonder game-pie,"--a prophecy Adrian kept to
himself. (p. 30)

Richard does prove to be ravenous, albeit he is never

truly "let loose." The brooding spirit of his father and

the shackles of the System are never shed, while his inability

to distinguish good from evil, caused by lack of exposure to

the evils of the world, incites him to foolish actions like

championing "fallen women."6 He shields them from a persecut-

ing society, trying, as Adrian informs Austin Wentworth, to

change the World, only to fall prey to the first temptress

he endeavors to reform.

Even so, Richard's attitude toward the World never causes

him to form a facade to protect himself from its opinion.

Although he does isolate himself behind a protective mask

for other reasons, as we shall see, he is desperately con-

cerned about Lucy's reactions to his behavior. Nevertheless,

the closest he comes to responding to the World in his father's

fashion occurs when the Baronet seeks to kill his son's pas-

sion for Lucy with the speech about "the foolish young fellow"

who loves while the World watches and laughs. Richard blushes

self-consciously as he views the World's reactions in this

instance through the jaundiced eyes of his parent, but he

does not adopt the response as his own.

Richard's inability to escape the influence of the

System results in his disastrous reactions to circumstances.

His behavior has been programmed so intensively over a long

period of time that his actions are to a large extent "deter-

mined" by his education. The union with Lucy is his closest

approach to the "natural" mode of response but, contrary to

Sir Austin's fears, Science ultimately triumphs over instinct,

and Lucy is lost.

This system which replaces the Baronet's wife embodies

inflexibility in its most horrifying form. an

ominous quality in a man who conceives his role as father

subservient to his function of Scientific Humanist (the term

itself is in this case a contradiction of terms). The inflex-

ibility of his character is reflected in the static, one-

planned nature of his philosophy and, despite moments when

it appears that Richard will be able to throw off the stulti-

fying influences of his education, its rigidity becomes too

much a part of his own nature.

The suppression of emotion in favor of intellect becomes

apparent in the very outlines of the System. Richard is fre-

quently referred to as a "young experiment," and his father

studies every aspect of his behavior with the detached eye of

the man of science. He resents Lucy as a variable that has

interfered with his project. The various stages of Richard's

development are carefully anticipated and catalogued, and he

advances from "seed time," through the "blossoming season,"

to the "Magnetic Age," each stage being fraught with

unique pitfalls. Sir Austin blames himself for the System's

malfunction because he was absent at a period of great crisis

and Richard falls in love with a maiden not scientifically

selected. For each stage a particular modus operandi is

indicated, as in the Blossoming Season:

At this period Jesuits will stamp the future of
their chargeling flocks; and all who bring youth
up by a System, and watch it, know that it is the
malleable moment. Boys possessing any mental or
moral force to give them a tendency, then predes-
tinate [italics mine] their characters; or if under
supervision, take the impress that is given them:
not often to cast it off, and seldom to cast it off
altogether. (p. 91)

Sir Austin is frequently characterized by his use of

medical terminology as he ceaselessly probes the changing

character of his son, imposing static explanations on an

organic entity. When Richard enters the Magnetic Age the

Baronet, fearing contamination from the disease of love,

dismisses Clare and her mother, as well as any inmate of

Raynham Abbey demonstrating the slightest romantic propen-

sities. Ironically, it is his own display of emotion in

kissing Lady Blandish's hand that excites in his son the first

natural promptings of sexual curiosity. After the disorder

Richard causes when he thrashes Heavy Benson, the butler, for

spying on a rendezvous with Lucy, Sir Austin surveys his

patient. "Like a cunning physician who has, nevertheless,

overlooked the change in the disease superinduced by one

false dose, he meditated his prescriptions carefully and con-

fidently, sure that he knew the case, and was a match for it"

(p. 211). When Richard suffers an attack of brain fever

__ ~_I_______~_~ ~___

brought about by the removal of Lucy from the neighbor-

hood, Sir Austin does not regret the illness and looks

forward to its being the cure of the malady of love. The

body has failed that the spirit might have time to revita-

lize itself. However, when Richard becomes a rebellious

adult, his father can only vainly guess at the internal

operations of his mind and heart. Puzzlement at his son's

state of mind is aroused when, after a long absence from Lucy,

he passes her and Mrs. Berry without speaking:

Sir Austin could not dissect the living
subject. As if a bullet had torn open the young
man's skull, and some blast of battle laid his
palpitating organization bare, he watched every
motion of his brain and heart; and with the grief
and terror of one whose mental habit was always
to pierce to extremes. Not altogether conscious
that he had hitherto played with life, he felt
that he was suddenly plunged into the stormful
reality of it. (p. 484)

Sir Austin never seems convinced that the System has

failed; at some strategic point his analysis, diagnosis, or

prescription was faulty, but not the basic scheme. When

Lady Blandish writes Austin Wentworth in the novel's final

chapter, outlining the tragic denoument, she suggests that

the Baronet already views his grandson as new experimental

material. Indeed, much of his seeming lack of consideration

for Lucy in the last days of her trial (and he has learned

to love her in his limited fashion) stems from his inflexible

opinions on the way the infant should be cared for, and he

actually keeps Lucy from her husband's side so emotion will

not interfere with optimum nursing.

Egoism, sensitivity to the World, and a potentially

adaptive character contending against an inflexible

System: all elements of the ordeal are present. How-

ever, without presentation of characters who are "children

of Nature" and who present a norm which throws into relief

the grotesqueries of the static characters, no ordeal would

exist. Richard would, without being really aware of doing

so, simply succumb to the System's strictures, and his own

nature and its potential for growth would never have been

enough in evidence to result in a conflict between stasis

and change. Therefore, Meredith creates a balance for the

Feverel family by creating Ripton, Lady Blandish, Mrs. Berry,

and Lucy. (Austin Wentworth can also be mentioned as part

of this group but, unlike Hippias, he operates more as a

deus ex machine than a fully realized character.) These

characters, "children of Nature," do not rely upon sheer

reason for directing their activities as does Sir Austin, nor

do they fall victim to their individual quirks as do Hippias,

Algernon, and Mrs. Doria Forey. They modify their behavior

to fit the occasion and do not, egoist-fashion, adjust the

situation to fit their view of themselves.

Ripton Thompson, variously known as "the boy without a

destiny" and "the old dog" (because of his loving, worshipful

support of Lucy), does not exist within the novel solely for

comic relief, though he is undoubtedly amusing. It is interest-

ing to note that Sir Austin initially brings him to Raynham

Abbey to give Richard his first taste of "the World." Ripton

has been brought up without a "scientific" plan, and Sir

Austin upon various occasions nearly rubs his hands in

visible glee over the superiority of his System to tradi-

tional training. All the usual experiences of youth have

come Ripton's way: he has been familiar with the rod long

before his experience with Farmer Blaize, he has become wary

enough of the adult world to refrain from exposing his guilt

in the rick burning when Adrian probes him and later in

life he has a balanced view of women because he has learned

by experience that women can be evil as well as good. These

are all situations Richard's scientific upbringing has not

prepared him for. The smart he endures under the farmer's

lash excites him to a plan of revenge more devastating than

any Ripton (a boy whose concept of hunger is more immediate

than his concept of honor) would formulate. When he reaches

manhood, furthermore, Richard's idealization of Woman and his

belief that he must be her knight should she fall into dis-

grace are results of his having been sheltered from the know-

ledge that any but "pure" women exist.7

Yet Sir Austin feels that his program for his son is

the most beneficial. Ripton's virtues and defeciencies, no

matter whose angle of vision is employed, are perfectly ex-

pressed when Meredith ironically comments, "Ripton was a

capital boy; but he had no Science." He may lack the know-

ledge of boxing which enables Richard to beat him at a fight,

but he is also untainted by the inflexibilities implied by

the use of "Science" in the novel.

The perfect foil to Sir Austin as father is Lawyer

Thompson, to whom the idea of raising a son on scientific

principles is so incomprehensible that he hides his con-

fusion when the subject arises by uttering encomiums on

port. As Sir Austin methodically probes the basis of

Ripton's moral unsoundness as evidenced by his reading lurid

novels concealed within the lad's law books, Mr. Thompson

obviously cannot appreciate the situation from the point of

view enjoyed by a Scientific Humanist:

"The lad has come out!" said Sir Austin.
"His adoption of the legal form is amusing . .
You are astonished at this revelation of your son's
condition. I expected it; though assuredly, believe
me, not this sudden and indisputable proof of it.
But I knew the seed was in him, and therefore I have
not latterly invited him to Raynham. School, and
the corruption there, will bear its fruits sooner
or later. I could advise you, Thompson, what to do
with him: it would be my plan." (pp. 142-143)

Whereas Ripton becomes a character more actively moti-

vated by instinct and his upbringing serves as an ironic

comment on Richard's, Meredith relies mainly upon female

characters to resist the forces of stasis represented by

the System. In their behavior natural "good" battles against

the System and its founder, as the Magian conflict envelopes

Richard. Ranging from the intellectual Lady Blandish to that

bulwark of common sense, Mrs. Berry, these women characters

either learn that life is more complex than any dogma can

admit, or they are already aware of that fact on an instinc-

tive level. It is, therefore, natural that Sir Austin should

view the sex as deadly foes. He recognizes them as forces

not easily controlled. During the Magnetic Age, when

the misogynist Benson virtually depopulates Raynham of

women, the Baronet despondently acknowledge the impossibility

of legislating where there are women.

When the time comes to warn his son about the dangers

of sexual attraction (dangers the lad has already succumbed

to), Sir Austin attempts to relate the war of the sexes to

the struggle between good and evil previously encountered by

Richard in the matter of the Farmer's hayrick. Presumably

Richard learned from this incident that passion is destructive,

so when the Baronet utters with omnious significance, "there

are women in the world, my son" the young man is expected to

make the "logical" emotional connection between the evils of

revenge and love. Thinking to lighten his weighty lecture

with levity, Sir Austin injects some humor, negating by his

offensive tone all the previous warnings against women given


[He] . sketched the Woman--the strange thing
made in our image, and with our faculties--
passing to the rule of one who in taking her
proved that he could not rule himself, and had
no knowledge of her save as a choice morsel which
he would burn the whole world, and himself into
the bargain to possess. (p. 185)

Thus to deny the potency of natural instinct places Sir

Austin poles apart from Lady Blandish, Mrs. Berry, and Lucy.

The dilemma faced by Lady Blandish differs in nature

from that confronted by Mrs. Berry and Lucy, inasmuch as hers

is a gradual enlightenment about the System and its founder.

Emotionally drawn to the Baronet because she first admires

his philosophy, she comes to realize she worshipped a monster,

and she discovers her delusion when his fiats begin to

antagonize directly her own conceptions of proper actions.

As she ceases to worship, she again becomes capable of

directing her own behavior. Her instinct's resistance to

Sir Austin's conception of Science created her personal

Magian conflict, and instinct so overwhelmingly triumphs

that she begins to detest Sir Austin and the inflexibility

of behavior he represents. At first she is fascinated by

the claims trumpeted by Science. When Richard's love for

Lucy is first described to her in terms of the System, she

is impatient with the explanation; yet when Sir Austin mani-

festly "cures" the infatuation, she is chillingly charmed--

attracted and repulsed--by the idea that Science can even

fathom love.

The result of her admiration for the man who seems so

wise is a surrender of her own thought processes to his dis-

cipline, yet the instinctive wisdom of her nature is ir-

repressible. Even while she enshrines the Baronet as a

paragon of wisdom, she often thinks him an "iron man" and

finds it necessary to "smother her intuitions." Her comment

to Sir Austin that when a wise man makes a false step he will

frequently go further than a fool is perceptive, although she

does not immediately relate its significance to her mentor.

When her instincts refuse to be repressed any longer,

Lady Blandish becomes a member of the group (headed by Mrs.

Berry until Austin Wentworth appears) actively engaged in

reuniting Richard and Lucy while Sir Austin stolidly waits


matters out in Wales. While the Baronet plays games with

his devil, Pride, the lady begins to grow critical of him--

a process, Meredith comments, dangerous to idols. No longer

does the System seem the glorious philosophy she once wor-

shipped. Instead, she constantly encourages intervention

in the newlyweds' affairs to effect an immediate reunion,

running counter to Sir Austin's plans. "Science is of

notoriously slow movement. Lady Blandish's proposition was

far too hasty for Sir Austin. Women, rapid by nature, have

no idea of Science" (p. 480). Sir Austin becomes aware

that he is losing grasp of a mind he found gratifying to

possess (without obligation, of course), and in the scene

where it becomes problematical whether Richard will actu-

ally return to the united family at Raynham, Lady Blandish's

disaffection places on the Baronet a double anxiety for a

successful conclusion: ". . between him and the lady

there was something of a contest secretly going on. He was

conscious that nothing save perfect success would now hold

this self-emancipating mind"(p. 534) [italics mine].

On the other hand, Lucy and Mrs. Berry evidence no

struggle toward self-expression and proper natural action as

does Lady Blandish. They have not obscured their intellects

with egoistic rationale and, as a consequence, are closer

to the springs of Nature. Although Lucy is a more refined

character than Mrs. Berry, who frequently borders on cari-

cature, the closeness of their emotional rapport shows them

to be the same type of woman: sensible, though subject to

flattery, soft-hearted, but brave and stubborn in the cause

of right, and most of all, capable of loving intensely.

They follow no set pattern of behavior, but alter their

responses as occasion dictates, choosing the way they will

take, weighing the consequences of each turning with regard

to the happiness to be derived by all.

Meredith's consistent use of Edenic imagery as in-

numerable critics have noted, emphasizes the unspoiled nature

of Lucy, and in the early stages of her characterization she

seems almost to have sprung from the earth as a natural out-

cropping of her pastoral surroundings. When Richard meets

this "heaven bird" his old life is "whirled away" and "his

new life with her, alive, divine." The metaphor of discovery

developed in the allusion to Ferdinand and Miranda effectively

supports Meredith's lyrical description of the young couple's

meeting where the "Magnetic youth" and maiden discover the

brave new world of love. (The reader will not help but

notive how Meredith consciously achieves emotional tension

by juxtaposing poetic prose when he writes of the lovers with

the dry, ironic style developing the System, its supporters,

and its operations.) That Lucy stands for an entity, a

mystery not to be encompassed by scientific delineation, is

made apparent in the description of her appearance at the

first meeting:

Her brows, thick and brownish against a soft skin
showing the action of the blood, met in the bend
of a bow, extending to the temples long and level:
you saw she was fashioned to peruse the sights of
earth, and by the pliability or her brows that the
wonderful creature used her faculty, and was not

going to be a statue to the gazer. Under the
dark thick brows an arch of lashes shot out,
giving a wealth of darkness to the full frank
blue eyes, a mystery of meaning--more than
brain was ever meant to fathom: richer, hence-
forth, than all mortal wisdom to Prince
Ferdinand. For when nature turns artist, and
produces contrasts of color on a fair face,
where is the Sage, or what the Oracle, shall
match the depth of its slightest look? (p. 121)

Although Lucy matures after marriage, attempting by

personal sacrifice and self-discipline to fulfill what she

conceives her duty to Richard and his family, this aura of

innate freshness, goodness, and common..sense remains a con-

stant feature of her character. It is partly a cause of her

tragedy, since her innocence permits her to be used by the

unscrupulous Feverel clan. Adrian's approval of the sense

she shows in learning how to cook, for example, does not

prevent his participation in family plans to break the couple


Mrs. Berry, slave of Hymen though cruelly used by him,

a true "Penelope" awaiting the return of her straying mate,

is truly Lucy's most devoted ally. Tending toward Dickensian

flatness, she is, however, preserved from caricature by her

ability to adapt to changing circumstances, not relying on

stereotypical modes of response. Meredith pays her his

highest compliment when he enrolls her in the ranks of the

children of Nature, indisputably naming her a "natural person"

(p. 512). Her being natural, he adds, results in her also

being unselfish. Unlike Sir Austin and the novel's other

egoists, she loses sight of her own woes in contemplation


of the sorrows of those she loves, and Martin Berry is

restored to a wife whose energies are no longer directed

toward bemoaning his absence: her care is absorbed by

Lucy and the child.

From the start (long before Lady.Blandish is, and much

more acutely than Lucy will permit herself to be), Mrs.

Berry is aware of the dangers of the couple's separation

and the family's unconscionable demands. Wiser in the ways

of the world, or more specifically, in the ways of biology,

she minces no words in warning both husband and wife of the

marital infidelity each is courting through their tacit

agreement to separation. She expostulates to Richard, "A

father's will . that's a son's law; but he musn't go

again' the laws of nature to do it" (p. 427). Hers is the

bosom Lucy always seeks for refuge as maid, wife, and mother.

The semi-comical view of Mrs. Berry in the scene of Richard's

final parting from Lucy as she revives the wife, bemoans the

flight, and sings to the awakened baby simultaneously, moves

Meredith to cast her character in sharp relief against Sir

Austin's: ". . and if the Scientific Humanist to the day

of his death forgets the sight of those two true women jig-

ging on their wretched hearts to calm the child, he must have

very little of the human in him" (p. 553).

The forces of good and evil thus arrayed for the Magian

Conflict, represented in a battle between stasis and growth,

the ordeal goes forward. No matter how individual characters

view the nature of ordeal, the real trial Richard undergoes

is one which will determine whether or not he can transcend

the strictures of his education and respond to life independ-

-ently. The egoists of the novel show the tunnel vision

-typical of the breed in narrowly interpreting the meaning

of "ordeal." Sir Austin, pricked by marital misfortune,

-sees woman as man's basic ordeal, mistaking her as the total

problem rather than a partial aspect. He warns Richard:

: It is when you encounter them you are thoroughly
on trial. It is when you know them that life is
either a mockery to you, or, as some find it, a
gift of blessedness. They are our ordeal. Love
S of any human object [italics mine] is the soul's
ordeal; and they are ours, loving them, or not.
S. . _(p. 18.3)

-----Ignorant that woman is only a catalyst, he names her as

the sole cause. Later he realizes that his son's ordeal is

his& own, but he is too bound in his egoism to perceive it is

all love that is on trial. Instead, his conception of the

brdeal.becomes a battle of vindication for the System. Will

his son respond to his father's stimuli as the latter sends

out vague signals from his Welch retreat, or will he reject

thea lessons of filial piety and return to Lucy? Ultimately,

both Richard and his father fail to weather the ordeal: the

System defeats itself, and Richard is destroyed in the pro-

cess because he has been programmed to respond inflexibly and

not even love can reverse his conditioning.

Adrian and Mrs. Doria Forey interpret the ordeal from

their respective egoistically limited perspectives, Adrian in

his detached, amused cynicism ironically referring to the

young man as "Richard of the Ordeal," and Mrs. Doria persuading

both herself and her nephew that Sir Austin's testing of

the latter is beneficial, while seething with disappointed

anger at the girl who foiled her plans of a marriage between

Richard and Clare.

Meredith himself makes it clear in Chapter Thirty-nine

("In Which the Last Act of a Comedy Takes the Place of a

First") that the impulse to action and one's response to it

is the impetus of ordeal. Richard's marriage, his first

significant independent action, becomes the Rubicon he must

cross to independence and maturity. When heroes (the term

itself is redolent of the challenges and ordeals of the

chivalric age) have taken this first step

The shores relinquished shrink to an infinite
remoteness. There they have dreamed: here
they must act. There lie youth and irresolution:
here manhood and purpose. They are veritably in
another land: a moral Acheron divides their life
. The Philosophical Geography (about to be
published) observes that each man has, one time
or other, a little Rubicon--a clear or foul water
to cross. (p. 286)

"Conscience and Lucy are one" as Richard takes his initial

step into maturity, but he fails to carry through on his

action because of insufficient knowledge of himself and

others. Since he was too long sheltered, his code of con-

duct makes no allowances for hidden and unexplored impulses.

Lady Blandish gets closest to Meredith's concept of

the ordeal as the pain of growth when after Lucy's death

she writes to Austin Wentworth, "His ordeal is over." Not

only are Sir Austin's silly games of testing, suggested by

his "devil," at an end, so is Richard's promising career.

Lucy, who precipitated the ordeal and might have been able

to cause it to end in maturation, has been destroyed physi-

cally by the System just as Richard has been demolished

emotionally. The Lady indicates the level of Richard's

desolation by describing his passive reaction to his father's

report that Lucy is dead: ". . if he has saved his son's

body, he has given the death-blow to his heart. Richard

will never be what he promised" (p. 557).

Precisely why Richard fails in his ordeal and does not

mature raises the Magian conflict of free will and deter-

minism, and the degree to which each functions in the novel.

If Richard is so programmed to respond in particular ways

to given stimuli, can he be censured for not having developed

appropriate new modes of behavior? Although thoroughly

cognizant and appreciative of the pervading influence of

environmental conditioning, Meredith remains a firm believer

in the individual's power of choice and is essentially in

greater agreement with the adherents of free will. Read in

this light, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel becomes a portrayal

of man's dynamic struggle to exercise his own freedom. Fail-

ure to achieve success is an individual shortcoming, not an

inherent influence of necessity.

Richard comes to ruin because the static System does not

make allowances for nature and natural drives. He is naive

but proud, and his education is a mere superimposed mechanical

habit of response, resulting in inflexibility and unwilling-

ness to compromise. In short, he is himself very much like

an egoist. His superhuman expectation of his own potential

is conveyed through his consistent characterization as a

"hero" with a rigid concept of honor and an idealistic

impulse to constant battle, be it with Farmer Blaize,

Heavy Benson, or social convention. This hero makes de-

mands of society on the grounds that his proportions are

larger than those of common men:

He may be compared to one whom, in an electric
circle, it is given to carry the battery. We
caper and grimace at his will; yet not his the
will, his the power. 'Tis all Fortune's whose
puppet he is. She deals her dispensations through
him. Yea, though our capers be never more comical,
he laughs not. Intent upon his own business, the
true hero asks little services of us here and there;
thinks it quite natural they should be acceded to,
and sees nothing ridiculous in the lamentable con-
tortions we must go through to fulfill them. Pro-
bably he is the elect of Fortune, because of that
notable faculty of being intent on his own busi-
ness: "Which is," says The Pilgrim's Scrip, "with
men to be valued equal to that force which in water
makes a stream. (pp. 221-222)

That "hero" is used ironically throughout the novel is

apparent: the heroic posture invariably results in disaster

as when, for example, Richard's confused sense of honor

incites him to take up arms against society on behalf of

"fallen women." Later Meredith protagonists will challenge

social custom as part of their ordeal, but the ludicrous

element of posturing will not be part of their motivation.

Richard's headlong, unconsidered plunge into reform not only

makes him naively ridiculous; it recoils and drags him from

his egoistic self image of gallant knight errant. Lucy tem-

porarily falls into the heroic trap when she construes her

self-appointed martyrdom to the Feverel's wishes as heroic

action on the behalf of her husband, but Meredith makes clear

that she discards this "heroic weakness." Richard himself

very nearly does so as well during the stormy German night

when Nature speaks to him, exciting his paternal feelings.

However, when he arrives in London, the letter from Bella

Mount excites anew his false heroism, and Nature loses

Richard to the System. The Magian Conflict is over.

Just as the egoists in the novel are inflexible auto-

matons masking their true emotions from an "unsympathetic"

World, they are characterized by the use of imagery related

to the rigid and fixed. The terms "mask," "machine," and

"engine" are used too frequently to be catalogued, but they

are never used to describe the actions of "natural" characters.

Any man who views the raising of his son as an experiment

must necessarily have a mechanistic philosophy about exist-

ence and, indeed, Sir Austin feels all behavior is deter-

mined. Nevertheless, it must be astounding to a father like

Lawyer Thompson to be questioned about Ripton's upbringing

as if the boy were a machine:

"Do you"--Sir Austin held the same searching
expression--"do you establish yourself in a radiating
center of intuition: do you base your watchfulness
on so thorough an acquaintance with his character,
so perfect a knowledge of the instrument, that all
its movements--even the eccentric ones--are antici-
pated by you, and provided for?" (p. 133)

Richard himself is frequently referred to by the other

characters as a machine, a type of human dynamo, set loose

on London for the destruction of all. In another sphere,

Hippias, constantly complaining about his dyspepsia, is

accused of laying his machinery bare to others in his descrip-

tion of internal malfunctions.

_ ~ ~i

These egoists not only operate like engines; they

camouflage their clockwork souls as well as possible by

the adoption of masks, those facades so convenient for

concealing naked ego.8 Sir Austin is so frequently in-

volved in assuming a mask that he is unable to fathom others

in his family circle resorting to the same type of conceal-

ment. His puzzlement over Richard's "normal" behavior after

his separation from Lucy arises from the Baronet's inability

to conceive that Richard has likewise learned to wear a mask.

His father has spent too much of his life adjusting his own

features to have the opportunity to suspect another of the

same design. After his wife's elopement, Sir Austin's mask

is adjusted; after Richard's marriage some further modifica-

tions are required. It is not painless to wear a mask, but

to do so is better than suffering the scrutinizing eyes of

others to rake the sensitive soul of the inner man:

For a grief that was private and peculiar, he
unhesitatingly cast the blame on humanity; just
as he had accused it in the period of what he
called his own ordeal. How had he borne that?
By masking face. And he prepared the ordeal for
his son by doing the same. This was by no means
his idea of a man's duty in tribulation .
But it was his instinct to act . .. Moreover,
it would cost him pain to mask his face; pain
worse than that he endured when there still re-
mained an object for him to open his heart to
in proportion, and he always reposed on the Spartan
comfort of bearing pain and being passive. (p. 438)

Just as the egoist can be discerned by the presence of

mechanistic imagery he can be detected by the way in which he

employs words such as "fate," "destiny," "fortune," "providence,"

and "chance." Meredith sees as a peculiarly human folly the

desire to rationalize one's existence by positing a special

agency personally active on the individual's behalf. Nature,

or process, unconcerned about the individual, ideally prompts

man to release himself from the belief in a paternalistic

overseer. Only by this detachment from reliance on the

supernatural can man release himself from the shackles of

self-centeredness. Meredith believes in the action of "chance"

or "fortune," even in the simpler notions of Providence, but

he abhors the notions of "destiny" and special Providence so

dear to the egoist. When the terms above are used as synonyms

for "circumstance" or "luck," one is dealing with a "natural"

character, one who does not feel that the universe is charted
around his own personal existence. When Mrs. Berry says

children are a gift from Providence, she is referring to

quite a different Providence than that patronized by Sir


Indeed, as is typical with many of Meredith's egoists,

Sir Austin equates himself with Providence, and seeks to be-

come the unseen, controlling force in his son's life. When

the System is functioning well, the Baronet feels unified

with a universal plan for good. Thus, during his sermon

to the infatuated Richard, Sir Austin pleads, "If you care

for my love, or love me in return, aid me with all your

energies to keep you what I have made you, and guard you

from the snares besetting you" (p. 185). His son has come

from his hands perfectly formed. Upon him now devolves the

task of keeping himself unspotted and unmarred. Adrian

perceives the System as an attempt to play-God, and he

explicitly states, "that Sir Austin wished to be Providence

to his son" (p. 35).

Therefore, even in its diction The Ordeal of Richard

Feverel keeps before the reader the relentless conflict

between static and active characters, the flexible and

adaptive "children of Nature" against the rigid and unbend-

ing egoist. The struggle, in Meredithian terms, is between

a type of "good" and "evil," as displayed by his consistent

use of the problem he poses in his early novels. If as I

have posited, the earlier works are chiefly concerned with

the struggle between "children of Nature" and ego, them-

selves only tangentially affected by the World, what other

situations lend themselves to the paradigm? Is not The

Ordeal of Richard Feverel, beautifully executed as it is,

such a total exploration of the problem that nothing is left

to discover?

Certainly not. Our author is slowly feeling his way

from an objective art form to one almost totally psycholo-

gical, .so his development of the central conflicts will modi-

fy with his style.. Furthermore, Sir Austin may epitomize

the monster of overintellectualization, but we have yet to

meet an epitome of emotionality; therefore, let us move on

to Sandra Belloni.


Lilian Sacco in The Significance in George Meredith's
Revisions in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (Diss., University
of Southern California, 1967), and others have pointed out
that initially Meredith intended to write about an "Ordeal,"
unique to the Feverels, but he changed his mind and referred
to the "ordeal" as a general trial of character initiating
adulthood. It was a wise alteration, necessitating the
removal of some gothic machinery, but broadening the theme's

C. L. Cline editor, The Letters of George Meredith
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 40. In a
letter to Samuel Lucas (July 7, 1859), Meredith explains what
he feels readers have failed to understand about the opera-
tions of the System:
The struggle of his love for a woman is a success--
til the father strikes down the fabric. The System,
you see, had its origin not so much in the love of
his son as in wrath at his wife, and so it carried
its own Nemesis . . The moral is that no System
of the sort succeeds with human nature, unless the
originator has conceived it purely independent of
personal passion. That was Sir Austin's way of
wreaking revenge.
I disagree with Charles J. Hill ("Introduction," The Ordeal
of Richard Feverel (New York, 1964), who uses this explana-
tion to excuse the System but damn its originator. Both
are inexcusable since both operate in a sphere beyond
Natural limitations, seeking to organize a plastic human
life. No person can feel capable of thus imposing on
another's character without, by definition, becoming an

John P. Reed in his essay "Systematic Irregularity:
Meredith's Ordeal," Papers on Language and Literature 7,
61-71, develops the digestive metaphor as a reflection of
all errors resulting from excessive rigidity of thought.
Not only intellectual but organic systems can be destroyed
by an indulgent or severe regimen.
If one has read several of Meredith's novels, he cannot
help but notice repeated references to fictions like The
Pilgrim Scrip (The Book of Ego, the diaries in Diana of the
Crossways, and Maxims for Men are the most obvious) and,

while the purpose for their use varies, they usually provide
ironic comment. Sir Austin makes sensible observations as
author of The Scrip, but his actions belie his words, show-
ing a total divorce between brain and heart. No wonder dir-
ect application of an aphorism is unpopular at Raynham! (One
is reminded of that later aphorist who grows peevish at such
dissection of her wit, Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson.)

Joseph Warren Beach, The Comic Spirit in George
Meredith (1911; rpt. New York: Russell and Russell, 1963),
p. 51. Beach argues quite properly that what Meredith
"wished to condemn was not so much a particular system as
the folly of putting faith in any rigid system as a
substitute for humane regard of the individual."
Lionel Stevenson, in The Ordeal of George Meredith
(1953; rpt. New York: Russell and Russell, 1967), makes
clear a situation which might puzzle a hasty reader. If
Meredith is sympathetic to the plights of women, why is
Richard's mission "foolish"? First, because its chief
foundation is self-importance; second, because such work
belongs to the mature and responsible, like Austin Wentworth,
who redeemed his sexual misconduct by marrying a housemaid.

John Morris, in his article "Inherent Principles of
Order in Richard Feverel," Publications of the Modern
Language Association 78, 333-340, suggests the novel's
two basic metaphors are the romantic ideal of chivalry and
the comic idea of the mask. For a more complete discussion
of chivalric imagery in the novel see Phyllis Bartlett's
study, "Richard Feverel: Knight Errant," Bulletin of the
New York Public Library, 63, (July, 1959), 329-340.

8Joyce O. Nebel, in Simplicity out of Complexity in
the Works of Meredith, (Diss., University of Wisconsin, 1967),
also feels the individual must shed his ego and adjust to the
preexisting social structure without becoming a mechanical
part of his society. That balance between man and world,
I argue, has been lost when one must assume a mask.

Joseph Warren Beach is aware of Meredith's attitude
toward a special Providence when he states in The Comic
Spirit in George Meredith, p. 47: "The reader of Meredith
knows how scornful he is of the inclination to throw on fate
the responsibility for the course of one's life . . It
leads one to neglect a study of the real causes outside or
within one's self, that lead to disaster or success . .
But for a man to devise a scientific system for avoiding
destiny is an absurd paradox."



While working within the same ordeal structure deline-

ated in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, Meredith introduces

in Sandra Belloni new experiments in structure and subject

matter, advancing, if somewhat awkwardly yet perceptibly,

to a more internal, individualized examination of the or-

deal process. The more objective style of the earlier novel

places a heavier burden on its plot, even though the author

feels free to examine the content of each character's mind.

However, in Sandra Belloni the author as historian, the

relator of the incident, is frequently overridden by the

author as philosopher, the interpreter of action. The ten-

sion created by the pull between these two roles is not

always artistically satisfactory, since the reader often

feels distracted and confused by authorial intrusion, but

the novel's style is significant in an examination of any

thematic and structural evolution of Meredith's works, be-

cause it demonstrates the opposite pole from the style he

adopts in the last novel to be considered in this study,

The Amazing Marriage, where action is superimposed upon

philosophy and internal monologue rather than the reverse.

As in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, the reader con-

fronts in this novel a group of static characters, one of

whom is of paramount importance in the protagonist's strug-

gle toward growth. Their eyes are fixed steadily upon the

World's opinion, as they mould their responses to its de-

mands as well as to their own internalized, unrealistic

ideals. However, it is in the figure of the protagonist

that we find a significant change from the earlier novel be-

cause, unlike Richard, Sandra Belloni is more instinctively

a "child of Nature"; in fact, she is much like Lucy in her

reactions though infinitely more intense. The fact that she

is a woman accounts for part of the change, but a large cause

of her difference from "the Hope of Raynham" is that her

character has been permitted to develop without a System; so

when ordeal arrives, when the stasis of Wilfred's sentimen-

tality pressures her to fit a pattern, she fights back with

the instinctive weapons of Nature and can be neither threat-

ened nor cajoled into conformity. Like Richard, her battle

is not directly against the World, but against its represen-

tatives who create internal confusion by the demands they make.

The type of inflexibility against which Sandra must con-

tend is of a different quality from that confronting Richard.
She must struggle against the folly of sentimentality, the

superfluity of emotion, while he was menaced by the absurdi-

ties of the superabundant intellect. One final and happy

difference between Richard and Sandra is that she success-

fully weathers her ordeal, avoids imbalance, and emerges a

mature character, grown in wisdom, aware of her individuality,

and capable of guiding her life, unswayed by either false

passion or selfish intellect.


In Sandra Belloni, as in all Meredith's novels, there is

a careful, deliberate juxtaposition of sentimental and

natural characters. Just as in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel

there were many egoistical characters, all reflecting to

limited degrees the monomania of their Chief, in this novel

one finds a plethora of minor sentimentalists exhibiting on

lesser scales the pure sentiment embodied in the person and

behavior of Wilfrid Pole. It should be kept in mind that

Meredith does not totally damn the sentimentalist as an

excrescence. Because sentimentality is a step which man's

character, as well as the social order, must pass through if

ideal growth is to be achieved, the sentimentalist is a

necessary eyesore:

Such persons come to us in the order of civiliza-
tion. In their way they help to civilize us.
Sentimentalists are a perfectly natural growth
of a fat soil . . I dare not say that civilized
man is to be studied with the eye of the naturalist;
but my vulgar meaning might almost be twisted to
convey that our sentimentalists are a variety owing
their existence to a certain prolonged term of com-
fortable feeding. The pig, it will be retorted,
passes likewise through his training. He does.
But in him it is not combined with an indigestion
of high German romances. (p. 6)

Actually, the sentimentalist, in the extreme sensitivity

of his feelings, represents an improvement over the slimy

primordial self, but the author would not have the individ-

ual stop in this half-way house to optimum natural develop-

ment. Just as with the egoist, self is the main concern of

the sentimentalist, as he evaluates each circumstance he

meets. And ideally it is not until self is transcended that

man reaches his full potential for unselfish action.

The lines of battle for Sandra's ordeal are drawn

principally between herself as a "child of Nature" and the

Pole family as instruments of sentiment. A further dramatic

contrast between the two camps is provided by the juxtaposi-

tion of Sandra's love for Wilfrid and the romance of Cornelia

Pole and Sir Purcell Barrett. Other sentimentalists not dir-

ectly involved in these central conflicts will be mentioned

only tangentially. The Pole sisters, who feel immense super-

iority to the simplicity of Sandra, possess as their "Single

Idea" the scheme of becoming ornaments to society, "rising

in the World." Since they are daughters of a London merchant,

their situation, founded as it is solely on the possession of

"vulgar" money, is tenuous, and life becomes a ritualized

game in which they force themselves upward in society. In

this game, called "Fine Shades and Nice Feelings," they

valiantly remodel their minds, habits, and allegiance to

their-ideal of the socially acceptable, finding ample reward

in invitations to dine with the neighboring gentry. Their

insistence on living a life patterned by an external force

makes their responses predictable and rigid. In common with

all Meredith's selfish, static characters, these girls develop

inflated opinions of their own worth, to the extent that they

wonder how their little father with his less than perfect

grammar can be the parent of such paragons.

Also in common with other Meredithian figures of inflexi-

bility (witness Sir Austin Feverel), the girls lack the in-

dispensable, sanative possession of a sense of humor--the best

prescription for putting emotions in perspective. They

cannot laugh at themselves, nor do they understand why

ludicrous Mrs. Chump creates gales of suppressed amuse-

ment in their aunt, Mrs. Lupin. This unfortunate relative,

because she knows her mirth is frowned upon, attempts to

choke it out of existence even though it demands expres-

sion crying, "I'm Nature." Cornelia fears her aunt is af-

flicted with some "disease," and Mrs. Lupin herself suspects

her sense of humor somehow makes her abnormal.

Also like Sir Austin and Sir Willoughby, the Poles find

"cutting" necessary to preserve the image they wish to pro-

ject. They use people as they would disposable instruments,

and once they have achieved the end a given person could help

them gain, that person is "sacrificed" to their further

advancement. They "manage" people and shift them about like

inanimate objects:

The circle which the ladies of Brookfield were
designing to establish just now was of this receipt:
--Celebrities, London residents, and County notables,
all in their several due proportions were to meet,
mix, and revolve: the Celebrities to shine; the
Metropolitans to act as satellites; the County .
ignoramuses to feel flattered in knowing that all
stood forth for their amusement: they being the butt
of the quick-witted Metropolitans, whom they despised;
while the sons of renown were encouraged to be con-
scious of their magnanimous superiority over both
sets, for whose entertainment they were ticketed.
(p. 22)

Even their interest in music, the interest that causes them

to befriend Sandra, is hypocritical. They see it as a way

to get important persons to one's drawing room. They much

prefer to "play upon" people, and they admire only those

who can compose harmonious strains on the social instru-


Egoist-like, they feel entitled by forces beyond them-

selves to achieve social happiness, and "Providence" be-

comes their ally as they break with their former "City"

friends. "Oh! To soar out of such a set as this, of

which Laura Tinley is a sample, are not Some trifling acts

of inhumanity and practice in the art of "cutting" permis-

sable? So the Ladies had often asked of the Unseen in

their onward course . (p. 212). Even when their scheme

is brought to a halt by their father's business reversals,

they find it impossible to believe the "Celestial Powers"

would add disgrace to poverty and cause their own fall to

ruin innocent investors as well.

By using the game of "Fine Shades and Nice Feelings,"

their vulnerable selves are screened from the World. This

game possesses its own test of value, and the sisters pro-

tect the "nerve of ridicule" by isolating any who cannot meet

their standards and "freezing them out." As "Pole," "Polar,"

and "North Pole" they construct icy armors as effective as

Sir Austin's mask, and thereby render themselves incapable

of any significant action because they deprive themselves of

knowing any type of behavior but the one they approve. loan

Williams outlines some ways in which these static modes of

response differentiate the Pole Sisters from Sandra:

During the action both they and Sandra have to
endure experiences which test their pretensions
and strength of character. The sisters come under

pressure from elements in external reality
whose existence they refuse to recognize, and
are eventually brought low by fundamental
weaknesses in character. Their collapse demon-
strates the truth of Meredith's assertion that
growth to a higher nature than the ordinary is
possible only on the basis of the acceptance of
the reality of human character, including its
cruder elements. Sandra emerges from her ordeal
with greater maturity and integrity because she
never attempts to evade reality or to pretend
that character and circumstances are other than
they really are.3

Their brother Wilfrid embodies even more grotesquely

the tangled character woven by sentimentality. Meredith

points out to the reader that this young man has potential

to overthrow the strictures which are its outgrowth, and he

suggests early in the novel that maturity will cause a

readjustment in Wilfrid's reactions to circumstance. How-

ever, as in the case of Richard Feverel, no such advance-

ment occurs; he is "locked into" a specific mode of response

too deeply engrained to alter. Instead of undergoing the

novel's main ordeal, Wilfrid actuates Sandra's trial, since

he is the most static character with whom she must interact.

In the denoument Wilfrid, instead of emerging a mature man,

degenerates into a ludicrous-automaton, completely at the

mercy of his immature emotions.

His system of response is-similar to that of all

Meredith's inflexible characters: he is oversensitive, too

proud, and out of touch with reality. He forces life to

conform to his "ideal" rather than accepting it as it is and

adapting himself to its realities. His sentimental approach

makes him behave much like the dog who begs to have his ears

scratched, but Wilfrid's pride subsequently causes him to

despise not only the scratcher but the desire to be scratched.

The rigidity of Wilfrid's responses is also reflected in his

tendency to be "played upon" as if he were an inanimate

instrument and, depending upon which strings are touched,

emitting sweet or sour music. Life consequently becomes

an emotional see-saw of need and surfeit, the need creating

bizarre behavior, the surfeit unintentional cruelty.

Sir Willoughby's maxim, "Possession without obligation

to the object possessed approaches felicity," applies to

Wilfrid as well as Sir Austin. When Sandra arrives at

Brookfield, the admiration her voice excites creates an

interest in Wilfrid because general acclaim makes her a

desirable object to possess. At all times Wilfrid has a

careful eye on the World and, when he is wooing Lady Charlotte

Chillingworth to advance his social position (he is "in

harness" to her as Meredith neatly phrases it), the accolades

the same World places at Sandra's feet seem to excuse his

attraction to her. Sandra is vibrant and passionate, where-

as Lady Charlotte is intellectual and cool, but the greatest

egoistical consideration is the satisfaction of Wilfrid's

pride that he is Sandra's first lover, while at thirty Lady

Charlotte has been "soiled" by masculine attention. Wilfrid

plays his double game, adroitly skirting all Sandra's sug-

gestions about marriage simply because he cannot commit him-

self to such a positive action. Day to day enjoyment of her

caresses is as far as he will commit himself. He enjoys the

exalted position of being a woman's "prime luminary," but

he rejects any responsibility for her.

To love such a girl as Sandra is particularly dif-

ficult for a sentimentalist, because she is so grounded in

reality that her clear vision and straightforward behavior

are embarrassing. He expects a woman's actions to be swathed

in "Fine Shades and Nice Feelings," so when Sandra speaks of

days of poverty when she existed on potatoes, or when she

bluntly describes herself as feeling as if she had been

emptied out of a sack, it requires all Wilfrid's powers of

idealization to place her back on the pedestal she must

occupy to deserve his love. Twice this "unbred" girl forces

him into direct contact with beer, the odious drink of the

"common man," and once she necessitates his actual flight

from her because her hair, redolent of pipe smoke, is

destroying his ideal. Her plain speaking and acting is

fatal to sentiment, but reality can be temporarily cheated

by fantasy:

Love, with his accustomed cunning, managed thus
to lift her out of the mire and array her in his,
golden dress: to idealize her, as we say. Recon-
ciled for the hour were the contesting instincts
in the nature of this youth: the adoration of
feminine refinement and the susceptibilities to sen-
suous impressions. (pp. 107-108)

Again the romantic liaison is the catalyst to ordeal.

Wilfrid has "good stuff" in him, but until his meeting with

Sandra his mettle has not been tried. He has, Meredith

interjects, been fattening on prosperity, but prosperity cannot

prove worth. That is the province of adversity, which tries

the powers of endurance and "should be a periodical visitor."

Adversity combined with circumstance can fuse the "double

man" into a unified individual; Wilfrid fails to become uni-

fied because he does not "embrace life," but attempts to

harness it to his own selfish needs. When Nature sees ordeal

approach the individual she asks:

Has he the heart to take and keep an impression?
For, if he has, circumstance will force him on
and carve the figure of a brave man out of that
mass of contradictions. In return for such bene-
fits, he pays forfeit commonly of the dearest
things prized by him in this terrestrial life.
Whereat, albeit created man by her, he reproaches
nature, and the sculptor, circumstance; forgetting
that to make man is their sole duty, and that what
betrayed him was the difficulty thrown in their way
by his quondam Self--the pleasant boonfellow.
[italic mine] (p. 112)

This self is the "devil" of pride which, from childhood,

has fiddled such a pleasant tune that to continue to respond

to it in adulthood and to create variations on its central

theme is the most gratifying form of existence.

When it has become clear that Wilfrid is not going to

grow and develop as a character, that he will forever be in

thrall to sentiment, his behavior appears twice as foolish

and erratic. He loses all caution and becomes weakmindedly

persistent in his endeavors to "have his cake and eat it":

to possess both Sandra and Lady Charlotte. For a long period

of time he cannot understand why the trial he inflicted on

Sandra has so incomprehensibly altered her character, and he

interprets her new reserve, which is in reality the outward

manifestation of new inner strength, as games girls play

with their lovers. He refuses to believe he can no longer

extract sweet chords from her soul while he remains suscep-

tible to her music.

Loss of a possession it was a pleasure to own stings

Wilfrid in much the same way the loss of Lady Blandish af-

fects Sir Austin Feverel. The prospect of Sandra's reject-

ing him as anything but a friend excites Wilfrid to mount

"Hippogriff" and fling himself headlong into an orgy of

sentiment. Hippogriff is one of the creatures created by

Meredith to personify static behavior, just as the griffin

represents Sir Austin's egoism. The beast Wilfrid mounts

is the product of overheated, hoarded sentiments which

"assume a form of vitality" that looks like passion but is

not. True passion is never divorced from common sense, but

Hippogriff has no ties to earth, and his rider, abandoning

all direction to him, careens madly in pursuit of a single

purpose, ignoring the implications of his impulsive action.

This, then is the "hero" naive Sandra loves, unworthy

of her though he be. Sandra, unlike her "Lover," as she

ingenuously calls him, and the remainder of the Pole family,

shows in many ways that she is a true"child of Nature" who can

transcend the mechanical responses of the sentimentalist.

She is alive with natural passion which she does not filter

through layers of rigid conventionalism, and she enthusiasti-

cally enjoys the commonplace and mundane. To the Poles'

disgust, this appreciation of the ordinary is really her

forte. She has a sparkling talent for creating immediacy in

experience, refusing to ascend to the lofty heights of

abstraction required to play the game of "Fine Shades and

Nice Feelings." Her fervor for Italy's independence cannot

exist merely as an ideal, and she constantly objectifies it

with concrete images of suffering and references to actual

people who have sacrificed for their country.

In addition, she possess the natural endowment of an

astonishingly pure contralto voice, which reflects her

deepest emotions and is so connected with her spiritual well-

being that it temporarily disappears during her ordeal. Music

is an integral part of Sandra's nature and her desire to

serve, to please and to inspirit, not an artificial adorn-

ment as it is in the Pole sisters, who play upon Society,

or Wilfrid, who enjoys being played upon.

Lastly, Meredith always associates Sandra with natural

images. The lyrical quality he employs to set the meeting

of Richard and Lucy apart from the general ironic tone of

The Ordeal of Richard Feverel is again employed only in

scenes where Sandra is the focal point of the action. Signi-

ficantly, these images are always verdant and pulsing with

life, while natural imagery descriptive of the novel's senti-

mentalists is rotten and decaying, as is the wasted willow

tree-where Cornelia and Sir Purcell Barrett meet for senti-

mental dalliance.

When Sandra is finally made aware that Wilfrid is play-

ing a double game, she flees to solitude where, with the help

of Marinis, Italian partisans, and the wise Merthyr Powys (a

type of Austin Wentworth--a sentimentalist, it is true, but

one committed to constructive action), she salvages the

wreckage of her emotions and emerges a more stable, self-

disciplined person. However, before this metamorphosis

occurs, she quietly bears almost intolerable mental and emo-

tional anguish, which is compounded by the loss of her sing-

ing voice. After personally witnessing Wilfrid's perfidy,

as she numbly returns to London by train, the only sensi-

bility aroused in her is her response to the meadows flying

by and her proud knowledge that she still has her voice: she

relies instinctively on Nature for comfort. However, when

she temporarily loses this gift in the dark hours of suf-

fering, she despairs (as if Nature herself had relaxed her

hold) and she contemplates suicide. Mary Gretton declares

of Meredith's heroines generally and Sandra particularly:

His noble women, one and all, win to their spiritual
freedom through suffering. Sandra, humiliated,
craves to see herself of worth in other people's
eyes. The question is--as Meredith sees it--will
she employ her merely feminine and mercantile
attributes, trade on her appearance, or will she
determine to be valuable in her own eyes, mould
herself from within outwards?4

But Sandra is composed of strong emotional material and, as

she rises from this low point, brought back to life in a

manner of speaking by the love of her friends, particularly

Merthyr,. she anticipates the return of her voice, feeling

each day more certain of its inevitable reappearance.

As Tracy Runningbrook writes to Wilfrid, Sandra's

ordeal has perfected her; has rubbed away the rough edges of


girlhood and left a beautiful woman full of wisdom, strength,

and tenderness. Not only is the change manifested in her

outward demeanor: her thinking is likewise altered, and

Tracy automatically resorts to musical imagery to point the

contrast between Wilfrid's and Sandra's attitudes toward

love as.they now exist:

"If you can fancy a girl at her age being
able to see, that it's a woman's duty to her-
self and the world to be artistic--to perfect
the thing of beauty she is meant to be by nature!
--and, seeing, too, that an instrument
like any other thing and that we must play upon
it with considerable gentleness, and that tearing
at it or dashing it to earth, making it howl and
quiver, is madness, and not love!--I assure you
she begins to see it." (p. 481)

Wilfrid's response, fired by this description, is to mount

Hippogriff, to place himself at the mercy of his emotions

and try to regain Sandra's love. Her growing maturity finds

no echo in his stagnant character.

When Sandra, as anticipated, regains her voice, it has

become richer and more passionate than it was before her

ordeal, reflecting the new depths of knowledge and feeling

her nature has reached. In a scene paralleling that which

introduced her, she again sings in the woods, and it seems

to Tracy as he listens at a distance, that her voice is hardly

real--as if it were a disembodied spirit of that enchanted

spot. It is interesting to note that Sandra always seems

better able to sing outdoors. Her voice, hitherto an untrained

gift of Nature, sometimes falters in drawing rooms, but under

trees and the night sky it is powerful, as if it touched its

origin and gained strength.

_ ___ _

Indeed, she is closely associated with particular

natural imagery throughout the novel: trees, moonlight,

rushing clouds, running streams all emphasize her dramatic

closeness to Nature. These beauties profoundly move Sandra,

and Meredith comments that such surroundings :create her

ability to translate to others through her voice the powers

they stir in her. Not only does Nature inspire her talent,

however. Sandra, like Lucy, is also described physically

in natural terms, seeming like the latter to have sprung

directly from earth: "Her face was like the after-sunset

across a rose-garden, with the wings of an eagle poised

outspread on the light" (p. 201). In her final triumph all

Nature lies expectant for her voice as she charms the woods

around Lady Gosstre's estate. The poetic description employ-

ed here sets the mood for the manifestation of her oneness

with Nature, her recovered voice:

A sharp breath of air had passed along the dews,
and all the young green of the fresh season shone
in the white jewels. The sky, set with very dim
distant stars, was in grey light around a small
brilliant moon. Every space of earth lifted clear
to her; the woodland listened; and in the bright
silence the nightingales sang loud. (p. 593)

Unlike the other women in the novel--Lady Charlotte,

Georgiana Ford, and the Pole sisters--Sandra is warm and

affectionate. Her passionate emotions are as strong as a

tropical storm, and no false sense of-delicacy dictates that

she act contrary to common sense and dissemble her true feel-

ings. She will make any sacrifice for those she loves, and

her main reason for finally leaving to study in Italy is to

bribe Mr. Pericles to ease business pressures on the Poles.

Her passionate nature, however, extends as well to the

lowlier spheres of existence, and the Poles' behavior is

rendered more wooden in comparison as Sandra embraces

experiences they judge shocking or laughable according

to the rules of their "Game" and "Scheme." It is ironic

that their restrictive way of life should be preserved by

a loan from a "vulgar" girl with a much too hearty appetite,

who does not try to hide that she is an animal, whose fin-

gers do not "melt," but remain solid when they are pressed,

who begs the gardener not to shave the daisies from the lawn

to make it smooth, who condescends to sing country songs for

yokels in a fair booth.

When Sir Purcell Barrett argues with her that there is

more nobility and grace in sadness than in mirth, he is

revolted when Sandra cites "dogs, and cats, and birds, and

all things of Nature that rejoiced and revelled, in sup-

port of the opposite view" (p. 416). The etheral, abstract,

idealizing sentimentalist prefers not to be compared to

blood-filled creatures, and he secretly thinks Sandra herself

is uncouth and animalistic.

Because of her closeness to Nature, Sandra is able to

master her ordeal, making it yield growth. As Merthyr points

out to Georgiana, she begins her experience with sorrow as

an emotional child. Merthyr realizes Sandra needs trial

before she will be capable of great artistry, and she begins

to understand what he means:

". .. if she has outnumbered the years of a
child, she is no further advanced than a child,

_ ~ I_

owing to what she has to get rid of. She is
overburdened with sensations that set her head
on fire. Her solid, firm and gentle.heart
keeps her balanced, so long as there is no one
playing on it. That a fool should be doing so,
is scarcely her fault." (p. 499)

Sandra learns to obey her natural impulses and,

unlike the Poles, to reject any response that seems outside

the rhythm of her spirit. Like Lucy Feverel, she finally

rejects false heroics and fantasies she fostered at the

risk of denying her real individuality; she no longer dreams

of Wilfrid conquering the Austrians with the sword while

she inspires Italian resistance with song, nor does she

long remain in the thrall of pleasant, egoistical martyr-

dom, forgetting her career for Wilfrid's sake. Instead, to

complete the labor of self-discipline begun by her ordeal,

she leaves for Italy well aware, as she tells Merthyr in

her parting letter, that she is growing. She intends to

permit this growth process to continue uninterrupted for

three years, and not even Merthyr will be given the oppor-

tunity to "play upon her heart." The seed in her is good

and can now be left to mature naturally.

As in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, love between the

sexes creates the initial pull of static against flexible

behavior, and Meredith dramatically demonstrates by a jux-

taposition of the loves of Cornelia Pole and Sir Purcell

Barrett, and Wilfrid and Sandra the ways in which the in-

flexibilities of sentimentality can become deadly. Of

these four individuals, only Sandra emerges stronger, not

_ ~ ~ ~

undermined by her own emotions. Had she too been a senti-

mentalist, her fate would doubtless have been similar to


Cornelia is Sandra's opposite both in temperament and

the ways she responds to experience. Instead of passion,

she displays an armor of freezing indifference. Of all the

sisters she is the most distant from and the most critical

of the "World." So rigid is she that, while her sisters

will condescend to frenetic active measures to preserve

their schemes, Cornelia remains elegantly aloof, Arabella

and Adela admiring how in her effectiveness Cornelia's

"posture triumphs over action" (p. 552). She is hypocrit-

ical while Sandra is honest. Cornelia practices personal

and social deception to the extent of encouraging the suit

of a Parliamentary bore, Sir Twickenham Pryme, while

secretly loving Sir Purcell, a penniless baronet, disin-

herited partly through his own ill-conceived stubbornness.

Both she and Sir Purcell, like Wilfrid, have a need

to idealize the beloved, and herein lies the disaster the

sentimentalist prepares for himself. Just as Wilfrid finds

Sandra more valuable when he pictures her as a famous diva,

Cornelia excuses Sir Purcell's poverty when she compares

him with Saint Francis: automatically the World which dis-

parages him sinks below his level. Locked into the need to

believe in the ideal, these lovers render themselves incap-

able of healthful action. Each having created the other in

his own image, neither can understand why the other will

not move to make their situation more tenable. Sir Purcell

_ __ ~

cannot sympathize with Cornelia's temporizing, while she

cannot comprehend why he does not speak to her father and

help her disentangle herself from her own stratagems.

Their relationship becomes static and must by its nature

remain so, since any change of the ideal means removal of

the love. Cornelia herself even begins to suspect one

must function like a machine to live up to an ideal.

Contrary to this sentimental idealizing, Sandra oper-

ates straightforwardly, initially innocent of the very no-

tion that passion can involve emotional duplicity. She

never quite understands the relationship between Cornelia

and Sir Purcell as they speak from their "masks" about

"bloodless" matters. She sees in them none of the passion-

ate desire for physical contact which characterizes her

feeling for Wilfrid, yet she knows they love one another.

The living, almost listening, trees which surround Sandra

when she sings in the forest are contrasted to the dead

willow where the sentimental couple meet, exchange books

and letters, and sow the "ashy fruit" which eventuates in

Sir Purcell's suicide at its roots: a victim of senti-

mental (and congenital) madness.

Sandra's suggested solution to this couple's dilemma

is as alive as their method of coping is mordant. When,

as she is nearing the close of her personal ordeal in

London, Sir Purcell unveils his heart to her, Sandra counsels

action. She cannot comprehend a lover who, knowing himself

loved in return, will not claim his beloved and make him-

self happy. Unfortunately for both Cornelia and Sir Purcell,


this advice is proudly rejected, dismissed as yet another

example of Sandra's uncouth animalism. The only force

Sir Purcell believes in is that of a malevolent, per-

secuting Providence actively involved in creating his

personal misery since his earliest childhood.

His answers sadden Sandra, who, now that she has con-

quered her own desire to idealize, does not wish to be placed

on a pedestal and sees the general folly involved in such

perverted self-worship. She has realized this is the only

place a woman can occupy in Wilfrid's heart. She expresses

this insight to Georgiana:

"You pray, and you wish to be seen as you are,
do you not? You do. Well, if you knew what
love is, you would see it is the same. You wish
him to see and know you: you wish to be sure
that he loves nothing but exactly you; it must
be yourself. You are jealous of his loving an
idea of you that is not you. You think, "He will
wake up and find his mistake:" or you think, "That
kiss was not intended for me;" not "for me as I
am." Those are tortures." (p. 513)

The disastrous nature of Cornelia's sentimental pas-

sion for Sir Purcell, as well as the ludicrous spectacle

of Wilfrid astride Hippogriff, are foils to the suffering,

growth, and renewed ties with life Sandra experiences. Her

close attachment to common sense signals to her when a

relationship has been outgrown.

Therefore, Sandra remains the novel's most "natural

character," the one best able to see reality clearly and

deal with it directly, not perceiving it through blinders

imposed by a "Scheme," a "Game," or an excessive sensibility.

I_ _

It is doubtless the rigidity of behavior exhibited by the

remaining characters which suggests to the "intrusive

author" of Sandra Belloni the prevailing metaphor of life

as a puppet show where personalities become automatons,

played upon when the scientific creator-observer, in the

guise of author, plucks emotional strings he knows will

elicit predictable responses. Because of his intention,

stated explicitly and frequently to the reader, to expose

the machinery of his puppets, granting them only limited

powers of growth and personal action, the author himself

becomes Providence to his characters, manipulating on a

larger scale but in a manner reminiscent of Sir Austin

Feverel. In at least one of his "asides" to the audience

he even goes so far as to elaborate a "scientific system"

whereby one's emotional state might be assessed by the

angle of his hat.

With such authorial intrusion the specter of deter-

minism again looms over the problem of ordeal as it did in

The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, for if characters are totally

at the mercy of their creator (and the insistence is that

they are), how can the reader expect their behavior to

arise from inner motivation? Naturally, every novelist

has his characters "at his mercy" in a manner of speaking,

since they are expected to complete a pattern devised by

his imagination. Meredith, concerned with developing in

the ordeal motif a definition of his philosophy, could

indeed be expected to embrace a style wherein action becomes

___ ~

the handmaiden to reflection. Yet he has already demon-

strated his abhorrence of any deterministic system which

excuses the individual from responsibility for his own

behavior, no matter how deep in the throes of circumstance.

This ability to choose one's course of action will neces-

sitate certain results, but the emphasis is on the "be-

coming," not the end result. Therefore, Meredith intro-

duces yet another commentator upon the action--the

Philosopher. Visualizing the structure of the novel as

divided between the actions of the characters (the sup-

posed "puppets" to be manipulated) and the contending

voices of the "author" and the Philosopher (really exten-

sions of one another), let us see how the basic paradigm of

the ordeal motif has been experimented with, though basically

unaltered except in its method of presentation.

The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, while delving into pro-

blems of motivation and response, relies more heavily upon

plot--action--than does Sandra Belloni, where key scenes

are frequently performed "offstage" and learned of only

after the fact at second or third hand. While the pace of

the former novel is accelerated or slowed according to the

author's requirements, what actually happens to characters

is of main importance. In developing the concept of the

ordeal, Meredith is seen constantly seeking to subvert the

typical linear progression of action, attempting to study

the individual conflict from the interior--a case in which

what happens in a character is equally, if not more, important

that what happens to him.6 As his style evolves, he

struggles to find a way to expose this internal ordeal,

and in Sandra Belloni he uses the puppet show metaphor to

create an aura of artificiality around the "action," the

plot, the history. His basic premise is that the facts

of the tale are its least important moral denominator, so

he intrudes the authorial voice and the Philosopher to

explain broad social and psychological consequences of

characters' actions.

These two voices (although explicitly proclaimed

partners, and in reality two different facets of an entity)

are themselves presented dramatically as they attempt to

seize the spotlight from one another as the action unfolds

before them. They are not diametrically opposed in their

opinions, but a certain dialectic helps form a vital fore-

ground. At times they do not totally agree, as when the

Philosopher denounces the puppet fiction and proudly asserts

that the characters have been moved by "no arbitrary hand,"

while the "author" insists on the necessity of illusion.

But typically the Philosopher is ironically juxtaposed to

the authorial voice. The latter will expound a philo-

sophical point, only to have the former seize it and run

on at pedantic length, necessitating his containment as he

successively "rushes to the footlights." The author is aware

that such a digressive style will not capture the novel

buyers, a fact he regrets as he attempts to get back to the

action. Nevertheless, both voices express the belief that

a novel about current English society should explore

moral implications; pointing out each deadly tint of

sentimentality which threatens to undermine the entire

fabric of civilization.

Therefore, in their loquacious partnership the two

agree on the evils of sentimentality and stasis. The

"author" feels sentimentality is a necessary adjunct to the

evolutionary climb, but the Philosopher, who is a purist,

cannot abide the animal tail dragging behind the "stately,

polished creature . .." However, on one requirement

in the battle against inflexibility, they are in full accord:

the value of laughter. The sentimentalist, an anomaly, half

man and half beast, is at least a cause of laughter which

in itself is natural and wholesome:

S. they are right good comedy; for which I
may say that I almost love them. Man is the
laughing animal; and at the end of an infinite
search, the philosopher finds himself clinging
to laughter as the best of human fruit, purely
human, and sane, and comforting. So let us be
cordially thankful to those who furnish matter
for sound embracing laughter. (p. 215)

The puppet show metaphor and the blatantly intrusive

authorial voice, while permitting examination of the

mechanics of ordeal, are cumbersome and, even to the

Victorian reading public, a little weighty to literary

digestions. In the next novel to be examined, The Adventures

of Harry Richmond, Meredith utilizes a point of view one

would automatically expect him to explore in his search to

examine the inner nature of the ordeal. The biographical

approach offers certain advances as well as drawbacks in


the evolutionary development of this motif, and although

it is a style Merdith never repeated, an examination of

its theme and structure is vital to this study.



At its first appearance this novel was entitled
Emilia in England and paired with a sister volume, Emilia
in Italy. Subsequent editions changed them to Sandra
Belloni and Vittoria. I call the heroine "Sandra"
throughout this study rather than "Emilia," as she is more
;frequently called. Her entire name is Emilia Allessandra
Belloni and, since the characters in the novel have a
choice of what to call her, I have usurped their rights
as my own.

Ioan Williams, "Emilia in England and Italy," in
Meredith Now: Some Critical Essays,edited by Ian Fletcher
(New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971), p. 163n: "Though
Meredith several times defined sentimentalism . it
may generally be defined as it appears in his work as the
attempt to impose on reality a pattern which is more at-
tractive to the subject than that which actually exists.
It may therefore be the result of crude egoism in refined
-disguise, or stem from a genuine sensibility and lead to
a sincere and honest attempt to achieve improvement of
circumstances." The game of "Fine Shades And Nice Feelings"
quickly defines the Pole sisters as sentimentalists of
the first type, while their patriotic zeal marks Georgiana
-Ford and Merthry Powys as members of the second group.

Ibid., p. 145.

Mary Sturge Gretton, The Writings and Life of George
Meredith (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Harvard University
Press, 1926), p. 76.

R. W. Watson presents a thumbnail sketch of the
*"Philosopher" in his article "George Meredith's Sandra
Belloni: the "Philosopher" on the "Sentimentalists,"
-Journal of English Literary History, 24 (1957), 322:
"Meredith certainly does not mean "philosopher" in the
modern technical sense of the word, but something closer
to what we call the cracker barrel. philosopher. He is
someone full of aphorisms, epigrams, and even wisecracks
on the nature of life: he is an amateur psychologist who
analyzes the characters . he is a moralist in as much
as he measures the value of individual modes of behavior
against the progress of civilization."

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