In The Egoist, his comic masterpiece, George Meredith takes the traditional marriage plot of English domestic fiction and turns it on its head. The novel describes the repeated and disastrous courtships of Sir Willoughby Patterne, the egoist of the title. Three women become engaged to Sir Willoughby, but, despite his aristocratic arrogance and the manipulative power of his wealth, each is finally able to see him more clearly than he sees himself.
The introduction to this edition provides context for the novel from Meredith’s own life, his theory of comedy, and his understanding of Darwinian thought. The appendices include reviews, other writing on comedy, and historical documents on women, sexual politics, and the theory of evolution.
“Richard C. Stevenson is our finest critic of George Meredith. His superb edition of The Egoist makes Meredith’s most poised and brilliant achievement fully accessible to contemporary readers. Illuminating the novel’s contexts in the theory of comedy, the ‘woman question,’ and Darwinian biology, as well as in its author’s life and career, Stevenson restores the radical force of Meredith’s intervention in mid-Victorian sexual politics.” — Ian Duncan, University of California, Berkeley
“This is a fine edition of The Egoist. The treatment accorded this often-neglected novel by Richard C. Stevenson is predictably first rate, considering his earlier work on George Meredith. Following Meredith’s revised text is a plus here, offering, as it does, the author’s final intent. Stevenson’s apparatus also furnishes a useful guide to works relevant not just to The Egoist but to Meredith’s aims and techniques overall. Seldom have I encountered such a project, in which everything is in its proper place. This will be the indispensable edition of The Egoist for years to come.” — Benjamin Franklin Fisher, University of Mississippi