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This review is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

Meredith Revisited george meredith, Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside, edited by Rebecca N. Mitchell and Criscillia Benford (Yale University Press) £40.00

In 1862 the Saturday Review dismissed George Meredith's sonnet sequence Modern Love as a 'sickly little peccadillo'; it was trivial, confessional and, perhaps most damningly, indiscreet. By 1908, a year before Meredith's death, the Review's stance had changed somewhat: 'Everyone knows, and now everyone says, that Mr. Meredith is a genius, and supreme artist'. A man of Victorian society and yet critical of its overarching morality, Meredith was always a divisive figure. As the editors of this new edition demonstrate, 'Meredithian' was a term used by literary critics at first to describe writing they deemed too confessional, too personal. 'If "Meredithian" had once been an insult, it was no longer so.' By the end of his career it meant many things. 'To be "Meredithian",' they write, 'is to be penetrating, ironic, obscure, witty, acerbic, intellectual, imaginative, eccentric, sensitive or playful.'

Rebecca N. Mitchell and Criscillia Benford have returned Meredith's Modern Love to its original textual context, reprinted for the first time since its appearance in 1862, and in doing so bring a whole new audience to Meredith's work. The Modern Love sequence is sandwiched between poems about the English countryside and ballads. These poems were always meant to be published in this way. Mitchell and Benford note that these other poems serve as a 'kind of poetic exploration of the world beyond the libraries, bedrooms and dining rooms of Modern Love'. They are poems about contemporary events, including the Crimean War and the Chartist uprisings. They reveal a world beyond the love-knot of Modern Love:

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