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Romola (The works of George Eliot) Cabinet ed Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
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Editorial Reviews


“George Eliot’s humanity colors all her other gifts—her humor, her morality, and her exquisite rhetoric.” —Henry James --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

George Eliot's Romola, writes Robert Kiely in his Introduction, embodies the author's "wrestling with her own best theories of history and human nature as a creative experiment of the highest order." Set in Florence in 1492, a time of great political and religious turmoil, Eliot's novel blends vivid fictional characters with historical figures such as Savonarola, Machiavelli, and the Medicis. When Romola, the virtuous daughter of a blind scholar, marries Tito Melema, a charismatic young Greek, she is bound to a man whose escalating betrayals threaten to destroy all that she holds dear. Profoundly inspired by Savonarola's teachings, then crushed by the religious leader's ultimate failure, Romola finds her salvation in noble self-sacrifice. This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the 1878 Cabinet Edition. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: The works of George Eliot
  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: William Blackwood and Sons; Cabinet ed edition (1890)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00069X516
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,526,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Romola is constantly called Eliot's weakest novel, with even serious critics reluctant to praise it. However, it was seen in the 19th century as Eliot's masterpiece. Some of the blame for the novel going out of fashion must rest with F.R. Leavis who said that "few will want to read Romola a second time, and few can ever have got through it once without some groans." If Leavis, viewed as one of the great literary minds, thinks this, then more average readers like us are bound to be put off.
True, the start of Romola is bogged down in detail, but it is introduced by a wonderful, stirring and majestic 'Proem' which sees the Angel of the Dawn sweeping across the Earth and loftily states how humanity is the same now as it was when Romola is set. After this, the notes are best ignored - consult them separately, and concentrate on getting into the book. It is a stirring and sometimes hard read, and moves one with awe at what Eliot has created - you really feel you are experiencing Florence in the 15th century. There is one scene that stands out for me - the haunting and almost surreal episode where Romola drifts by boat to an apparent coastal haven. Images of peace and life are reversed disturbingly.
So ignore Leavis and the dissenters. If you've read another Eliot, you'll like it. If you haven't, maybe start with something else, but come back, for it's a rewarding read
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Format: Paperback
George Eliot spent two years preparing "Romola", and the result is a rich, densely detailed "Tale of the Renaissance". Never a facile writer, here she is concerned with one of the most intellectually challenging (not to mention politically complicated) periods in history; and she paints the panoply and power struggles as a background for the personal tragedy which is the novel's crux. While not an "easy read" in the Sir Walter Scott sense, "Romola" presents in sumptous detail the banquets, the festivities, and the famous bonfire of vanities that one associates with late 15th Century Florence.But from a purely literary viewpoint, the most important thing about the book is its delineation of Tito Melema, the young man who in the opening chapters is the story's hero, but slowly, irrevocably becomes its villain. Neither Sir Walter nor Charles Dickens has psychological insight (in the modern sense) as sharp as George Eliot's, and this study of a fictional character's downfall is one of the most stunning depictions of corruption in English literature. That he is the husband of the heroine, a sensitive, finely sensual woman, makes the tragedy all the more poignant. Scenes involving historical characters (including Savonarola and Machiavelli) tend to be a little stiff in costume movie style. Oh, and because the story takes place in the 1490's, one must imagine the Piazza della Signoria without Michelangelo and Cellini. This must really have frustrated a connoisseur like George Eliot.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes, it bristles with Glossaries and Appendices and Notes like so much barbed wire. (And if you actually read the Penguin editor's introduction, it's a sure thing you'll never read the novel: she makes it sound like about as much fun as chewing rocks.) But don't let all that deter you. You may have some rough going at the beginning, mostly because Latin and Greek scholarship is so important to the plot. Use the notes and they'll enhance your enjoyment of the story, but ignore them and you're still in for a thrilling tale gorgeously told. Tito Melema is one of the great characters in fiction, and he's someone we all know: a thoroughly despicable human being who has no idea he's anything but a nice guy. Eliot has wrought a dreamy and hair-raising hybrid of fiction and history, infused with her own astonishing insight and complicated sympathy and delivered in her matchless prose. I loved this book.
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Format: Paperback
Given the majority of Eliot readers begin with Middlemarch, I found myself in the unique position of not only beginning with Romola, but also on a subject that I find most interesting. That of Renaissance Italy. Beginning at the death of the great Lorenzo di Medici in '92 I read this great novel twice. Once quickly as any other Twenty-First century paperback; the second, slowly, with more respect for the intellectual scope within the pages.
After the first attempt I was mildly disappointed. I came away with no true sense of the whole that is fifteenth century Florence and a bewilderment at the inconsistent central characterisation of Tito Melema and his golden-haired wife, Romola. The supporting actors were brilliant, from Fra Girolama's fantatical Catholicism to Bratti's salesmanship. But I was left disappointed, believing in the superficality of Tito, the maddening naivety of Tessa, and the almost puritanical martyrdom of Romola.
So I re-read it. Slowly.
It is now extremely clear why this great work of english literature is, as Eliot herself puts it, a "book of mine which I more thoroughly feel that I swear by every sentence as having been written with my best blood".
Each scene is mesmerically depicted, the infintesimal attention to details and Eliot's total control of her subject matter shines through.
Renaissance Florence wasn't so well depicted by its contemporaries.
From Tito's waking at the Loggia de' Cerchi to his final fall at the Ponte Vecchio his character moves through a full range as you would expect from a man in his early twenties. His child-like mesmerism coupled with his Greek tutorage gives rise to a cherubic man whom Florence loves.
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