Romola: Novel by George Eliot

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      In Romola, 1863, George Eliot left her Warwickshire memories behind. The setting is provided by Florence, Italy, and the time is the Renaissance. The strenuous preparations which the novelist made for the task is indicated by her remark that, “I began it a young woman — I finished it an old one”.

      The novel narrates the love story of Tito and Romola against the background of political and religious upheaval which rocked Italy, in 15th century. The colossal figure of Savonarola is introduced and the historical events of the day have their own impact on the love story. The novel has come in for a good deal of criticism. For example, Hugh Walker is critical of it and writes. “There are fine, even grand materials in all the later novels, and not least in Romola. The character of Tito Melema alone would lend greatness to this book, while the picture of old Bardo in his library is admirable. Yet Romola does not convince us of the historical genius of the writer. Something of the vividness and ready mastery of Scott is wanting. George Eliot has not quite succeeded in entering into Italian life, and both the talk of her Florentines and the character of Romola herself have been regarded as untrue. And so while the book is stately and grand, the movement is stiff. Tag familiar touches of nature in the English novels are worth more than all the learning with which the Italian book is loaded. It does not, indeed, violate history to any great extent, but it contains no historical character lit to take a place beside the historical characters of Shakespeare or Scott.’

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