Daniel Deronda (First Edition) by George Eliot

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2015-06-26 10:53:28

Daniel Deronda is a novel by George Eliot (1819-1880). The first edition of this work was published in 1876 by William Blackwood and Sons. Background

This was the last novel Mary Anne Evans completed. She began the novel needing to give her moral and wise protagonist an ideological purpose, and as she was writing became deeply interested in Jewish culture, largely due to a friend she made, a Jewish lecturer and proto-Zionist Immanuel Oscar Menahem Deutsch. She wished to dispel English ignorance and intolerance of Jews, and make obvious much historical injustice which needed amending.

Plot, Characters, Themes

This was the only novel by George Eliot that focused on contemporary Victorian society rather than provincial England in earlier years, such as the pre-Reform Bill era of Middlemarch and Felix Holt.

It centres around Daniel Deronda, a ward of a wealthy gentleman, as he is torn between the conflicting and irreconcilable worlds both in society and within himself: that of the affluent high society he was raised in, and the Jewish community whom he befriends. He begins to lean more and more towards the Jewish community, as their spirituality and morality are shown to be superior. Daniel discovers that his father was a Jew, and eventually must sacrifice one area of society for the other.

It is a poignant social satire, with characters unsure of a right moral path, and includes, unusually for the time, a positive illustration of Jewish Kaballistic and proto-Zionist philosophies. It was even incredibly influential to Jewish Zionism itself, and decided some people to become Zionists.

The novel contains spiritual and mythological elements relating to Kabbalah, but also to English history. It presents faith as progressive to moral and spiritual growth.

Author

George Eliot was hugely admired in her day. She wrote seven novels as well as poetry and essays.

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

First editions (1876, William Blackwood and Sons) are worth much more in their eight original parts. If they retain their original paper covers rather than being rebound, the value is hugely increased. Therefore it is not recommended to restore first editions.

First editions sold for $5,625 in December 2009 by Christie’s, $9,375 in October 2011 by Bonhams, and £8,125 in October 2010 by Sothebys.

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