Doris Lessing says that Meredith is terribly underrated, and that, more than Eliot, Trollope, or Hardy, he came closer to doing what Tolstoy and Stendhal did for Russia and France: capture the economic and social realities of his nation and age. In this first novel, he tells the story of a baronet who tries to raise his son according to a System, based on Science and Reason, and how that System fails in the face of the complexities of life and human desire. (The novel serves partly as a critique of Rousseau's _Emile_.) _Richard Feverel_ deals candidly with sex for its time (in _Ulysses_, Stephen Dedalus mentions it as a way of expressing sophistication in morality and art), and has several strong female characters. Its narration is often indirect and very erudite (there are lots of classical and Shakespearean references), yet it is a very moving, and very sad book. Meredith reworked it several times, so the 2000 Penguin edition, edited with notes by Edward Mendelson, is perhaps the best to tackle.
This report prepared by David Loftus