Daniel Deronda

By George Eliot; Graham Handley | Go to book overview
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The action of Daniel Deronda occupies two years, from October 1864 until October 1866, beginning in medias res in September 1865. With one exception, which will be briefly indicated below, George Eliot's attention to chronological detail is meticulous, though she did not use the factual calendar of the period for her fictional time-span. The emphases in the chronology have a dual function. They act as a unifying device, underlining parallels and contrast of situation in each of the sections sharing a common time: they also connect the small personal world of fictional experience with the greater world of solid historical fact, thus establishing a 'separateness with communication' which, as I have indicated in the Introduction, is the major theme of Daniel Deronda.

Gwendolen and her family arrive at Offendene on 'a late October afternoon' [ 1864] (iii). Gwendolen is 20, and has not seen her uncle and aunt Gascoigne since she was 16 (iv). Mr Gascoigne is already looking forward to the Archery Meeting which will be held in the following July [1865]. His son Rex is to come home before Christmas. Meanwhile, Gwendolen visits Quetcham, probably in November; here Klesmer's attitude provokes an authorial comment on 'the late Teutonic conquests' (v). This is a reference to Bismarck's triumphs in the 1860s and his defeat of the French ( 1870) in the real time outside the novel. Gwendolen's tableaux vivants dominate the wet days before Christmas, but in the New Year [ 1865] she sets off to go hunting with the love-sick Rex on 'an exquisite January morning' (vii). The next explicit dating registers 'Eight months after the arrival of the family at Offendene, that is to say in the end of the following June' (ix), with another historical reference, this time to the 'results' ('state' originally in MS) of the American Civil War. An entry by GE in Notebook 711 gives the date on which Lord Russell sent a letter to the Admiralty announcing the end of the war as 2 June 1865. The lapping of what GE refers to as the 'historic stream' is distinctly audible.

The Archery Meeting is on 25 July (xiv), and Daniel meets Mirah at about the same time 'on a fine evening near the end of July' (xvii). The picnic and roving archery meeting is on 13 August, Gwendolen meets Mrs Glasher on that day and leaves to join the Langens on 14 August. Grandcourt follows her at his own indolent pace, arriving 'on the fifth day after Gwendolen had left Leubronn' (xv). Gwendolen is away from home for three weeks, returning early in September, but in Leubronn she was seen gambling by Deronda who, shortly after his rescue of Mirah, went to Leubronn with the Mallingers. He expected to be away from London for two months (xx). On arriving home Gwendolen is struck by her mother's suffering--'The dear face!--it is ten years older in these three weeks' (xxi).

Grandcourt probably returns from Leubronn towards the end of the


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Daniel Deronda
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