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A novel by G. Meredith, published 1879.

The central character, the Egoist himself, is Sir Willoughby Patterne, rich and handsome, with a high position in the county. Laetitia Dale, an intelligent young women but past her first bloom, has loved him for many years. But the dashing Constantia Durham is a greater prize, and she accepts his proposal. She soon discerns the true Sir Willoughby and elopes with Harry Oxford, an officer in the hussars, thus bringing Willoughby his first humiliation. Soon he discovers the qualities he requires in Clara Middleton, the daughter of an elderly scholar (said to be a sketch of Meredith's first father‐in‐law, Peacock) with a passion for wine. Clara becomes engaged to him, but soon perceives his intention of directing and moulding her; her attempts to free herself from the entanglements of the engagement form the main theme of the book. Clara envies but cannot emulate Constantia, and Willoughby struggles frantically against an incredible second jilting. Clara is meanwhile seeing more and more of Vernon Whitford, a poor and earnest young scholar (based on L. Stephen), who lives at Patterne and is tutor to young Crossjay, son of a poor relation, an officer of the marines. The spirited Crossjay is finally the means of Clara's release, for he unintentionally overhears Willoughby proposing to Laetitia Dale, a proposal which she refuses. Willoughby finds himself trebly humiliated. In the end his persistence achieves the reluctant Laetitia, and Clara marries Vernon Whitford.

Subjects: Literature

Reference entries

George Meredith (1828—1909) novelist and poet