Esther Lyon dreams of marrying into a life of refinement. But as she struggles to make her choice between two men, she finds her values challenged. Felix Holt is a respectably educated young man who has relinquished opportunity for life as an artisan. An idealist, he burns to participate in political life so that he may improve the lot of his fellow artisans. Contrasted with Holt is the intelligent heir Harold Transome, whose political ambitions are a matter of business. Plot twists involving lines of inheritance and legitimacy complicate the love triangle.
George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Ann, or Marion, Evans (1819-1880), was the author of several novels including Silas Marner. Middlemarch is considered not only her finest work, but one of the greatest English novels of the 19th century.