From AS Byatt in The Guardian... "It is possible to argue that Middlemarch is the greatest English novel. "Middlemarch" has a double meaning. One is Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita. The other is to do with the central English provincial counties in which it takes place - a "march" or "marchland" in English is a border between counties. The novel is an image of a society, political, agricultural, aristocratic, plebeian, religious, scientific. Its ambitions are those of Balzac's Human Comedy, from which George Eliot learned much. It is a microcosm, local but also universal, containing bodies and minds, individuals, families and groups, birth and death, tragedy and comedy, Rome and Europe as well as middle England in Middle Earth...." It began, as works of art often do, with an unexpected connection. Eliot was writing a story called "Miss Brooke", and she began work on a story of a scientifically ambitious young doctor in a provincial town, and suddenly saw that these two were parts of the same whole. Dorothea Brooke and Tertius Lydgate could be called the hero and heroine of the work, though they do not meet until the end of the first part of the book, and one of the powers of Eliot's writing is that a large number of her other characters, for a time, or briefly, are the heroes of their stories and the centres of their worlds.