'There is no book of mine about which I more thoroughly feel that I swear by every sentence as having been written with my best blood.'. So wrote George Eliot of Romola, the novel which argues her most profound and utopian vision of the position of women. Romola's patient subservience to her scholar-father Bardo, her unhappy marriage to supple and treacherous Tito, and her passionate intellectual and spiritual awakening take place in Renaissance Florence which, like Victorian Britain, was caught up in a period of ferment and transition. Romola appeared in 1862-3 to high praise by Victorians from Tennyson and Trollope to Henry James, and discerning modern readers will recognize it as George Eliot's first mature masterpiece. In her introduction to this new edition, Dorothea Barrett explores the issues of gender and learning, desire and scholarship, and the interweaving of history and fiction which she identifies at the centre of the novel.