An intellectual novelist, George Meredith was leisurely, epigrammatic, and involved at a time when the public admired the swift narrative flow of Dickens and Thackeray. His novels were designed to penetrate the hidden motivations of character. He boasted that he never wrote a word to please the public and counted as the greatest compliment ever paid to him the statement that he had brought about a change in public taste. Meredith's reputation grew slowly. His first important novel, "The Ordeal of Richard Feverel" (1859), a fine study of the emotional growth of a young man, is his most epigrammatic work and had little popular success. "The Egoist" (1879), a comedy in narrative, regarded by most critics as his masterpiece, was the first to receive popular attention. "Diana of the Crossways" (1885), his most popular book, gave to fiction a new and particularly well-drawn heroine, the woman of fine brain and strong body. His "The Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit" (1897) has been described as the key to his novels. But Meredith, like Thomas Hardy, thought more of his poems than of his novels and preferred to be remembered as a poet. In notes for "The Selected Poetical Works of George Meredith" (1955), G. M. Trevelyan writes: "His poems are more especially concerned with his philosophy, and the novels with his application of it to ethical problems." Meredith's philosophy was one of optimism, but it was "the optimism of temperament and not of creed." George Meredith received the Order of Merit in 1905. He died in 1909.