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George Elliot Novels

George Elliot

George Elliot

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 Reading George Elliot’s Novels

Personal Commentary:

Starting a few years ago, I decided I would over the next few years read as many of the classics as I could, before I get too old to be able to do so.  Last year I started conquering the George Elliot novels.  I wanted to read them a long time ago, but never got around to it.  I am glad I am finally getting to it. Reading George Elliot novels is a bit of a chore, well worth it in the end, but they are too long for modern readers. She is a master of getting into the psychology and innermost thoughts of complex characters, and describing the reality of life in rural England at the turn of the 19th century. Some of her themes are universal regarding male-female relations, male-dominated society, and rigid class rules are still relevant.  She was a proto-feminist novelist and quite controversial in her time due to her living happily with her married lover.  She died in 1880, and was way ahead of her time in many respects.  She has been re-discovered in recent years.  Her novels are being re-published under her real name, Mary Evans.

I have enjoyed reading these novels so far.  My favorite is “Silas Marner”, the  second favor is the Mill on the Floss, and her SF horror novella, “The Lifted Veil”.  “Adam Bede” her first novel was good, but a bit too long and tedious, as are all her novels.  Just too long for modern reader’s tastes.

My commentary follows along with additional information on George Elliot.  This is a work in progress, I will update it as I get through these novels.

Silas Marner

(Amazon preview)

George Eliot’s tale of a solitary miser gradually redeemed by the joy of fatherhood, Silas Marner is edited with an introduction and notes by David Carroll in Penguin Classics.

Wrongly accused of theft and exiled from a religious community many years before, the embittered weaver Silas Marner lives alone in Raveloe, living only for work and his precious hoard of money. But when his money is stolen and an orphaned child finds her way into his house, Silas is given the chance to transform his life. His fate, and that of Eppie, the little girl he adopts, is entwined with Godfrey Cass, son of the village Squire, who, like Silas, is trapped by his past. Silas Marner, George Eliot’s favorite of her novels, combines humor, rich symbolism, and pointed social criticism to create an unsentimental but affectionate portrait of rural life.

‘I think Silas Marner holds a higher place than any of the author’s works. It is more nearly a masterpiece; it has more of that simple, rounded, consummate aspect … which marks a classical work’

Personal Comments:

In Silas Marner, she delves into the life of a lonely man who withdraws from society while working as a weaver in a small English town upcountry.  Over time, the villagers eventually accept him, and he becomes part of the community. then something happens that changes his life for good. I won’t go into details, but the ending of the novel is a happy ending unlike in some of her other novels.  She was the first feminist novelist, and her female characters are well developed.

Adam Bede

Adam Bede – Kindle edition by Eliot, George. Literature …

http://www.amazon.com › Adam-Bede-George-Eliot-eBook › dip

Adam Bede is about a carpenter and his neighbors in an area in England during the early eighteenth century. The story is slow-going at times because the author writes in the local dialect, so it is a bit difficult to understand, but relevant to the tale. Descriptions of the characters, the countryside, and the town are well-drawn and colorful.

Adam Bede Quotes

So many great lines in this book.  Here are some of them:

“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“There is one order of beauty which seems made to turn heads. It is a beauty like that of kittens, or very small downy ducks making gentle rippling noises with their soft bills, or babies just beginning to toddle.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Family likeness has often a deep sadness in it. Nature, that great tragic dramatist, knits us together by bone and muscle, and divides us by the subtler web of our brains; blends yearning and repulsion; and ties us by our heartstrings to the beings that jar us at every movement.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“It is very hard to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings – much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult…Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings — much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“When death, the great Reconciler, has come, it is never our tenderness that we repent of, but our severity.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them: they can be injured by us, they can be wounded; they know all our penitence, all our aching sense that their place is empty, all the kisses we bestow on the smallest relic of their presence.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Because, dear, trouble comes to us all in this life: we set our hearts on things which it isn’t God’s will for us to have, and then we go sorrowing; the people we love are taken from us, and we can joy in nothing because they are not with us; sickness comes, and we faint under the burden of our feeble bodies; we go astray and do wrong and bring ourselves into trouble with our fellow men. There is no man or woman born into this world to whom some of these trials do not fall, and so I feel that some of them must happen to you; and I desire for you, that while you are young you should seek for the strength from your Heavenly Father, that you may have support which will not fail you in the evil day.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

More Quotes

“She hates everything that is not what she longs for.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Her misery filled her heart—there was no room in it for other people’s sorrow.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“When God makes His presence felt through us, we are like the burning bush: Moses never took any heed what sort of bush it was—the only saw the brightness of the Lord.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“[W]e must learn to accommodate ourselves to the discovery that some of those cunningly-fashioned instruments called human souls have only a very limited range of music, and will not vibrate in the least under a touch that fills others with tremulous rapture or quivering agony.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“We are contented with our day when we have been able to bear our grief in silence and act as if we were not suffering.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“How is it that the poets have said so many fine things about our first love, so few about our later love? Are their first poems their best? or are not those the best which come from their fuller thought, their larger experience, their deeper-rooted affections? The boy’s flute-like voice has its spring charm; but the man should yield richer, deeper music.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“A man never lies with more delicious languor under the influence of a passion than when he has persuaded himself that he shall subdue it tomorrow.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“In bed, our yesterdays are too oppressive: if a man can only get up, though it is but to whistle or to smoke, he has a present which offers some resistance to the past—sensations which assert themselves against tyrannous memories.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Pity that consequences are determined not by excuses but by actions!”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Her little butterfly soul fluttered incessantly between memory and dubious expectation.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“These fellow-mortals, everyone, must be accepted as they are: you can neither straighten their noses, nor brighten their wit, nor rectify their dispositions; and it is these people — amongst whom your life is passed — that it is needful you should tolerate, pity, and love: it is these more or less ugly, stupid, inconsistent people, whose movements of goodness you should be able to admire — for whom you should cherish all possible hopes, all possible patience.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“It’s easy finding reasons why other folks should be patient.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Uncomfortable thoughts must be got rid of by good intentions for the future,”

― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“If you had a table spread for a feast, and was making merry with your friends, you would think it was kind to let me come and sit down and rejoice with you because you’d think I should like to share those good things; but I should like better to share in your trouble and your labor.”

― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“We are children of a large family, and must learn, as such children do, not to expect that our little hurts will be made much of – to be content with little nurture and caressing and help each other the more.”

― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Yes! Thank God; human feeling is like the mighty rivers that bless the earth: it does not wait for beauty—it flows with resistless force and brings beauty with it… There are few prophets in the world; few sublimely beautiful women; few heroes. I can’t afford to give all my love and reverence to such rarities: I want a great deal of those feelings for my everyday fellow-men, especially for the few in the foreground of the great multitude, whose faces I know, whose hands I touch, for whom I have to make way with kindly courtesy.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“Bodily haste and exertion usually leave our thoughts very much at the mercy of our feelings and imagination.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“How can a man’s candor be seen in all its luster unless he has a few failings to talk of? But he had an agreeable confidence that his faults were all of a generous kind—impetuous, arm-blooded, leonine; never crawling, crafty, reptilian.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

“We are overhasty to speak as if God did not manifest himself by our silent feeling, and make his love felt through ours.”
― George Eliot, Adam Bede

Personal Comments:

Her first book, Adam Bede, sets out the themes that most of her other novels explore, Male-Female relations in a male-dominated rural English society. She explores the double standards that prevailed back then, and sadly persists to this day. She was the first feminist novelist. She explores life in a small English town at the turn of the industrial era.  She also explores the corruption and injustice of life for tenant farmers who were at the mercy of the local landlords.  Also, like a lot of her novels, it features a love triangle that ends badly for the lower class, but the upper-class man gets away with it.

After reading other reviews of Adam Bede, I revisited my initial thoughts about it and realize that it was quite good, but like most of her novels, too long.

The Mill on the Floss

(Amazon Preview)

‘If life had no love in it, what else was there for Maggie?’

Brought up at Dorlcote Mill, Maggie Tulliver worships her brother Tom and is desperate to win the approval of her parents, but her passionate, wayward nature and her fierce intelligence bring her into constant conflict with her family. As she reaches adulthood, the clash between their expectations and her desires is painfully played out as she finds herself torn between her relationships with three very different men: her proud and stubborn brother, a close friend who is also the son of her family’s worst enemy, and a charismatic but dangerous suitor. With its poignant portrayal of sibling relationships, The Mill on the Floss is considered George Eliot’s most autobiographical novel; it is also one of her most powerful and moving.

Personal Comment:

The Mill on the Floss, like most of George Elliot’s novels, is way too long for modern readers. It is a slow burn, but worth it if you keep at it as she delves into the inner thoughts of her characters living in a small English town at the dawn of the industrial age. They reflect the double standard of the time in the character’s lives. And like most of her novels -the ones I have read- there are love triangles that end badly. Her female characters are complex and reflect the complexities of life in England at the time she wrote her novels.  There is also an undercurrent of unintended racism in the novel, as the main female heroine is constantly being described as “brown skin” and therefore not attractive a marriage prospect.  She is also a free thinker and questions orthodox views. I think this is perhaps my favorite of the novels I have read so far.   The novel does not end well for the main characters!

The Lifted Veil

(Amazon preview)

Published the same year as her first novel, Adam Bede, this overlooked work displays the gifts for which George Eliot would become famous—gritty realism, psychological insight, and idealistic moralizing. It is unique from all her other writing, however, in that it represents the only time she ever used a first-person narrator, and it is the only time she wrote about the supernatural.

The tale of a man who is incapacitated by visions of the future and the cacophony of overheard thoughts, and yet who can’t help trying to subvert his vividly glimpsed destiny, it is easy to read The Lifted Veil as being autobiographically revealing—of Eliot’s sensitivity to public opinion and her awareness that her days concealed behind a pseudonym were doomed to a tragic unveiling (as indeed came to pass soon after this novella’s publication). But it is easier still to read the story as the exciting and genuine precursor of a moody new form, as well as an absorbing early masterpiece of suspense.

Personal Comment:

I liked this one the best, as I am a fan of the early SF explorations, and it is vaguely like an Edgar Allen Poe story, or a gothic nightmare story.  Very different from her other novels, both in setting and in her characters. I liked the exploration into ESP and mental telephony,  The heroine is an anti-hero and is truly an evil person.  Very unlike her other female characters.

 ReadIng

Middlemarch

(amazon preview)

Taking place in the years leading up to the First Reform Bill of 1832, Middlemarch explores nearly every subject of concern to modern life: art, religion, science, politics, self, society, human relationships. Among her characters are some of the most remarkable portraits in English literature: Dorothea Brooke, the heroine, idealistic but naive; Rosamond Vincy, beautiful and egoistic: Edward Casaubon, the dry-as-dust scholar: Tertius Lydgate, the brilliant but morally-flawed physician: the passionate artist Will Ladislaw: and Fred Vincey and Mary Garth, childhood sweethearts whose charming courtship is one of the many humorous elements in the novel’s rich comic vein.

Romola

(Amazon Preview)

One of George Eliot’s most ambitious and imaginative novels, Romola is set in Renaissance Florence during the turbulent years following the expulsion of the powerful Medici family, during which the zealous religious reformer Savonarola rose to control the city. At its heart is Romola, the devoted daughter of a blind scholar, married to the clever but ultimately treacherous Tito, whose duplicity in both love and politics threatens to destroy everything she values, and she must break away to find her path in life. Described by Eliot as ‘written with my best blood’, the story of Romola’s intellectual and spiritual awakening is a compelling portrayal of a Utopian heroine, played out against a turbulent historical backdrop.

Daniel Deronda

(Amazon Preview)

A beautiful young woman stands poised over the gambling tables in an expensive hotel. She is aware of, and resents, the gaze of an unusual young man, a stranger, who seems to judge her and find her wanting. The encounter will change her life.

The strange young man is Daniel Deronda, brought up with his origins shrouded in mystery, searching for a compelling outlet for his singular talents and remarkable capacity for empathy. Deronda’s destiny will change the lives of many.

Félix Holt the Radical

(Amazon Preview)

When the young nobleman Harold Transome returns to England from the colonies with a self-made fortune, he scandalizes the town of Treby Magna with his decision to stand for Parliament as a Radical. But after the idealistic Felix Holt also returns to the town, the difference between Harold’s opportunistic values and Holt’s profound beliefs becomes apparent. Forthright, brusque, and driven by a firm desire to educate the working-class, Felix is at first viewed with suspicion by many, including the elegant but vain Esther Lyon, the daughter of the local clergyman. As she discovers, however, his blunt words conceal both passion and deep integrity. Soon the romantic and over-refined Esther finds herself overwhelmed by a heart-wrenching decision: whether to choose the wealthy Transome as a husband or the impoverished but honest Felix Holt.

More on  George Eliot

From Wikipedia:

Born in South Farm, Arbury Hall, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, The United Kingdom

November 22, 1819

Died December 22, 1880

Website

https://ffrf.org/news/day/famous-freethinkers-s…

Genre

Literature & FictionPoetryJournalism

Influences

Jane AustenWalter ScottCharlotte BrontëHonoré de BalzacAuguste

Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She was born in 1819 at a farmstead in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where her father was estate manager. Mary Ann, the youngest child, and a favorite of her father’s received a good education for a young woman of her day. Influenced by a favorite governess, she became a religious evangelical as an adolescent.

Her first published work was a religious poem. Through a family friend, she was exposed to Charles Hennell’s “An Inquiry into the Origins of Christianity”. Unable to believe, she conscientiously gave up religion and stopped attending church. Her father shunned her, sending the broken-hearted young dependent to live with a sister until she promised to reexamine her feelings. Her intellectual views did not, however, change. She translated “Das Leben Jesu”, a monumental task, without signing her name to the 1846 work.

After her father died in 1849, Mary Ann traveled, then accepted an unpaid position with The Westminster Review. Despite a heavy workload, she translated “The Essence of Christianity”, the only book ever published under her real name. That year, the shy, respectable writer scandalized British society by sending notices to friends announcing she had entered a free “union” with George Henry Lewes, editor of The Leader, who was unable to divorce his first wife. They lived harmoniously together for the next 24 years, but suffered social ostracism and financial hardship. She became salaried and began writing essays and reviews for The Westminster Review.

Renaming herself “Marian” in private life and adopting the pen name “George Eliot,” she began her impressive fiction career, including: “Adam Bede” (1859), “The Mill on the Floss” (1860), “Silas Marner” (1861), “Romola” (1863), and “Middlemarch” (1871). Themes included her humanist vision and strong heroines. Her poem, “O May I Join the Choir Invisible” expressed her views about nonsupernatural immortality: “O may I join the choir invisible/ Of that immortal dead who live again/ In minds made better by their presence. . .” D. 1880.

Her 1872 work Middlemarch has been described by Martin Amis and Julian Barnes as the greatest novel in the English language.

More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_E…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic…

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/t…

http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian…

http://www.biography.com/people/georg…

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/d… (less)

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