George Eliot

October 21, 2006


Marian Evans
Spent her childhood at Arbury Farm on the Warwickshire countryside
Strongly affected by Evangelicism
Associated with a group of freethinking intellectuals in the town of Coventry: reluctantly denounced her belief in Christianity
Translated for leading figures of Higher Criticism in Germany
Appointed assistant editor of the Westminster Review, a learned journal formerly edited by John Stuart Mill, ,after her father died
Fell in love with George Henry Lewes, brilliant critic of literature and philosophy, married and father of 3, and moved in with him as a common-law wife: was not invited to dinner, those who wanted to see her had to seek her company as a visitor on Sunday afternoons which became legendary occasions: decision to live with Lewes cost her a number of social and family ties, including her brother Isaac
Fiction owes much to Austen’s with concern with provincial society, satire of human motives and focus on courtship
Combines expansive philosophic meditation with acute dissection of characters’ motives and feelings
Likened herself a historian and scientist
Perhaps the greatest English realist, often compared with Leo Tolstoy: the most important Victorian intellectual
Sympathetic to a feminist point of view, stresses values of loyalty to one’s past
A novest of characters (like Austen)
Called the first ‘great godless writer’

"My function is that of the aesthetic not othe doctrinal teacher."

Silas Marner 1861

Silas Marner : The Weaver of Raveloe
Story of redemption through love
Combines humour and rich symbolism with a historically precise setting to create a tale of love and hope
explores the issues of redemptive love, the notion of community, the role of religion, and the status of the gentry and family

“A child, more than all other gifts
That earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts.”
—William Wordsworth


“…how was a man to be explained unless you at least knew somebody who knew his father and mother? To the peasants of old times, the world outside their own direct experience was a region of vagueness and mystery.”

“To people accustomed to reason about the forms in which their religious feeling has incorporated itself, it is difficult to enter into that simple, untaught state of mind in which the form and the feeling have never been severed by an act of reflection.”

“Have not men, shut up in solitary imprisonment, found an interest in marking the moments by straight strokes of a certain length on the wall, until the growth of the sum of straight strokes, arranged in triangles, has become a mastering purpose? Do we not while away moments of inanity or fatigued waiting by repeating some trivial moment or sound, until the repetition has bred a want, which is incipient habit?”

“The yoke a man creates for himself by wrongdoing will breed hate in the kindliest nature…”

“The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent. A man will tell you that he has worked in a mine for forty years unhurt by an accident, as a reason why he should apprehend no danger, though the roof is beginning to sink; and it is often observable that the older a man gets, the more difficult it is to him to retain a believing conception of his own death.”

“‘Did ever a ghost give a man a black eye? That’s what I should like to know. If ghos’es want me to believe in ’em, let ’em leave off skulking i’ the dark and i’ lone places- let ’em come where there’s company and candles.'”

“Our consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us: there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud.”

“Favorable Chance, I fancy, is the god of all men who follow their own devices instead of obeying a law they believe in. … The evil principle deprecated in that religion is the orderly sequence by which the seed brings forth a crop after its kind.”

“I suppose one reason why we are seldom able to comfort our neighbours with our words is that our good will gets adulterated, in spite of ourselves, before it can pass our lips. We can send black puddings and pettitoes without giving them a flavour of our own egoism; but language is a stream that is almost sure to smack of a mingled soil. There was a fair proportion of kindness in Raveloe; but it was often of a beery and bungling sort, and took the shape least allied to the complimentary and hypocritical.”

“Nobody in this world but himself knew that he was the same Silas Marner who had once loved his fellow with tender love, and trusted in an unseen goodness. Even to himself that past experience had become dim.
And then the red faces made their way through the black, biting frost to their own hoes, feeling themselves free for the rest of the day to eat, drink, and be merry, and using that Christian freedom with out diffidence.”

“She was perfectly quiet now, but not asleep- only soothed by sweet porridge and warmth into that wide-gazing calm which makes us older human beings, with our inward turmoil, feel a certain awe in the presence of a little child, such as we feel before some quiet majesty or beauty in the earth or sky -before a steady glowing planet, or a full-flowered eglantine, or the bending trees over a silent pathway.”

“The prevarication and white lies which a mind that keeps itself ambitiously pure is as uneasy under as a great artist under the false touches that no eye detects but his own, are worn lightly as mere trimmings when once the actions have become a lie.”

“When we are treated well, we naturally begin to think that we are not altogether unmeritorious, and that it is only just we should treat ourselves well, and not mar our own good fortune”

“In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction; a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child’s.”

“‘…there’s nothing kills a man so soon ashaving nobody to find fault with him but himself. It’s a deal the best way o’ being master, to let somebody else do the ordering, and keep the blaming in your own hands. It ‘ud save many a man a stroke, I believe.'”

“This excessive rumination and self-questioning is perhaps a morbid habit inevitable to a mind of much moral sensibility when shut out from its due share of outward activity and of practical claims on its affections- inevitable to a noblehearted, childless woman, when her lot is narrow. ‘I can do so little- have I done it all well?’ is the perpetually recurring thought; and there are no voices calling her away from that soliloquy, no peremptory demands to divert energy from vain regret or superfluous scruple.”

“‘Eh, my precious child, the blessing was mine. If you hadn’t been sent to save me, I should h’ gone to the grave in my misery. The money was taken from me in time; and you see it’s been kept- kept till it was wanted for you. It’s wonderful -our life is wonderful.'”

“‘Well, yes, Master Marner,’ said Dolly, who sat with a placid, listening face, now ordered by grey hairs; ‘I doubt it may. It’s the will o’ Them above as a many things should be dark to us; bu there’s some things as I’ve never felt i’ the dark about, and they’re mostly what comes i’ the day’s work. You were hard done by that once, Master Marner, and it seems as you’ll never know the rights of it; but that doesn’t hinder there being a rights, Master Marner for all it’s dark to you and me.’
‘No,’ said Silas., ‘no; that doesn’t hinder. Since the time the child was sent to me and I’ve come to love her as myself, I’ve had light enough to trusten by; and, now she says seh’ll never leave me, I think I shall trusten till I die.’"

“‘Oh, Father,’ said Eppie, ‘what a pretty home ours is! I think nobody could be happier than we are.'”


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