Category Archives: Serious

Still Life – A S Byatt

Still Life – A S Byatt

After listening to The Virgin in the Garden I was keen to continue this series and downloaded this one from Borrowbox.

Here’s the blurb …

From the author of The New York Times best seller Possession , comes a highly acclaimed novel which captures in brilliant detail the life of one extended English family-and illuminates the choices they must make between domesticity and ambition, life and art.

Stephanie Potter gives up a promising academic career to marry Daniel Orton, while her sister, Frederica, enters Cambridge, and her brother, Marcus, begins recovering from a nervous breakdown

This one is a bit sadder than the first – Byatt does write grief well, but it still has all the lovely art and literature references. And I love how we get snippets from several characters’s view points – Alexander, Stephanie, Marcus and, of course, Frederica.

I am looking forward to the next one Babel Tower, which is also on Borrowbox.

A review

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1599 A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare – James Shapiro

1599 A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare – James Shapiro

I first heard about this book from the Baillie-Gifford Prize podcast (The Read Smart podcast). I found a copy at the library.

Here’s the blurb …

599 was an epochal year for Shakespeare and England

Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen.

James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare’s staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599, bringing together the news and the intrigue of the times with a wonderful evocation of how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright. The result is an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.

This was fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the sections where Shapiro put the plays into historical context. It was very easy to read, Shapiro wears his wealth of knowledge lightly.

A review

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The Netanyahus – Joshua Cohen

The Netanyahus – Joshua Cohen

A dear friend gave me this book for chirstmas. I didn’t know anything about it all, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved it.

Corbin College, not-quite-upstate New York, winter 1959-1960: Ruben Blum, a Jewish historian – but not an historian of the Jews – is co-opted onto a hiring committee to review the application of an exiled Israeli scholar specializing in the Spanish Inquisition. When Benzion Netanyahu shows up for an interview, family unexpectedly in tow, Blum plays the reluctant host, to guests who proceed to lay waste to his American complacencies. Mixing fiction with non-fiction, the campus novel with the lecture, THE NETANYAHUS is a wildly inventive, genre-bending comedy of blending, identity, and politics – ‘An Account of A Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Incident in the History of a Very Famous Family’ that finds Joshua Cohen at the height of his powers.

It’s first person narration (which I always like) and the language is rich, I had to stop and look words up all the time. Also, I was intrigued by jewish history; was the Spanish Inquisition lead by the monarchy and not the church to reduce the power of the nobles? I even looked on Wikipedia to find out how Israel was formed after World War Two.

A review

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The Plague – Albert Camus

The Plague – Albert Camus

This is either a very weird or very appropriate choice of novel in the middle of a global pandemic. After two years things are just starting to kick of here (Western Australia – we leveraged our geographic isolation and have been (mostly) covid free).

Here’s the blurb …

A gripping tale of human unrelieved horror, of survival and resilience, and of the ways in which humankind confronts death, The Plague is at once a masterfully crafted novel, eloquently understated and epic in scope, and a parable of ageless moral resonance, profoundly relevant to our times. In Oran, a coastal town in North Africa, the plague begins as a series of portents, unheeded by the people. It gradually becomes an omnipresent reality, obliterating all traces of the past and driving its victims to almost unearthly extremes of suffering, madness, and compassion.

I enjoyed it. The reaction now is very similar to the reaction 80 years ago (was it good research? or just insight?)

A review and another one.

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The Story of the Bayeux Tapestry

The Story of the Bayeux Tapestry – David Musgrove and Michael Lewis

I am very keen to visit the Bayeux Tapestry. I planned to go in 2020, but we all know how that turned out. So i keep buying books about it. I first heard of this one on the History Extra podcast (worth listening to if you are at all interested in the tapestry – or even the Norman conquest).

Here’s the blurb …

Most people know that the Bayeux Tapestry depicts the moment when the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, Harold Godwinson, was defeated at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 by his Norman adversary William the Conqueror. However, there is much more to this historic treasure than merely illustrating the outcome of this famous battle. Full of intrigue and violence, the tapestry depicts everything from eleventh-century political and social life—including the political machinations on both sides of the English Channel in the years leading up to the Norman Conquest—to the clash of swords and stamp of hooves on the battle field.

Drawing on the latest historical and scientific research, authors David Musgrove and Michael Lewis have written the definitive book on the Bayeux Tapestry, taking readers through its narrative, detailing the life of the tapestry in the centuries that followed its creation, explaining how it got its name, and even offering a new possibility that neither Harold nor William were the true intended king of England. Featuring stunning, full- color photographs throughout, The Story of the Bayeux Tapestry explores the complete tale behind this medieval treasure that continues to amaze nearly one thousand years after its creation.

Firstly, this is a beautiful object with fabulous colour pictures of the tapestry – scene by scene and then altogether at the end (over several pages).

The opening two chapters are about the tapestry as a physical object – how did it survive, who commissioned it – and some information on the Normal Conquest.

The following 10 chapters are a detailed description (including images) of the scenes of the tapestry. I particularly enjoyed these chapters – the action in the main section is described as well as anything happening in the two borders. The authors have a lovely way of describing the action – they really bring the characters (actors?) to life.

The final chapter is about the tapestry’s legacy – will it ever get back to England?

I really enjoyed reading this (and it was easy to read) and I think anyone interested in textiles, early medieval history and even military history will find this a fascinating read.

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The Mirror and the Light – Hilary Mantel

The Mirror and the Light – Hilary Mantel

The long-awaited third in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

‘If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?’

England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour.

Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

This book will be forever known as my quarantine book – my reading it has co-incided with our lockdown (five weeks now).

This is a large book (physically – I should have bought a kindle version) and it took me a long time to read, but I enjoyed it. I even re-watched the Wolf Hall T.V adaptation. And I have bought Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Thomas Cromwell.

4/5 (too long for 5/5)

Another review.

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The Givenness Of Things – Marilynne Robinson

The Givenness of Things – Marilynne Robinson

I have enjoyed all of Ms Robinson’s novels and enjoyed listening to her on the BBC World Book Club. I was keen to read her essays.

Here is the description from Goodreads …

A profound essay collection from the beloved author of GileadHouskeeping and Lila, now including Marilynne Robinson’s conversation with President Barack Obama.

Robinson has plumbed the depths of the human spirit in her trilogy of novels – Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead, Orange-Prize winning Home and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Lila – and in her moving essay collection When I Was a Child I Read Books.

Now, in The Givenness of Things, she brings a profound sense of awe and an incisive mind to the essential questions of contemporary life and faith. Through fourteen essays of remarkable depth and insight, Robinson explores the dilemmas of our modern predicament. How has our so-called Christian nation strayed from so many of the teachings of Christ? How could the great minds of the past, Calvin and Locke-and Shakespeare-guide our lives? And what might the world look like if we could see the sacredness in each other?

Exquisite and bold, these essays are a necessary call for us to find wisdom and guidance in our cultural treasures, to seek humanity and compassion in each other. The Givenness of Thingsis a reminder of what a marvel our existence is in its grandeur – and its humility.

I will say from the outset that I am not a christian and I think most of the world’s ills are caused by white, christian men, but if anyone could convert me it would be Ms Robinson. And if all christians were christian like her the world would be a better place.

It took me a long time to read this book and I am not sure reading it cover to cover is the best way of reading it. Each essay required focus and concentration and it might be better to dip into it from time to time reading one essay at a time.

It is academic, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

More reviews …

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Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

This is the last of my Hardy novels for my Victorian Literature group – you can definitely see Hardy’s increasing maturity as a writer when you read them in chronological order. Having said that, however, I still think The Woodlanders my favourite. I am sure this novel has more literary merit, but Tess’s life is so grim.

Here is the plot summary from Shmoop

Tess Durbeyfield is a (totally and completely doomed) country girl living in the late 19th Century in an English village that seems secluded, even though it’s only a four-hour journey from London. Her father learns in the first chapter that he is the last lineal descendent of the D’Urbervilles—one of the oldest, most aristocratic, families in all of England. He foolishly assumes that his aristocratic heritage will suffice to pull his family out of poverty, and so he sends Tess off to “claim kin” (i.e., to borrow money on the strength of their distant family ties) from a wealthy branch of the D’Urbervilles.

Tess is a very pretty girl, and very “womanly” (i.e., sexy) for her age, and the son of the wealthy D’Urbervilles, Alec, tries to seduce her. He finds her too proud and modest to fall into his snares, and so he tricks her into accepting a ride from him back to the family house at night, and cuts through the woods. After getting lost (possibly on purpose), Alec leaves Tess to fall asleep under a tree while he tries to find the path. He comes back, and, finding her asleep, takes advantage of their solitude to rape her under the trees.

The next phase of the book (“Maiden No More”) opens with Tess back at her parents’ house in the village of Marlott. She’s had a baby as a result of her connection with Alec, and has secluded herself from her former friends out of a combination of shame and pride. She works a few odd jobs to make money, and things are going okay until her baby suddenly gets sick… and dies. Tess is more worried about the baby’s soul than anything else, so she buries it in the churchyard on the sly.

Time passes, and most of her friends and neighbors have forgotten about Tess’s troubles. But she hasn’t, so she decides to go to a neighboring county to work at a dairy farm where nobody knows her. One of the other workers at the dairy, Angel Clare, is the son of a gentleman. Angel is learning about farming so that he can move to the colonies in America and become a wealthy farmer there. He and Tess gradually fall in love.

Tess wants to tell Angel about her past, but she can’t bring herself reveal it to him. Finally, the night before they’re supposed to get married, she slips a note under his door confessing everything. When he doesn’t say anything about it the next morning, she assumes all is forgiven—but really, he never saw the note. On their wedding night, he confesses to her that he’d had a brief fling with a strange woman in London long before he’d met Tess. So Tess feels like she can tell him about Alec, since that wasn’t her fault.

But Angel doesn’t see it that way. He’s shocked and horrified that she’s not a virgin, and runs off to South America to try and forget about her. Tess is heart-broken and wanders from job to job, trying to leave her problems behind her. But her problems keep finding her. Alec runs into her on the road, and even though he’s become a Christian, he becomes obsessed with her again. Eventually he persuades her to live with him, even though she’s legally married to Angel. But she’s given up hope that Angel will ever come back to her.

But he does come back to her, and when she sees Angel, she stabs Alec in their hotel room. Angel realizes that he’s partly responsible for the murder, and runs away with her. They flee together across the countryside, and are finally caught by the authorities at Stonehenge, an ancient monument of huge stones in the English countryside that was built by the druids or even earlier. “Justice” catches up with Tess, and she is hanged.

I listened to this one (it was read by Anna Bentinck), which, as Hardy is a poet first, means I have a much greater appreciation for how his work sounds.

I think Hardy has pyschological insight – like this (Tess has returned home after being ruined (seduced/raped) by Alec D’Urberville

Their chatter, their laughter, their good-humoured innuendoes, above all, their flashes and flickerings of envy, revived Tess’s spirits also; and, as the evening wore on, she caught the infection of their excitement, and grew almost gay. The marble hardness left her face, she moved with something of her old bounding step, and flushed in all her young beauty.At moments, in spite of thought, she would reply to their inquiries with a manner of superiority, as if recognizing that her experiences in the field of courtship had, indeed, been slightly enviable. But so far was she from being, in the words of Robert South, “in love with her own ruin,” that the illusion was transient as lightning; cold reason came back to mock her spasmodic weakness; the ghastliness of her momentary pride would convict her, and recall her to reserved listlessness again.

It must be quite unusual for a 19th century novel to have a working class heroine as its main protagonist. I am intrigued as to what contemporary readers thought.

Hardy is highlighting the complete lack of control or agency that Tess (or any woman) has over her life. Also the incredible hypocrisy and double-standards of the time – Angel cannot forgive Tess for not being innocent despite confessing a prior entanglement. There is a lot of tramping about the country side (Tess walks 15 miles to the vicarage at Eminister and back again in one day), descriptions of lush dairy country and harsh upland country. Country customs and conversations plus the usual Hardy pre-occupation with villages losing their tradespeople as life leases end.


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The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, months when everything is hard work? That’s where I am right now – hence the lack of posts. Books are being read and enjoyed, but the ability to sit down and write about them seems beyond me and then by the time I do find the motivation I have forgotten most of what I thought in the first place.

Anyway, The Scarlet Letter has always been one of those books I thought I should read, but somehow never got around to it. My historical book group chose it and I was quite pleased to be finally forced to read it. It was quite hard to find a copy I think I eventually got one from the book depository (I like the penguin editions because I can read the introduction and get a better idea about the book).

Here is the blurb …

Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne’s concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided.

And here is the link to Wikipdeia.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect the story (or at least the plot) is very much part of popular culture – I even watched Easy A, but the writing and style were an unknown quantity.

I hated the first section, about working in the Customs House, but once the story got going I was hooked. I was amazed at how modern it felt – Hester was a woman born out of time she wanted the freedom to live her life on her own terms. Dimmesdale just annoyed me – a dithering coward who couldn’t face up to the consequences of his actions and allowed Hester to bear the ‘shame’ alone. It really highlighted for me the tyrannical effect religion can have on some people. And the effect strict, joyless communities can have on the individual members of the group – not a lot of christian charity going on.

I think this is well worth reading – you just need to push on past the Custom House chapter (although I believe some editions don’t have that chapter, so maybe find one of those).

Here is an article from The Atlantic.


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Scenes of a Clerical Life – George Eliot

Scenes of a Clerical Life - George Eliot

Scenes of a Clerical Life – George Eliot

I’ve read Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch and would describe myself as a George Eliot fan. However, I must admit I struggled with this one. Scenes of Early Death would be a more descriptive title. It is three longish short stories (or maybe novellas) in one novel all featuring clergymen.

Here is the plot summary from Wikipedia

The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton

The titular character is the new curate of the parish church of Shepperton, a village near Milby. A pious man, but “sadly unsuited to the practice of his profession”,[19] Barton attempts to ensure that his congregation remains firmly within the care of the Church of England. His stipend is inadequate, and he relies on the hard work of Milly, his wife, to help keep the family. Barton is new to the village and subscribes to unpopular religious ideas; not all of the congregation accept him, but he feels that it is especially important to imbue them with what he sees as orthodox Christian views.

Barton and Milly become acquainted with Countess Caroline Czerlaski. When the Countess’ brother, with whom she lives, gets engaged to be married to her maid, she leaves home in protest. Barton and his wife accept the Countess into their home, much to the disapproval of the congregation, who assume her to be his mistress. The Countess becomes a burden on the already stretched family, accepting their hospitality and contributing little herself. With Milly pregnant and ill, the children’s nurse convinces the Countess to leave.

Milly dies following the premature birth of her baby (who also dies) and Barton is plunged into sadness at the loss. Barton’s parishioners, who were so unsympathetic to him as their minister, support him and his family in their grief: “There were men and women standing in that churchyard who had bandied vulgar jests about their pastor, and who had lightly charged him with sin, but now, when they saw him following the coffin, pale and haggard, he was consecrated anew by his great sorrow, and they looked at him with respectful pity”. Just as Barton is beginning to come to terms with Milly’s death, he get more bad news: the vicar, Mr. Carpe, will be taking over at Shepperton church. Barton is given six-months notice to leave. He has no choice but to comply, but is disheartened, having at last won the sympathies of the parishioners. Barton believes that the request was unfair, knowing that the vicar’s brother-in-law is in search of a new parish in which to work. However, he resigns himself to the move and at length obtains a living in a distant manufacturing town.

The story concludes twenty years later with Barton at his wife’s grave with one of his daughters: Patty. In the intervening years much has changed for Barton; his children have grown up and gone their separate ways. His son Richard is particularly mentioned as having shown talent as an engineer. Patty remains with her father.

Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story

The second work in Scenes of Clerical Life is entitled “Mr. Gilfil’s Love-Story” and concerns the life of a clergyman named Maynard Gilfil. We are introduced to Mr Gilfil in his capacity as the vicar of Shepperton, ‘thirty years ago’ (presumably the late 1820s) but the central part of the story begins in June 1788 and concerns his youth, his experiences as chaplain at Cheverel Manor and his love for Caterina Sarti. Caterina, known to the family as ‘Tina’, is an Italian orphan and the ward of Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel, who took her into their care following the death of her father. In 1788 she is companion to Lady Cheverel and a talented amateur singer.[20]

Arbury Hall, where Eliot’s father was estate manager, and the model for Cheverel Manor[21]

Gilfil’s love for Tina is not reciprocated; she is infatuated with Captain Anthony Wybrow, nephew and heir of Sir Christopher Cheverel. Sir Christopher intends Wybrow to marry a Miss Beatrice Assher, the daughter of a former sweetheart of his, and that Tina will marry Gilfil. Wybrow, aware of and compliant to his uncle’s intentions, nonetheless continues to flirt with Tina, causing her to fall deeply in love with him. This continues until Wybrow goes to Bath in order to press his suit to Miss Assher. He is then invited to the Asshers’ home, and afterwards returns to Cheverel Manor, bringing with him Miss Assher and her mother. Wybrow dies unexpectedly. Gilfil, finding a knife on Tina, fears that she has killed him, but the cause of death is in fact a pre-existing heart complaint. Tina runs away, and Gilfil and Sir Christopher fear that she has committed suicide. However, a former employee of Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel returns to the manor to inform them that Tina has taken refuge with him and his wife. Gilfil seeks her out, helps her recover and marries her. It is hoped that marriage and motherhood, combined with Gilfil’s love for her, which she now reciprocates, will endue her with a new zest for life. However, she dies in childbirth soon afterwards,[22] leaving the curate to live out the rest of his life alone and die a lonely man.[3][20]

 Janet’s Repentance

Janet’s Repentance is the only story in Scenes of Clerical Life set in the town of Milby itself. Following the appointment of Reverend Mr Tryan to the chapel of ease at Paddiford Common, Milby is deeply divided by religious strife. One party, headed by the lawyer Robert Dempster, vigorously supports the old curate, Mr Crewe; the other is equally biased in favour of the newcomer. Edgar Tryan is an evangelical, and his opponents consider him to be no better than a dissenter. Opposition is based variously in doctrinal disagreement and on a suspicion of cant and hypocrisy on the part of Mr Tryan; in Dempster’s wife, Janet, however, it stems from an affection for Mr Crewe and his wife, and the feeling that it is unkind to subject them to so much stress in their declining years. She supports her husband in a malicious campaign against Mr Tryan, despite the fact that Dempster is frequently drunkenly abusive to her, which drives her to drink in turn. One night her husband turns her out of the house; she takes refuge with a neighbour, and, remembering an encounter with Mr Tryan at the sickbed of one of his flock, where she was struck by an air of suffering and compassion about him, asks he might come to see her. He encourages her in her struggle against her dependence on alcohol and her religious conversion. Shortly afterwards Robert Dempster is thrown from his gig and seriously injured. Upon discovering what has happened, Janet, forgiving him, returns to her home and nurses him through the subsequent illness until he dies a few weeks later. Tryan continues to guide Janet toward redemption and self-sufficiency following the death of her husband. She, in turn, persuades him to move out of his inhospitable accommodation and into a house that she has inherited. It is hinted that a romantic relationship might subsequently develop between the two. His selfless devotion to his needy parishioners has taken his toll on his health, however, and he succumbs to consumption and dies young.

There is a lot of religion in this novel (I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with a title like Scenes of a Clerical life) particularly in the final story Janet’s Repentance. I think a modern secular audience would struggle with the ideology. I was surprised to read in the introduction (to the Penguin edition) that George Eliot was herself an Atheist.

There are beautiful descriptions of scenery and the characters and dialogue are spectacular. The world of Milby and its environs seems very real – the characters leap of the page (I’m sure we recognise some of our acquaintances or ourselves). There is a bit of authorial intrusion, which I found annoying and a bit patronising. For example, here is the start of Chapter Five of  The Sad Fortunes of Amos Barton.

The Rev. Amos Barton, whose sad fortunes I have undertaken to relate, was, you perceive, in no respect an ideal or exceptional character; and perhaps I am doing a bold thing to bespeak your sympathy on behalf of a man who was so very far from remarkable,—a man whose virtues were not heroic, and who had no undetected crime within his breast; who had not the slightest mystery hanging about him, but was palpably and unmistakably commonplace; who was not even in love, but had had that complaint favourably many years ago. ‘An utterly uninteresting character!’ I think I hear a lady reader exclaim—Mrs. Farthingale, for example, who prefers the ideal in fiction; to whom tragedy means ermine tippets, adultery, and murder; and comedy, the adventures of some personage who is quite a ‘character’.

But, my dear madam, it is so very large a majority of your fellow-countrymen that are of this insignificant stamp. At least eighty out of a hundred of your adult male fellow-Britons returned in the last census are neither extraordinarily silly, nor extraordinarily wicked, nor extraordinarily wise; their eyes are neither deep and liquid with sentiment, nor sparkling with suppressed witticisms; they have probably had no hairbreadth escapes or thrilling adventures; their brains are certainly not pregnant with genius, and their passions have not manifested themselves at all after the fashion of a volcano. They are simply men of complexions more or less muddy, whose conversation is more or less bald and disjointed. Yet these commonplace people—many of them—bear a conscience, and have felt the sublime prompting to do the painful right; they have their unspoken sorrows, and their sacred joys; their hearts have perhaps gone out towards their first-born, and they have mourned over the irreclaimable dead. Nay, is there not a pathos in their very insignificance—in our comparison of their dim and narrow existence with the glorious possibilities of that human nature which they share?

Depend upon it, you would gain unspeakably if you would learn with me to see some of the poetry and the pathos, the tragedy and the comedy, lying in the experience of a human soul that looks out through dull grey eyes, and that speaks in a voice of quite ordinary tones. In that case, I should have no fear of your not caring to know what farther befell the Rev. Amos Barton, or of your thinking the homely details I have to tell at all beneath your attention. As it is, you can, if you please, decline to pursue my story farther; and you will easily find reading more to your taste, since I learn from the newspapers that many remarkable novels, full of striking situations, thrilling incidents, and eloquent writing, have appeared only within the last season.

 However, I can see a progression from these stories (her first) to Middlemarch.

More reviews …

Here is a letter Dickens wrote to Eliot on reading Scenes of a Clerical Life


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