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does the business is neither the mean- nor breeches ; you can't make much ing nor the words, but the register. out o' their shapes !"" Mr. Macey then arrives at the chapter Mrs. Winthrop, the wheelwright's
or rather is gently inducted there- wife who, out of the fulness of her unto by his hearers — of the ghosts charity, comes to comfort Silas in the who frequent certain of the Lammeter season of his distress, is in her way stables. But ghosts threatening to one of the most truthfully sketched of prove as pregnant a theme of conten- the author's figures. " She was in all tion as Durham cows, the landlord respects a woman of scrupulous conagain meditates: “There's folks i' science, so eager for duties that life my opinion, they can't see ghos'es, seemed to offer them too scantily unnot if they stood as plain as a pike less she rose at half past four, though staff before 'em. And there's reason this threw a scarcity of work over the i' that. For there's my wife, now, more advanced hours of the morning, can't smell, not if she'd the strongest which it was a constant problem for o'cheese under her nose. I never her to remove. .... She was a very seed a ghost myself, but then I says mild, patient woman, whose nature it to myself, “Very like I have n't the was to seek out all the sadder and smell for 'em." I mean, putting a
serious elements of life and ghost for a smell or else contrairi- pasture her mind upon them.” She ways. And so I'm for holding with stamps I. H. S. on her cakes and both sides.
For the smell 's loaves without knowing what the letwhat I go by.'"
ters mean, or indeed without knowThe best drawn of the village wor- ing that they are letters, being very thies in “Silas Marner” are Mr. Macey, much surprised that Marner can “read of the scene just quoted, and good 'em off,” — chiefly because they are Dolly Winthrop, Marner's kindly pa- on the pulpit cloth at church. She troness. I have room for only one more touches upon religious themes in a specimen of Mr. Macey. He is look- manner to make the superficial reader ing on at a New Year's dance at Squire apprehend that she cultivates some Caso's, beside Ben Winthrop, Dolly's polytheistic form of faith, - extremes husband.
meet. She urges Marner to go to “The Squire's pretty springy, con- church, and describes the satisfaction sidering his weight,' said Mr. Macey, which she herself derives from the ‘and he stamps uncommon well. But performance of her religious duties. Mr. Lammeter beats 'em all for shapes; “ If you ’ve niver had no church, you see he holds his head like a sodger, there's no telling what good it'll do and he is n't so cushiony as most o' the you. For I feel as set up and comfortoldish gentlefolks, they run fat in able as niver was, when I 've been and gineral ; - and he's got a fine leg. The heard the prayers and the singing to parson 's nimble enough, but he has n't the praise and glory o' God, as Mr. got much of a leg : it's a bit too thick Macey gives out, — and Mr. Crackendownward, and his knees might be a thorp saying good words and more bit nearer without damage ; but he partic'lar on Sacramen' day; and if a might do worse, he might do worse. bit o' trouble comes, I feel as I can Though he has n't that grand way o' put up wi' it, for I've looked for help waving his hand as the Squire has.' i’ the right quarter, and giv myself
“ Talk o nimbleness, look at Mrs up to Them as we must all give ourOsgood,' said Ben Winthrop.. selves up to at the last: and if we're "She's the finest made woman as is, done our part, it is n't to be believed let the next be where she will.'
as Them as are above us 'ud be worse “I don't heed how the women are nor we are, and come short o Tbeirn." made,' said Mr. Macey, with some “The plural pronoun,” says the accontempt. “They wear nayther coat thor, “was no heresy of Dolly's, but
only her way of avoiding a presumptu- mit; but that was matter for a new stoous familiarity.” I imagine that there ry. This point illustrates, I think, the is in no otl:er English novel a figure so great advantage of the much-censured simple in its elements as this of Dolly method, introduced by Balzac, of conWinthrop, which is so real without be- tinuing his heroes' adventures from tale ing contemptible, and so quaint with- to tale. Or, admitting that the author out being ridiculous.
was indisposed to undertake, or even In all those of our author's books to conceive, in its completeness, a new which have borne the name of the hero tale, in which Adam, healed of his wound or heroine, “ Adam Bede,” “Silas by time, should address himself to anMarner,"
;" "Romola,” and “Felix Holt,” other woman, 1 yet hold that it would - the person so put forward has really be possible tacitly to foreshadow some played a subordinate part. The author such event at the close of the tale which may have set out with the intention of we are supposing to end with Hetty's maintaining him supreme ; but her ma- death, — to make it the logical conseterial has become rebellious in her quence of Adam's final state of mind. hands, and the technical hero has been Of course circumstances would have eclipsed by the real one. Tito is the much to do with bringing it to pass, leading figure in “Romola.” The story and these circumstances could not be deals predominantly, not with Romola foreshadowed ; but apart from the acas affected by Tito's faults, but with tion of circumstances would stand the Tito's faults as affecting first himself, fact that, to begin with, the event was and incidentally his wife. Godfrey possible. The assurance of this possiCass, with his lifelong secret, is by bility is what I should have desired the right the hero of “Silas Marner.” Fe- author to place the sympathetic reader lix Holt, in the work which bears his at a stand-point to deduce for himself. name, is little more than an occasional In every novel the work is divided beapparition; and indeed the novel has tween the writer and the reader ; but no hero, but only a heroine. The same the writer makes the reader very much remark applies to “ Adam Bede," as the as he makes his characters. When he work stands. The central figure of the makes him ill, that is, makes him indifbook, by virtue of her great misfortune, ferent, he does no work; the writer does is Hetty Sorrel. In the presence of
all. When he makes him well, that is, that misfortune no one else, assuredly, makes him interested, then the reader has a right to claim dramatic pre-emi does quite half the labor. In making nence. The one person for whom an such a deduction as I have just indiapproach to equality may be claimed cated, the reader would be doing but is, not Adam Bede, but Arthur Donni his share of the task; the grand point thorne. If the story had ended, as I is to get him to make it. I hold that should have infinitely preferred to see it there is a way. It is perhaps a secret; end, with Hetty's execution, or even but until it is found out, I think that the with her reprieve, and if Adam had art of story-telling cannot be said to been left to his grief, and Dinah Mor- have approached perfection. ris to the enjoyment of that distin When you re-read coldly and critiguished celibacy for which she was so cally a book which in former years you well suited, then I think Adam might have read warmly and carelessly, you have shared the honors of pre-eminence are surprised to see how it changes its with his hapless sweetheart. But as it proportions. It falls away iz those parts is, the continuance of the book in his which have been pre-eminent in your interest is fatal to him. His sorrow at memory, and it increases in the small Hetty's misfortune is not a sufficient portions. Until I lately read “ Adam sorrow for the situation. That his mar Bede" for a second time, Mrs. Poyser riage at some future time was quite was in my mind its representative figpossible, and even natural, I readily ad ure; for I remembered a number of her
epigrammatic sallies. But now, after a ness of color ; the constant sense, namesecond reading, Mrs. Poyser is the lastly, of a superincumbent layer of "genfigure I think of, and a fresh perusal of her tlefolks,” whom she and lier companwitticisms has considerably diminished ions can never raise their heads unduly their classical flavor. And if I must without hitting. tell the truth, Adam himself is next to My chief complaint with Adam Bede the last, and sweet Dinah Morris third himself is that he is too good. He is from the last. The person immediately meant, I conceive, to be every inch a evoked by the title of the work is poor man ; but, to my mind, there are several Hetty Sorrel. Mrs. Poyser is too epi- inches wanting. He lacks spontaneity grammatic; her wisdom smells of the and sensibility, he is too stiff-backed. lamp. I do not mean to say that she He lacks that supreme quality without is not natural, and that women of her which a man can never be interesting class are not often gifted with her home- to men,- the capacity to be tempted. ly fuency, her penetration, and her turn His nature is without richness or refor forcible analogies. But she is too sponsireness. I doubt not that such sustained; her morality is too shrill, – men as he exist, especially in the autoo much in staccato; she too seldom thor's thrice-English Loamshire ; she subsides into the commonplace. Yet has partially described them as a class, it cannot be denied that she puts things with a felicity which carries conviction. very happily. Remonstrating with Di- She claims for her hero that, although nah Morris on the undue disinterested- a plain man, he was as little an ordiness of her religious notions, “ But for nary man as he was a genius. the matter o' that,” she cries, “ if every- “He was not an average man. Yet body was to do like you, the world must such men as he are reared here and come to a stand-still; for if everybody there in every generation of our peastried to do without house and home and ant artisans, with an inheritance of afeating and drinking, and was always fections nurtured by a simple family talking as we must despise the things life of common need and common ino' the world, as you say, I should like dustry, and an inheritance of faculties to know where the pick of the stock, trained in skilful, courageous labor; and the corn, and the best new milk- they make their way upirard, rarely cheeses 'ud have to go ? Everybody as geniuses, most commonly as pains'ud bè wanting to make bread o tail taking, honest men, with the skill and ends, and everybody 'ud be running conscience to do well the tasks that after everybody else to preach to 'em, lie before them. Their lives have no i'stead o' bringing up their families and discernible echo beyond the neighborlaying by against a bad harvest.” And hood where they dwelt; but you are when Hetty comes home late from almost sure to find there some good the Chase, and alleges in excuse that piece of road, some building, some the clock at home is so much earlier application of mineral produce, some than the clock at the great house: improvement in farming practice, some “What, you 'd be wanting the clock reform of parish abuses, with which set by gentlefolks' time, would you ? :heir names are associated by one or an’ sit up burning candle, and lie a-bed
two generations after them. Their enwi' the sun a-bakin' you, like a cow- ployers were the richer for them ; the cumber i' the frame?" Mrs. Poyser work of their hands has worn well, and has something almost of Yankee shrewd- the work of their brains has guided well ness and angularity ; but the figure of the hands of other men." a New England rural housewife would One cannot help feeling thankful to the lack a whole range of Mrs. Poyser's kindly writer who attempts to perpetufeelings, which, whatever may be its ate their memories beyond the generaffect in real life, gives its subject in a tions which profit immediately by their
wel at least a very picturesque rich- toil. If she is not a great dramatist,
she is at least an exquisite describer. George Eliot's female figures she is the But one can as little help feeling that least ambitious, and on the whole, I it is no more than a strictly logical think, the most successful. The part retribution, that in her hour of need of the story which concerns her is much (dramatically speaking) she should find the most forcible ; and there is somethem indifferent to their duties as he thing infinitely tragic in the reader's roes. I profoundly doubt whether the
of the contrast between the central object of a novel may success- sternly prosaic life of the good people fully be a passionless creature. The about her, their wholesome decency ultimate eclipse, both of Adam Bede and their noonday probity, and the and of Felix Holt would seem to justi- dusky sylvan path along which poor fy my question. Tom Tulliver is pas- Hetty is tripping, light-footed, to her sionless, and Tom Tulliver lives grate- ruin. Hetty's conduct throughout fully in the memory; but this, I take it, seems to me to be thoroughly consistis because he is strictly a subordinate ent. The author has escaped the easy figure, and awakens no reaction of feel- error of representing her as in any deing on the reader's part by usurping a gree made serious by suffering. She position which he is not the man to fill. is vain and superficial by nature; and
Dinah Morris is apparently a study she remains so to the end. As for Arfrom life; and it is warm praise to say, thur Donnithorne, I would rather have that, in spite of the high key in which had him either better or worse. I she is conceived, morally, she retains would rather have had a little more many of the warm colors of life. But premeditation before his fault, or a litI confess that it is hard to conceive of tle more repentance after it; that is, a woman so exalted by religious fervor while repentance could still be of use. remaining so cool-headed and so tem- Not that, all things considered, he is perate. There is in Dinah Morris too not a very fair image of a frank-hearted, close an agreement between her distin- well - meaning, careless, self-indulgent guished natural disposition and the ac- young gentleman; but the author has tion of her religious faith. If by nature in his case committed the error which she had been passionate, rebellious, self- in Hetty's she avoided, — the error of ish, I could better understand her actu- showing him as redeemed by suffering. al self-abnegation. I would look upon I cannot but think that he was as it as the logical fruit of a profound re- weak as she. A weak woman, indeed, ligious experience. But as she stands, is weaker than a weak man; but Arheart and soul go easily hand in hand. I thur Donnithorne was a superficial believe it to be very uncommon for what fellow, a person emphatically not to is called a religious conversion merely be moved by a shock of conscience to intensify and consecrate pre-existing into a really interesting and dignified inclinations. It is usually a change, a attitude, such as he is made to aswrench; and the new life is apt to be sume at the close of the book. Why the more sincere as the old one had not see things in their nakedness ? the less in common with it. But, as I have impatient reader is tempted to ask. said, Dinah Morris bears so many indi- Why not let passions and foibles play cations of being a reflection of facts themselves out ? well known to the author, --- and the li is as a picture, or rather as a sephenomena of Methodism, from the ries of pictures, that I find “Adam frequency with which their existence Bede” most valuable. The author is referred to in her pages, appear to succeeds better in drawing attitudes be so familiar to her, – that I hesitate of feeling than in drawing movements to do anything but thankfully accept of feeling. Indeed, the only attempt her portrait. About Hetty Sorrel i at development of character or of purshall have no hesitation whatever: I pose in the book occurs in the case of accept her with all my heart. Of all Arthur Donnithorne, where the materials are of the simplest kind. Hetty's ism, the pretended motive of the story, lapse into disgrace is not gradual, it is is utterly choked amidst a mass of immediate : it is without struggle and subordinate interests. No representawithout passion. Adam himself has tion is attempted of the growth of his arrived at perfect righteousness when opinions, or of their action upon his the book opens ; and it is impossible character : he is marked by the same to go beyond that. In his case too, singular rigidity of outline and fixedtherefore, there is no dramatic progres- ness of posture which characterized sion. The same remark applies to Adam Bede, except, perhaps, that Dinah Morris. It is not in her con- there is a certain inclination towards ceptions nor her composition that poetry in Holt's attitude. But if the George Eliot is strongest : it is in general outline is timid and undecided her touches. In these she is quite in “ Felix Holt,” the different parts original. She is a good deal of a hu- are even richer than in former works. morist, and something of a satirist; There is no person in the book who but she is neither Dickens nor Thacke- attains to triumphant vitality ; but there ray. She has over them the great ad- is not a single figure, of however little vantage that she is also a good deal of importance, that has not caught from a philosopher; and it is to this union without a certain reflection of life. of the keenest observation with the There is a little old waiting-woman to ripest reflection, that her style owes a great lady, — Mrs. Denner by name, its essential force. She is a thinker, - - who does not occupy five pages in not, perhaps, a passionate thinker, but the story, but who leaves upon the at least a serious one ; and the term mind a most vivid impression of decan be applied with either adjective nei- cent, contented, intelligent, half-stoical ther to Dickens nor Thackeray. The servility. constant play of lively and vigorous “ There were different orders of bethought about the objects furnished ings, so ran Denner's creed, - and by her observation animates these lat she belonged to another order than ter with a surprising richness of color that to which her mistress belonged. and a truly human interest. It gives She had a mind as sharp as a needle, to the author's style, moreover, that and would have seen through and lingering, affectionate, comprehensive through the ridiculous pretensions of quality which is its chief distinction; a born servant who did not submisand perhaps occasionally it makes sively accept the rigid fate which had her tedious. George Eliot is so little given her born superiors. She would tedious, however, because, if, on the have called such pretensions the wrig. one hand, her reflection never flags, glings of a worm that tried to walk on so, on the other, her observation never its tail. . . . . She was a hard-headed, ceases to supply it with material. Her godless little woman, but with a charobservation, I think, is decidedly of acter to be reckoned on as you reckon the feminine kind: it deals, in prefer- on the qualities of iron.” ence, with small things. This fact “I'm afraid of ever expecting any. may be held to explain the excellence thing good again,” her mistress says of what I have called her pictures, and to her in a moment of depression. the comparative feebleness of her dra- ** That's weakness, madam. Things matic movement. The contrast here don't happen because they are bad or indicated, strong in “ Adam Bede,” is good, else all eggs would be addled or most striking in “ Felix Holt, the Radi- none at all, and at the most it is but six cal.” The latter work is an admirable to the dozen. There 's good chances tissue of details ; but it seems to me and bad chances, and nobody's luck is quite without character as a composi- pulled only by one string...... There's tion. It leaves upon the mind no sin- a good deal of pleasure in life for you gle impression. Felix Holt's radical yet.'