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Scenes of Clerical Life (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

George Eliot , Thomas A. Noble
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

25 Jun 2009 Oxford World's Classics
When Scenes of Clerical Life, George Eliot's first novel, was published anonymously in 1857, it was immediately recognized, in the words of Saturday Review, as `the production of a peculiar and remarkable writer'. The three stories that make up the Scenes, `The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton', `Mr Gilfil's Love Story', and `Janet's Repentance', intriguingly foreshadow George Eliot's later work. The first readers, including Dickens and Thackeray, were struck by the humorous irony, the truthfulness of the presentation of the lives of ordinary people, and the compassionate acceptance of human weakness which characterize Eliot's writing.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (25 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199552606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199552603
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 351,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mary Ann (Marian) Evans was born in 1819 in Warwickshire. She attended schools in Nuneaton and Coventry, coming under the influence of evangelical teachers and clergymen. In 1836 her mother died and Marian became her father's housekeeper, educating herself in her spare time. In 1841 she moved to Coventry, and met Charles and Caroline Bray, local progressive intellectuals. Through them she was commissioned to translate Strauss's Life of Jesus and met the radical publisher John Chapman, who, when he purchased the Westminster Review in 1851, made her his managing editor.

Having lost her Christian faith and thereby alienated her family, she moved to London and met Herbert Spencer (whom she nearly married, only he found her too 'morbidly intellectual') and the versatile man-of-letters George Henry Lewes. Lewes was separated from his wife, but with no possibility of divorce. In 1854 he and Marian decided to live together, and did so until Lewes's death in 1878. It was he who encouraged her to turn from philosophy and journalism to fiction, and during those years, under the name of George Eliot, she wrote Scenes of Clerical Life, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Romola, Felix Holt, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, as well as numerous essays, articles and reviews.

George Eliot died in 1880, only a few months after marrying J. W. Cross, an old friend and admirer, who became her first biographer. She was buried beside Lewes at Highgate. George Eliot combined a formidable intelligence with imaginative sympathy and acute powers of observation, and became one of the greatest and most influential of English novelists. Her choice of material widened the horizons of the novel and her psychological insights radically influenced the novelist's approach to characterization. Middlemarch, considered by most to be her masterpiece, was said by Virginia Woolf to be 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people'.

Product Description


These early stories show her efforts to write about unremarka ble people with an insight that is both accurate and compassionate. (Sunday Times)

It is an excellent edition for a student because, besides being so reasonably priced, it contains a most concise chronology of George Eliot and explanatory notes which have been researched with great thoroughness. (Hilda Gunn, The George Eliot Fellowship Review)

About the Author

Thomas A. Noble is editor of the Clarendon edition of Scenes of Clerical Life

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Sorrow such as may live next door to you' 9 April 2011
By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER
It's easy to see why this collection of three stories, George Eliot's first work of fiction, was such a critical and popular success when first published. Its depictions of the homely everyday life of three ordinary, and in many ways unremarkable, churchmen are sketched not only with a good deal of gently ironic humour, but more importantly with a great deal of sympathy for, and interest in, them as human beings. In all three, it is suffering - their own and that of those to and among whom they minister - that, more than anything else, draws out our sympathy for them with `the love that sees in all forms of human thought and work, the life and death struggles of separate human beings' (229). No convoluted plots, no Dickensian focus on external foibles, just a gentle, understanding, very human focus on all the vicissitudes of bereavement, romance, illness and the burden of others' suffering - the `heart-pulses that are beating under the mere clothes of circumstance and opinion' (229), as Eliot describes it.

This Oxford World's Classics edition comes with a brief but insightful introduction from Eliot scholar Thomas Noble, in which he draws attention to the importance, in the work, of sympathy and fellow-feeling with all manner of people as a guide to conduct - at a time when the possibility of supernatural faith as a guide to how one should live life had, for Eliot herself, dried up. Scenes of Clerical Life is, he argues, a means by which Eliot managed to achieve a mature evaluation of what her own, now dead, evangelical faith had bequeathed her - as well as a proof of the continuing hold that the rural north Warwickshire of her childhood still had on her. It is, he suggests, part of the `immovable roots' of the novelist's experience.

This edition also comes with a chronology of the author's life, and explanatory notes to the text.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tales of Three Clergymen 13 April 2000
By Gary E. Pakes - Published on
George Eliot's Scenes of Clerical Life consists of three tales involving three separate clergymen in England in the early 1800s. "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton" is about the financially strapped curate of Shepperton who lacks tact, charm, and learning. Although he is initially unpopular with his parishioners, he earns their affection through his personal misfortune. The second tale, "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story," is about a parson at Shepperton (prior to the time of Amos Barton) who falls in love with Caterina, the daughter of an Italian singer, who, in turn, falls for someone else. When that someone else chooses another woman to be his wife, Mr. Gilfil deals courageously with the devastated Caterina, who is now at "the point of lunacy" because of the rejection. The third tale, "Janet's Repentance," has Reverend Edgar Tryan trying to stir up interest about the Evangelical Church in the religion-indifferent industrial town of Milby. The townfolk vigorously oppose Tryan's efforts in some very dramatic scenes. Janet, a female alcoholic who is frequently beaten by her husband, is at first resistant to Reverend Tryan, but later sees him as a fellow sufferer. She then seeks his guidance for personal problems, with positive results. All three tales are unabashedly sentimental and melodramatic. As this was Eliot's first attempt at fiction, one can see she had a ways to go before she developed the literary perfection that resonates in her later novels like Middlemarch. The tale about Amos Barton is my favorite because Eliot succeeded in making a drab character the hero of a story. The "sad fortunes of" should have been kept out of the title, though, because it suggests only the depressing side of the tale instead of the triumph of character it really is. The way Caterina in the Gilfil tale continues to find her singing the only way to "lift the pain from her heart" points out how a person may deal with grief by relying on an innate talent. The way Janet in the repentance tale goes from a kicked-about drunk to self-actualization is inspiring. Eliot's minor characters, such as the old women, the doctors, and the servants are well drawn, using the speech patterns and vernacular consistent with their respective class or degree of education. Overall, I recommend Scenes of Clerical Life as a fine introduction to George Eliot. However, I feel it is important to read Adam Bede immediately afterwards so one can see how quickly Eliot's ability to write fiction evolved into an art.
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