January 22, 2012
REREADING GEORGE ELIOT
George Eliot, Adam Bede (1859) ("Adam, you perceive, was by no means a marvellous man, nor, properly speaking a genius, yet I will not pretend that his was an ordinary character among the workmen; and it would not be at all a safe conclusion that the next best man you may happen to see with a basket of tools over his shoulder ad a paper cap on his head has the strong conscience and the strong sense, the blended susceptibility and self-command, of our friend Adam. He was not an average man. Yet such men as he are reared here and there in every generation of our peasant artisans--with an inheritance of affections nurtured by a simple family life of common need and common industry, and an inheritance of faculties trained in skilful courageous labour; they make their way upward, rarely as geniuses, most commonly as painstaking honest men, with the skill and conscience to do well the tasks that lie before them. Their lives have no discernible echo beyond the neighborhood where they dwelt, but you are almost sure to find there some good piece of road, some building, some application of mineral produce, some improvement in farming practice, some reform of parish abuses, with which their names are associated by one or two generations after them. Their employers were richer for them, the work of their hands has worn well, and the work of their brains has guided well the hands of other men. They went about in their youth in flannel or paper caps, in coats black with coal-dust or streaked with lime and red paint; in old age their white hairs are seen in a place of honour at church and at market, and they tell their well-dressed sons and daughters, seated round the bright hearth on winter evenings, how pleased they were when they first earned their twopence a day. Others there are who die poor, and never put off the workman's coat on week-days: they have not had the art of getting rich; but they are men of trust, and when they die before the work is all out of them, it is as if some main screw had got loose in a machine; the master who employed them says, 'Where shall I find their like?' " Id. at 204.).
George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860) ("[Mr. Tulliver] was about to get down, and lead his horse through the damp dirt of the hollow farmyard, shadowed drearily by the large half-timbered buildings, up to the long line of tumble-down dwelling-house standing on a raised causeway, but the timely appearance of a cowboy saved him that frustration of a plan he had determined on--namely, not to get down from his horse during this visit. If a man means to be hard, let him keep in his saddle and with the command of a distant horizon. . . ." Id. at 82.).
George Eliot, Silas Marner (1867).