Scenes of Clerical Life (Literary Classics)

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9781573927802: Scenes of Clerical Life (Literary Classics)
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The debut novel of George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) consists of three loosely connected tales, all focusing on country parsons in nineteenth-century England and their struggles to breathe life into moribund creeds while dealing with their own personal problems. "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton" vividly recreates the impoverished life of an uninspiring preacher who is unable to move the simple townsfolk of his parish with religion, yet in the end evokes their compassion when tragedy strikes his family. In "Mr. Gilfil's Love-Story" a web of unrequited love entangles a young parson in a difficult moral dilemma that contrasts all-too-human passion with idealistic love. The concluding story, "Janet's Repentance," describes the sectarian strife between the established Anglican church and the new Methodism of the time. In the midst of this conflict, a Methodist minister comes to the aid of the abused, alcoholic wife of his chief Anglican enemy. Eliot displays her gifts for creating interesting moral conflicts, vivid characters, and realistic dialogue in these engrossing and enduring tales.

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About the Author:

GEORGE ELIOT was born Mary Ann Evans in Warwickshire, England, on November 22, 1819. The daughter of an estate manager, Evans spent her childhood living on the Newdigate estate in Griff House with her parents; sister, Chrissie; and brother, Isaac. Upon the death of her mother and Chrissie's marriage, she assumed charge of Griff House. After Isaac's marriage and her father's retirement, Evans went with her father to live in Coventry. Marian (as she now wrote her name) became a close friend of Charles Bray, a wealthy manufacturer who had abandoned conventional Christianity to live by his own system of ethics. Influenced by Bray, she translated David Friedrich Strauss's Life of Jesus from the German.

After her father's death, Evans went to London, where she had been offered a job as assistant editor of the Westminster Review by John Chapman, the publisher of her translation of Strauss's Life of Jesus. Here she socialized with many of the leading writers and thinkers of the day, including journalist George Henry Lewes.

Lewes's wife had deserted him and their three young sons. Because he could not obtain a divorce under English law, Lewes and Evans entered into a common-law union that would last until his death. It was Lewes who recognized Evans's literary genius and encouraged her to write fiction. Writing under the pen name George Eliot, her first story, "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton," was accepted for publication in the January 1857 issue of Blackwood's Magazine. Blackwood's accepted two more stories, "Mr. Gilfil's Love-Story" and "Janet's Repentance," and reprinted them in the book Scenes of Clerical Life (1858).

Each new book by George Eliot was acclaimed by the critics and widely read by the public. Writing about rural life, she was primarily concerned with people's moral choices and their responsibility for their own lives. She published Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Romola (1862-63), Felix Holt the Radical (1866), the dramatic poem The Spanish Gypsy (1868), the sonnet sequence Brother and Sister (1869), Middlemarch (1871-72), Daniel Deronda (1876), and Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879).

After Lewe's death in 1878, George Eliot stopped writing. In 1880 she married a long-time friend, John Cross. Eliot died on December 22, 1880. Cross arranged her letters and journals into a Life, which was published in 1885.

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