Scenes of Clerical Life

Front Cover
Penguin, 1998 - Fiction - 369 pages
20 Reviews
'Many men write well and tell a story well, but few possess the art of giving individuality to their characters so happily and easily as you …'

Wrote the publisher John Blackwood in February 1857 to a shy and ambitious new author, whom he had not yet met, George Eliot. Shielded by this pseudonymn, Mary Ann Evans made her fictional début when Scenes of Clerical Life appeared in Blackwood's Magazine the same year. These are Eliot's earliest studies of what became enduring themes: the impact of religious controversy and social change in provincial life, and the power of love to transform the lives of individual men and women. In 'The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton', Amos learns only after her death the value of Milly's selfless love; 'Mr Gilfil's Love Story' tells of a clergyman's life-long devotion to the memory of Caterina, destroyed by her passion for another lover; in 'Janet's Repentance', the life of the alchoholic Janet Dempster is decisively changed by the attractiveness of Rev. Tryan, an evangelical preacher.

Adam Bede was soon to appear and bring George Eliot great fame and fortune. In the meantime the Scenes won acclaim from a discerning readership including Charles Dickens: 'I hope you will excuse my writing to you to express my admiration … The exquisite truth and delicacy, both of the humour and the pathos of those stories, I have never seen the like of.'


What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: Scenes of Clerical Life

User Review  - Alicia - Goodreads

I wouldn't have stuck with this if it weren't for the author. Because I love George Eliot's later books, I figured these 3 short stories would be worth reading even if they started out slow and ended ... Read full review

Review: Scenes of Clerical Life

User Review  - Denise DeRocher - Goodreads

Delightful vignettes of life in late eighteenth century rural England. Over two hundred years later, Eliot still provokes feeling and visual clarity that crosses generations and countries. The woman was a magical writer. Read full review



Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page xxiii - A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.
Page xxxii - The blessed work of helping the world forward happily does not wait to be done by perfect men, and I should imagine that neither Luther nor John Bunyan, for example, would have satisfied the modern demand for an ideal hero, who believes nothing but what is true, feels nothing but what is exalted, and does nothing but what is graceful.
Page xxxii - Surely, surely the only true knowledge of our fellowman is that which enables us to feel with him — which gives us a fine ear for the heart-pulses that are beating under the mere clothes of circumstance and opinion.

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1998)

George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans Cross) was born on November 22, 1819 at Arbury Farm, Warwickshire, England. She received an ordinary education and, upon leaving school at the age of sixteen, embarked on a program of independent study to further her intellectual growth. In 1841 she moved with her father to Coventry, where the influences of "skeptics and rationalists" swayed her from an intense religious devoutness to an eventual break with the church. The death of her father in 1849 left her with a small legacy and the freedom to pursue her literary inclinations. In 1851 she became the assistant editor of the Westminster Review, a position she held for three years. In 1854 came the fated meeting with George Henry Lewes, the gifted editor of The Leader, who was to become her adviser and companion for the next twenty-four years. Her first book, Scenes of a Clerical Life (1858), was followed by Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), and Middlemarch (1872). The death of Lewes, in 1878, left her stricken and lonely. On May 6, 1880, she married John Cross, a friend of long standing, and after a brief illness she died on December 22 of that year, in London.

Bibliographic information