Saturday, 26 July 2008

George Eliot – “Felix Holt”

ISBN-10: 0460876872
ISBN-13: 978-0460876872

I commented in relation to John Updike’s ‘Terrorist’ that a sentence of 157 words was the nail in its coffin. I noticed while reading ‘Felix Holt’ that there were four consecutive sentences of 78, 13, 100, and 64 words. The difference is that in 1866 George Eliot wrote perfect prose, properly punctuated and capable of being understood and enjoyed despite the sentence length. The whole book is a clever, frank portrayal of the 1832 election when England ( I use the specific advisedly) was in the middle of Reform. As is to be expected with George Eliot there is an element of romance, pathos and moralising but the less than happy endings found in some of here books has been left aside for once.
Thoroughly enjoyable.
I can recommend the Everyman edition which has footnotes to help with some of the more obscure classical or contemporary references and words which are now obsolete like ‘megrims’. A delightful little word, meaning whims or fancies, I wonder what poor little megrims did to fall into disuse! Similarly, ‘opodeldoc’ – a medical plaster or liniment (not linement as Everyman’s editor spelled it) of soap, opium and herbs is a wonderful word. I wish I had a chance to drop that into the conversation.
As always with Victorian novels I learn a lot about the social life and times and sometimes I am surprised by simple little things. I had, for example, always assumed that the use of the word Jew as synonymous with money-lending was simply because of their predominance in that field. What I had failed to realise was that Christians were forbidden by Canon Law from money-lending and that is how the Jewish predominance in that field first arose.
As with many of the best books the number of quotations I could have included here are legion but I will settle for a couple of the shorter ones:-
“These social changes in Treby parish are comparatively public matters, and this history is chiefly concerned with the private lot of a few men and women; but there is no private life which has not been determined by a wider public life, from the time when the primeval milkmaid had to wander with the wanderings of her clan, because the cow she milked was one of a herd which had made the pastures bare.”
“Esther was a little amazed herself at what she had come to. So our lives glide on: the river ends we don’t know where, and the sea begins, and then there is no more jumping ashore.”

GEORGE ELIOT – see Daniel Deronda

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hello folks - your comments are always welcome.