Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot (Review)

Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot

Blurb

George Eliot’s first published work consisted of three short novellas: ‘The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton’, ‘Mr Gilfil’s Love-Story’, and ‘Janet’s Repentance’. Their depiction of the lives of ordinary men and women in a provincial Midlands town initiated a new era of nineteenth-century literary realism. The tales concern rural members of the clergy and the gossip and factions that a small town generates around them. Amos Barton only realizes how much he depends upon his wife’s selfless love when she dies prematurely; Mr Gilfil’s devotion to a girl who loves another is only fleetingly rewarded; and Janet Dempster suffers years of domestic abuse before the influence of an Evangelical minister turns her life around. 

Review

One of my all time favourite books is Silas Marner so I hoped that Scenes of Clerical Life would be just as good and thankfully I was not disappointed. I truly loved reading this book and could not put it down. 

The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton

One of the first things I noticed about this short story was how church hasn’t really changed from when Eliot wrote this story to the present day. As a church organist who has regularly attended church for many years I couldn’t believe how close the past and present are. The Rev Barton is almost in constant battle with his congregation because the congregation think they know better and there are always disagreements about the music. 

The Rev Barton always tries to do his best and always tries to help those in need as much as possible even if this means his family suffers because of his generosity and the one who suffers the most is his poor wife. Mrs Barton never complains and spends all her time trying to provide for her ever growing family. Even when she goes to bed she continues with mending the children’s clothes. However, Mrs Barton’s efforts go mainly unnoticed by her husband but when Mrs Barton dies the poor Rev Barton realises just what a treasure he had in his wife.

I loved this little story and it is the shortest out of the three stories in the book. You can tell this is Eliot’s first story but you can see the promise of the amazing author she is going to become. I found the story funny, sad, frustrating and beautiful. 

Mr Gilfil’s Love-Story

This is another sad tale from Eliot but a beautifully written one and one where you can see a more polished author. The story is a romance of unrequited love, of a room preserved through time and rarely opened, a room which holds painful memories for Mr Gilfil. 

I love how this story shows how the parishioners all gossip around the village. How the ladies who were born and bred in the village look down their noses at the newcomers to the village especially if they are from town and not country people. We soon see all the different characters of the parish who Mr Gilfil, the vicar, watches over and they over him. 

In this story we meet Mr Gilfil as an old man living in the vicarage and we learn his sad past by being transported back in time to when Mr Gilfil was a young man with his whole future ahead of him. 

This was another story I couldn’t put down and one I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Janet’s Repentance

This is the longest story in the book and I must admit I did find that it dragged at times but I still really enjoyed the story. 

Janet starts off as a sad character who has a horrible home life but to everyone in the village she is nothing but sweetness and kindness. Janet helps out where she can and always has a smile for people but at home she is a the victim of domestic abuse. Her husband is positively cruel to poor Janet and she lives in fear of him. Her mother in law who lives with them refuses to see any fault with her son and blames everything on poor Janet because she sees her as a bad wife. The only person Janet can confide in is her own mother.

Eventually it all comes to a head and Janet seeks help and she finds it in the form of a dear friend and the Methodist Minister Mr Tryan. Mr Tryan is making waves in the village and because of this there is a divide between the people who follow Mr Tryan and the people who go to the village church. The main supporter of the anti Mr Tryan club is Janet’s husband. 

This story shows the love and support people can show to those in need and how people can rally around to help. However, the story also shows the darker side of humanity where people turn a blind eye to what they can clearly see. Janet has lived as the victim of domestic abuse for many years and people have chosen to not see this fact. 

I really enjoyed this book and found it beautifully written. I also found many similarities with the modern world in it because people have really not changed much. Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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About the author

Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She was born in 1819 at a farmstead in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where her father was estate manager. Mary Ann, the youngest child and a favourite of her father’s, received a good education for a young woman of her day. Influenced by a favourite governess, she became a religious evangelical as an adolescent. 

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Mid Week Quote: Charles W. Eliot

Hello!

I hope everyone is having a good week so far.

My chosen quote this week is by the American academic Charles William Eliot (1834-1926) who was Harvard president from 1869-1909.

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.

Charles W. Eliot

Happy Reading

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Mid Week Quote: T. S. Eliot

Hello!

I hope everyone is having a good week so far.

My chosen quote this week is by Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965) who was a poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary critic and editor. I personally absolutely love Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

“Every moment is a fresh beginning.”

T. S. Eliot

Happy Reading

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Friday Poetry: T. S. Eliot

Happy Friday!

I hope everyone has some good plans for the weekend.

My chosen poem for the week is from an old favourite. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is probably my all time favourite book of poetry, so I have chosen to share The Naming of Cats.

The Naming of Cats

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter, 
It isn't just one of your games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES. 
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily, 
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey - 
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter, 
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter - 
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum - 
Names that never belong to more than one cat. 
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover -
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation, 
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is enraged in rapt contemplation
Of the moment, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

T. S. Eliot

Happy Reading

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Mid Week Quote: George Eliot

Happy Wednesday

My chosen quote this week is by George Eliot. George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880) she was an English novelist, poet, journalist and translator.

 

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

 

George Eliot

 

Happy Reading

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Friday Poetry: T. S. Eliot

Happy Friday!

I hope everyone has some good weekend plans ahead. This week’s poem is an old favourite. As some of you know I love the cat poems by Eliot so I thought I would share another of my favourites.

The Rum Tug Tugger

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he’d rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat,
If you set him on a rat then he’d rather chase a mouse.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

 

The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He’s always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he’s at home, then he’d like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can’t get out.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any use for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

 

The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious beast:
His disobliging ways are a matter of habit.
If you offer him fish then he always wants a feast;
When there isn’t any fish then he won’t eat rabbit.
If you offer him cream then he sniffs and sneers,
For he only likes what he finds for himself;
So you’ll catch him in it right up to the ears,
If you put it away on the larder shelf.

 

The Rum Tum Tugger is artful and knowing,
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn’t care for a cuddle;
But he’ll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there’s nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any need for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

T. S. Eliot

 

The Rum Tug Tugger really is the epitome of cats.

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Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot (Review)

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, illustrated by Edward Gorey

9780571321261

About the author

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Edward Stearns Eliot born 1888 in St Louis, Missouri, USA. He settled in England in 1915 and published his book of poems in 1917. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats began life as a collection of poems dedicated to his godchildren, it was published in 1939. Eliot received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 and sadly died in 1965.

About the Illustrator

Gorey28

Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was an American writer and artist well known for his macabre and humorous illustrations. His first book, The Unstrung Harp; or, My Earbrass Writes a Novel (1953) was followed by many more. He illustrated work by T. S. Eliot, Edward Lear and Saki, among others.

Blurb

Cats! Some are sane and some are mad. And some are good and some are bad.

Review

I read this book as soon as I brought it home, but I read it in a very special way. I put on the musical movie starring Elaine Paige and John Mills and read the poems along with the musical, I might have also sang along as well. In short I had way too much fun and my poor husband had to endure a great deal.

I absolutely loved this book, I love the poems and I love the illustrations. It is all wonderful and I’m not sure I can choose a favourite poem because how can anyone choose a favourite cat?

The main thing I love is how all the different cats have attributes you can see in real life cats. I can certainly see many familiarities with the cats in the book with my own cats. T. S. Eliot clearly owned and had a lot of love for cats in his lifetime.

My favourite poem and cat was The Rum Tum Tugger he is just the epitome of cats. When you offer a cat some yummy food they would rather have something else, when you offer them fresh water they would rather drink from a puddle and so on.

I had amazing fun with this book and to be honest I keep going back to it now and reading my favourites. I also loved how the illustrations perfectly complimented the poems. I can not recommend this book enough to people especially if they are cat lovers, a quick read and would make a perfect gift to the cat lover in your life. I gave this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons.

Lady Book Dragon.

Purchase from Waterstones

 

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Friday Poetry

This week it is another cat poem because I have discovered the perfect poem for our fat cat Pan and here it is!

Have a good weekend everyone.

 

Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town

 

Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones –

In fact, he’s remarkably fat.

He doesn’t haunt pubs- he has eight or nine clubs,

For he’s the St James’s Street Cat!

He’s the Cat we all greet as he walks down the street

In his coat of fastidious black:

No commonplace mousers have such well-cut trousers

Or such an impeccable back.

In the whole of St James’s the smartest of names is 

The name of this Brummell of Cats;

And we’re all of us proud to be nodded or bowed to

By Bustophers Jones in white spats!

His visits are occasional to the Senior Educational

And it is against the rules

For any one Cat to belong both to that

And the Joint Superior Schools.

For a similar reason, when game is in season

He is found, not at Fox’s, but Blimp’s;

But he’s frequently seen at the gay Stage and Screen

Which is famous for winkles and shrimps.

In the season of venison he gives his ben’son

To the Pothunter’s succulent bones;

And just before noon’s not a moment too soon

To drop in for drink at the Drones.

When he’s seen in a hurry there’s probably curry

At the Siamese- or at the Glutton;

If he looks full of gloom then he’s lunched at the Tomb

On cabbage, rice pudding and mutton.

So, much in this way, passes Bustopher’s day-

At one club or another he’s found.

It can cause no surprise that under our eyes

He has grown unmistakably round.

He’s a twenty-five pounder, or I am a bounder,

And he’s putting on weight every day:

But he’s so well preserved because he’s observed

All his life a routine, so he’ll say.

And (to put it in rhyme) ‘I shall last out my time’

Is the word for this stoutest of Cats.

It must and it shall be Spring in Pall Mall

While Bustopher Jones wears white spats!

 

T. S. Eliot

 

My very own Bustopher Jones!

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Friday Poetry

I have a little confession, I am absolutely obsessed with Cats the musical and love the poems by T. S. Eliot, so I thought it was high time I put a cat poem on my blog. I have put my favourite cat up first, because who doesn’t love a mystery cat?

 

Macavity: The Mystery Cat

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw-

For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.

He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:

For when they reach the scene of crime – Macavity’s not there!

 

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.

His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,

And when you reach the scene of crime – Macavity’s not there!

You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air-

But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!

 

Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;

You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.

His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;

His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.

He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;

And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

 

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.

You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square-

But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

 

He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)

And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s.

And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,

Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,

Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair –

Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!

 

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,

Or the Admirality lose some plans and drawings by the way,

There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair –

But it’s useless to investigate – Macavity’s not there!

And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:

“It must have been Macavity!” – but he’s a mile away.

You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,

Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

 

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.

He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:

At whatever time the deed took place-

MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!

And when they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known

(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)

Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time

Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

 

T. S. Eliot

 

Happy Friday Everyone!

The cat in the picture is my cat Pan, even though he is not ginger and rather large, he is never there and very difficult to find, just like Macavity. Also if something happens in our house it generally is Pan, but you can never catch him in the act. He is also very difficult to photograph, this is probably the best picture I have of him.

Lady Book Dragon.

 

 

Friday Poetry

On the 6th January it will be Epiphany when the Kings arrive to see Jesus, so I have chosen a poem to reflect this ocassion. This is also one of my favourites that I did at school.

Journey of the Magi

“A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weathers sharp,

The very dead of winter.”

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

 

 

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation, 

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky.

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

 

 

All this was a long time ago, I remember, 

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was 

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

 

T. S. Eliot

 

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