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Scenes of Clerical Life

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,806 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
A marvellous work by Eliot, it comprises of three tales of three clergymen. She has done a brilliant job as she explores different facets of society and various aspects of life like misfortune, rejection of love and repentance of sin. Her stories are remarkable for their insightful and intricate characterization. This book will keep up on the edge of your seat till the ver ...more
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Published July 13th 2009 by ReadHowYouWant (first published 1857)
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Charles Moody
Feb 04, 2013 Charles Moody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: victorian
This collection of three stories, about the lives and work of clergymen in and near the small English town of Milby, was George Eliot’s first fictional work. As the Penguin Classics cover notes, it may seem odd that she chose church life for her stories, since she had broken with orthodox Christian belief some time earlier. After reading scholarly analyses of the Gospels, George Eliot had become convinced that they were essentially mythological stories. And, the introductory essay by David Lodg ...more
Walter Przybylowski
Eliot's first novel is more like three short stories thematically linked through religious examination, female prerogative and compassionate love. A way for the budding author to control the plots without getting lost and yet while reading the assured prose one doubts that a possible outcome. Eliot breathes such life into her characters, examining them in complex intellectual, spiritual and emotional terms, so much so that one is forced to admit our current fiction writers are all defeated by pe ...more
Eliot's earliest attempt at fiction, this comprises three novellas, "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton", "Mr. Gilfil's Love-Story", and "Janet's Repentance". I found the novellas a little on the melodramatic side (particularly the latter two) compared to her later works, but they show Eliot's developing artistry as a writer of fiction: subtle characterization, quiet humor, and most of all, interest in searching out and presenting truths about humanity. Scenes of Clerical Life wouldn't ...more
This is George Eliot's first attempt at writing fiction -- a series of three stories about the clergy set in rural England. Unlike her novels, these stories felt a bit limited to me, stuck in a particular time and place. Her discussion of issues surrounding domestic violence in particular doesn't really hold up from a modern perspective. I think it's an issue of space. In her later works she gives herself a lot of space to develop the moral complexity of her characters, and Janet Dempster would ...more
Feb 16, 2012 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scenes of Clerical Life is really a compilation of three novellas, each as adequate as the last.

The first novella, The Sad Fortunes of Rev. Amos Barton, suffers most of Eliot's tendency to take a survey of provincial life. It, like the other novellas, takes an expansive view of Shepperton and Milby, and will tell the story through vignettes and conversations of secondary and tertiary characters. They help to create a vivid environment and are more or less necessary for the form of realism she ul
Sep 20, 2013 Alicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 up melodramatic and not quite believable. (How can people so conveniently, or unexpectedly, die?) I love George Eliot's insights and writing, and I enjoyed reading her first published work. She definitely matured and improved as a writer by the time she wrote Silas Marner and Middlemarch!

A taste of
Apr 22, 2016 Penny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was reading Claire Tomalin's life of Dickens that sent me back to this - Dickens read and enjoyed two of the stories in it when they were first published - anonymously - in Blackwood's magazine. He said, "They are the best things I have seensince I began my course."
Even in this, her first published book, Eliot shows her merciless contempt for hypocracy and cant, exposing the self-satisfied to ridcule. Her talent for seeking out the secret places of the human heart is also apparent; she uses
Mar 06, 2010 Catherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I unabashedly love this book. Sure, it's not Eliot at her height but she's testing her wings here, giving us a first taste on her views of the interactions between men and women.
There's quite a few good laughs in here- she has a great ear for people's nonsense (A Mr. Dempster killed me with his asserted belief that the Presbyterians were founded by John Presbyter and got a whole pub to belief that lie. Presbyr actually means "elder", there was no John P! But the man who asserted it meant "elder
Jun 02, 2014 Pgchuis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found these novellas each quite different. "Amos Barton", the first and shortest was probably my favourite. Everyone in it was resolutely ordinary and nothing really remarkable happened, but it felt very true to life (and had a very sad ending).

I didn't like "Mr Gilfil's Love Story" at all and the fact that he was a clergyman was so peripheral to the story that it seemed a bit of a stretch describing the story as a scene of "Clerical Life". Tina had echoes for me of Miriam in "Daniel Deronda"
Apr 13, 2015 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
O the anguish of that thought that we can never atone to our dead for the stinted affection we gave them, for the light answers we returned to their plaints or their pleadings, for the little reverence we showed to that sacred human soul that lived so close to us, and was the divinest thing God had given us to know.

George Eliot is everything. Until this, I had never read any George Eliot before. I do have a lot of time for Victorian literature and have done ever since I was a teenager. However,
Oct 23, 2015 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
In my Penguin Classics edition there is an appendix 'How I Came to Write Fiction' written by George Eliot and dated Dec 6 1857 in which she describes the background to this book. That and the introduction by David Lodge proved enormously interesting in helping to portray how the book took shape. It details what suggestions the publisher, Blackwood made when the stories were sent to him to be published in his magazine and how Eliot responded to his criticism.
The religious themes of the stories
Charles Puskas
May 24, 2012 Charles Puskas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Novelist George Eliot (Marian Evans) maintains a place in her heart and mind for emphatic suffering, acts of mercy and caring, finding the mysterious and sacred beneath common experiences, exposing hypocrisy, and offering a faith that doesn't focus on false hopes and promises. As one of Victorian's honest doubters, George Eliot had translated post-enlightenment critical works by David Friedrich Strauss and Ludwig Feuerbach, but in these early series of stories (originally published in Blackwood' ...more
Lynne Norman
Feb 07, 2011 Lynne Norman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading three books from Eliot's catalogue, I'm starting to really fall in love with her work. I love the warmth she evidently feels towards the peole she writes about, the gently sarcastic ribbing of country life that is contained within her stories. Her novels are didactic - but, unlike Dickens, the moral lesson never comes at the expense of her characters. The people in her novels and - most notably - in this collection of short stories are well-rounded, believable, real. In 'Scenes of ...more
Ah, queste scrittrici, figlie, mogli, suocere di reverendi, con che sguardo acuto e imparziale guardavano ai vari rappresentanti del clero inglese! Ecco un 'punto di vista' che decisamente manca alla chiesa cattolica. Purtroppo.
I have been reading books by George Eliot because someone recommended her to me. I have read several of her books and this is almost the last one on my list (though one of the first ones that she wrote).
David Mcdowell
A collection of George Eliot's first published writings on the unpromising subject of country clergymen and their surroundings.

The three stories themselves are unusual in that they increase in length from short story to novella. This could be effective but the first story is the weakest featuring a fairly unlikeable main character by today's standards. The middle story I could have mistaken for Eliot already well established as a novelist and was very engaging. The third was an interesting acco
Apr 16, 2009 Beckie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love George Eliot, and this was her first published book--a collection of three shorter stories. It was good to see how she progressed as she wrote her later novels that I adore. This was written in a style that needed editing. I couldn't follow the third story at all until I read the first chapter after chapter two and three, where it makes more sense to be placed. Given this I made it through the stories, found delight in them and much needed information for my own historical novel that is s ...more
Nov 21, 2007 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: professor
So far, I've only read "Janet's Repentance." It is, of course, quintessential George Eliot. Part "telling," part "showing," she paints a detailed portrait of country life which is at once funny, sad, and insightful. Her protagonists are not without faults and the antagonists are not entirely demonized, and her recognition of individual and institutional hypocrisy counterbalances otherwise trite aphorisms on human nature.

A side not on the edition: I would not buy a Wordsworth Classic again due t
Charles C VanCott
Mar 07, 2016 Charles C VanCott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Gilfil's Love Story

I enjoyed this collection very much, even though it fell short of Middlemarch. I found Mr. Gilfil's Love Story simply superb.
Adam Finnegan
Sep 06, 2011 Adam Finnegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-some-of-it
Eliot is a direct relative/ancestor of mine and It is just so bizarre when I read her literature I can feel her personality very well and if you really read between the lines and you have a well informed and relentless researcher into the occult you will see what is actually going on that she cant spell it out as easy as she probably wanted to. God bless you Mary anne RIP. I have all th family tree documents and if anyone is interested i can send you pics of how she is directly related to me AND ...more
Apr 23, 2011 Lorraine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this much better than her other works, barring MiddleMarch. I thought the pictures exquisitely drawn and true to life -- and it doesn't have as much preachiness as the rest. The important things, I feel, are left unsaid, which for me is a GOOD thing. It is no wonder that this earned such good reviews from Virginia Woolf. I must say that the reason why it didn't get 5 stars from me was because it *still* had those long passages where George Eliot pontificates on human nature -- all very i ...more
Kate B
Jul 23, 2016 Kate B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three stories linked by common themes.
Timothy James
Mar 15, 2016 Timothy James rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned-books
Sadly, this is a boring book. Whilst amusing in places, the stories are very slow paced, and with the end revealed from the start there seemed little point in the telling. I didn't find it easy to engage with any of the main characters, and found the descriptions of dress and appearance tedious. Her later books are certainly superior and I would recommend ignoring this one.
Mar 06, 2016 Jocelyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
George Eliot is a genius.
Riley Dawson
3.5 stars.

I was all aboard with the whole "depressing things happening to the clergy" boat but then Janet's Repentance happened and I had to read 65 pages about some boring-ass church disagreement. It got way better after that, though, so at least I powered through. I also had a bit of a problem with the fact that there were so many SUDDEN TWISTS at the end of chapters. I get that it's a side effect of the serialized publication but really, it's a little bit too much when it happens multiple tim
Apr 19, 2008 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of three stories that were the first published fiction from the great 19th century author George Eliot. She's one of my favorite authors from that time period (George Eliot was her pen name, real name Mary Ann Evans). I didn't enjoy these stories as much as her later novels like Middlemarch, but I was trying to read all of her works so I had to include this. Interesting to see these first writings before she was well known at all.
Fourth time reading this - seeing it in new ways both good and bad.
Eliot has every bit of the insightfulness of Austen, but has so much more merciful a tone.

Distractingly academic...
Laurel Hicks
George Eliot's first published fiction consists of three longish stories, "Amos Barton," "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story," and "Janet's Repentance." I thought they got progressively better, with the last one keeping me awake late to find out how Janet's character developed. These stories provided fine studies for Eliot's later novels.
Jun 23, 2010 MaryAnn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Broken up into three short novellas. The beginning of each new story lost my interest, but by the end of each I was totally riveted. This was especially true of the last story about Janet Dempster, which was a hope filled story about overcoming domestic violence and substance abuse.
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In 1819, novelist George Eliot (nee Mary Ann Evans), was born at a farmstead in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where her father was estate manager. Mary Ann, the youngest child and a favorite of her father's, received a good education for a young woman of her day. Influenced by a favorite governess, she became a religious evangelical as an adolescent. Her first published work was a religious poe ...more
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“You know I have duties──we both have duties──before which feeling must be sacrificed.” 9 likes
“No man can begin to mould himself on a faith or an idea without rising to a higher order of experience.” 7 likes
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