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Scenes of Clerical Life (Scenes of Clerical Life #1-3)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,125 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
1889. Eliot is the pen name for Mary Ann, later Marian, Evans, English novelist. The Scenes of Clerical Life is one of her first works of fiction. It comprises three short stories originally appearing in Blackwood's. See other titles by this author available from Kessinger Publishing.
Published February 20th 2006 by Echo Library (first published 1857)
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Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious readers or Classics lovers
While the first story in this collection would only garner a 3.5 rating from me, the other two more than make up for it and thus find me giving the book a firm 5-stars.

This is not technically a novel, but a collection of three stories that are all centered around the clergy in the same area of Milby and Shepperton, England. We meet, and are told the stories of, three separate clergyman who serve the district at separate times.

The first story is titled, The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton
Charles Moody
Oct 29, 2012 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
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ted Dettweiler
I discovered this classic writer as a result of a scene from the latest CBC version of Anne of Green Gables in which Aunt Josephine gives Anne a book by George Eliot. George Eliot was a woman writing under a pseudonym. Published in 1857 serially in a magazine, the success of "Scenes of Clerical Life" encouraged the writer to pursue her career. Lucy Maud Montgomery, born in 1874 would no doubt have been influenced by the stories that George Eliot artfully describes to us.

The third, and longest st
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 m
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
Feb 09, 2012 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 06, 2013 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
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
Richard Smith
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scenes of a Clerical Life was Eliot’s first piece of creative writing, and it has the well-drawn characters, the psychological insights, the wit, the sympathy, and the evocation of the English countryside and rural life that came to a fuller fruition in Middlemarch. It also has a touch of the Gothic, a style that the Victorians loved.

After it was published in 1857 Dickens wrote to George Eliot, who was not then know to be a woman:

“I am (I presume) bound to adopt the name that it pleases that exc
Feb 02, 2010 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
Bill Dauster
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scenes of Clerical Life, the first work of fiction of George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), is a set of three novellas, each related to the life of an English clergyman. In the set, Evans applied her expressed belief in realistically portraying things as they were. She wrote relatively straightforwardly for the 19th century, with wit, and often explicitly enunciated the philosophical point that the plot development was to demonstrate. In the first of the three novellas, The Sad Fortunes of the Reveren ...more
Apr 09, 2015 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,
Amanda Smith
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED these short stories. Eliot is one of the best storytellers of all time.
I can read
Clerical life is a bit boring.
Jenny Diels
I really enjoyed the first two stories but the third and last one was a bit tedious.
Charles Puskas
May 24, 2012 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
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 30, 2014 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"
Lynne Norman
Dec 20, 2010 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
Adelaide Mcginnity
The three vignettes are all very well written (as is always the case with Eliot), and I very much appreciated how the stories interlocked in setting and theme. There is definitely a strong similarity between Milby and Middlemarch, and much of Scenes of Clerical Life - particularly in the final story, Janet's Repentance - seems like an Ur-text for Eliot's later masterpiece. However, the plot construction is not nearly as tight as it is in Eliot's later works; all three stories drag a little bit a ...more
Mar 15, 2016 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
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
Nov 21, 2007 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
Apr 23, 2011 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
Apr 16, 2009 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
Adam Finnegan
Sep 06, 2011 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
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 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.
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.
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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
More about George Eliot...

Other Books in the Series

Scenes of Clerical Life (4 books)
  • Amos Barton
  • Mr Gilfil's Love Story
  • Janet's Repentance

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“You know I have duties──we both have duties──before which feeling must be sacrificed.” 9 likes
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