Vivian's Reviews > John Halifax, Gentleman

John Halifax, Gentleman by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
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Jun 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: novels
Read in June, 2011

I began reading a well-loved copy of this upon my 18-year-old daughter's recommendation, while visiting at the charming Quail Hollow Farm homestead where she is interning at this CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Upon my return home I requested it by inter-library loan and received a copy from Chicago, copyright 1859, pages near to crumbling. I began jotting notes halfway through.

Today's reader is hard pressed to understand the brotherly love expressed here. The story's narrator is the life-long friend of the John Halifax, whom he met by chance when John was but eleven, recently left an orphan, and who is committed to being the best person he can be.

Unlike most stories, this one follows John to his last breath and a little beyond.

p. 276 Single-handed or not, every man ought to do what he can. And no man knows how much he can do till he tries.

p. 291 After these words from the Holy Book (which the children always listened to with great reverence, as to the Book which their parents most loved and honored, the reading and learning of which was granted as a high reward and favor, and never carelessly allowed, or -- horrible to think!-- inflicted as a punishment), we ceased smiling at Guy, who in his turn ceased to frown.

P. 314 Yet, in truth there was some reason for the young man's fears; since even in those days, Catholics were hunted down both by law and by public opinion, as virulently as Protestant non-conformists. All who kept out of the pale of the national church were denounced as schismatics, deists, atheists--it was all one.

p. 322 There are few things which give a man more power over his fellows than the thoroughly English quality of daring.

p. 346 But always at home. Not for all the knowledge and all the accomplishments in the world, would these parents have suffered either son or daughter--living souls entrusted them by the Divine Father--to be brought up anywhere out of their own sight, out of the shelter and safeguard of their own natural home.

p. 347 (narrator describes a look exchanged as like the one depicted in the painting A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day refusing to shield himself from danger by wearing a Roman Catholic badge
by Sir John Everett Millais Bt PRA (1829-96) (Google to see painting)

p. 350 He wiched--since the higher a man rises, the wider and nobler grows his sphere of usefulness--not only to lift himself, but his sons after him;--lift them high enough to help on the ever-advancing tide of human improvement, among their own people first, and thence extending outward in the world whithersoever their talents or circumstances might call them.

P. 413 But the right made its way, as, soon or late, the right always does; he believed his good name was able to defend itself, and it did defend itself; he had faith in the only victory worth having--the universal victory of Truth; and truth conquered at last.

p. 414 ... but blood is blood, and education and haabits are not to be easily overcome.

p. 437 In marriage there must be perfect unity;--one aim, one faith, one love, or the marriage is incomplete, unholy--a mere civil contract and no more.

p. 438 Do you recognise what you were born to be? Not only a nobleman, but a gentleman; not only a gentleman, but a man--man, made in the image of God.

p. 441 ...whatever he found to do, he did immediately. Procrastination had never been one of his faults...

p. 450 There are so many sad things in life that we have to take upon trust, and bear, and be patient with--yet never understand.

p. 451 the author rephrases a stanza from the poem "Maidenhood" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ---"Standing with reluctant feet, Where womanhood and childhood meet," and assuming at once the prerogatives and immunities of both.

p. 455 ...believing that a woman cannot too soon learn womanhood's best "mission"--usefulness, tenderness, and charity.

p. 484 Children, we were so happy, you cannot tell. He was so good; he loved me so. Better than that, he made me good; that was why I loved him. Oh, what his love was to me from the first! strength, hope, peace; comfort and help in trouble, sweetness in prosperity. How my life became happy and complete--how I grew worthier to myself because he had taken me for his own! And what he was--Children, no one but me ever knew all his goodness, no one but himself ever knew how dearly I loved your father. We were more precious each to each than anything on earth; except His service, who gave us to one another."


p. 278 propinquity : In social psychology, propinquity (from Latin propinquitas, "nearness") is one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. It refers to the physical or psychological proximity between people. Propinquity can mean physical proximity, a kinship between people, or a similarity in nature between things ("like-attracts-like")

"A murmur arose from the crowd of mechanics and laborers, who, awed by such propinquity to gentry and even nobility, had hitherto hung sheepishly back; but now, like all English crowds, were quite ready to "follow the leader", especially one they knew."

p. 286 parricidally : Parricide (Latin: parricida, killer of parents or another close relative) is defined as:

the act of murdering one's father (patricide), mother (matricide) or other close relative, but usually not children (infanticide).
the act of murdering a person (such as the ruler of one's country) who stands in a relationship resembling that of a father
a person who commits such an act
Various definitions exist for the term parricide, with the biggest discrepancy being whether or not the killing has to be defined as a murder (usually killing with malice aforethought) to qualify as a parricide

"Dust of the dead ages, honorable dust, to be reverently inurned, and never parricidally profaned by us the living age, who in our turn must follow the same downward path."

p. 311 opprobrious : op·pro·bri·ous (-prbr-s)
1. Expressing contemptuous reproach; scornful or abusive: opprobrious epithets.
2. Bringing disgrace; shameful or infamous: opprobrious conduct.

"A Papist, most likely--I mean a Catholic." (John objected to the opprobrious word, "Papist.")

p. 312 Luddites : The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the nineteenth century who protested – often by destroying mechanized looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life. It took its name from Ned Ludd.

"And have all the country down upon me for destroying hand-labor? Have a new set of Luddites coming to burn my mill and break my machinery?"

p. 414 Reference to Daniel O'Connell of Derrynane : The ancestral home of Daniel O'Connell, Derrynane House is a public museum commemorating one of Ireland's leading historical figures and arguably the greatest ever Irishman, known by the nation as the Great Liberator.

Barrister, early civil rights activist, politician and statesmen, Daniel O'Connell was a huge figure amid the upheavals of the early 19th Century in Ireland
..."she doubted if even Daniel O'Connell had more popularity amongh his own people than John Halifax had in the primitive neighborhood where he had lived so long."

p. 447 nonplussed : non·plussed/nänˈpləst/Adjective
1. (of a person) Surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react.
2. (of a person) Unperturbed

"The deed was so new--so unlike anything that had been conceived possible, expecially in a man like Lord Ravenel, who had always borne the character of a harmless, idle, misanthropic nonentity--that society was really nonplussed concerning it."

p. 478 Reference to August 1, 1834 : The act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was passed in 1807 and after this date British sea captains could be fined £100 for every slave found on board their ships but it did nothing to free the already enslaved population in the Caribbean. The Abolition of Slavery Act was finally passed by the British Parliament in 1833 and came into force on 1 August 1834.

"Many may remember that day; what a soft, grey, summer morning it was, and how it broke into brightness; how everywhere bells were ringing, club faternities walking with bands and banners, school children having feasts and work people holidays; how in town and country, there was spread abroad a general sense of benevolent rejoicing--because honest old England had lifted up her generous voice, nay, had paid down cheerfully her twenty millions, and in all her colonies the negro was free."

The British government had to compensate West Indies planters for losing their cheap labour. They were given £20 million (more than £1 billion in today's money). To help raise some of the money freedom medals were struck and the profits went towards underwriting the compensation claims. The British felt good about banning something most of them had felt good about having - or at least their parents and grandparents had.

p. 481 mentioned as the main character's favorite poem by the poet whose given name the narrator bears: The Happy Shepherd
Thrice, oh, thrice happy, shepherd's life and state!
When courts are happiness' unhappy pawns!
His cottage low and safely humble gate
Shuts out proud Fortune with her scorns and fawns
No feared treason breaks his quiet sleep,
Singing all day, his flocks he learns to keep;
Himself as innocent as are his simple sheep.

No Syrian worms he knows, that with their thread
Draw out their silken lives: nor silken pride:
His lambs' warm fleece well fits his little need,
Not in that proud Sidonian tincture dyed:
No empty hopes, no courtly fears him fright;
For begging wants his middle fortune bite:
But sweet content exiles both misery and spite.

Instead of music, and base flattering tongues,
Which wait to first salute my lord's uprise;
The cheerful lark wakes him with early songs,
And birds' sweet whistling notes unlock his eyes
In country plays is all the strife he uses;
Or sing, or dance unto the rural muses;
And but in music's sports all difference refuses.

His certain life, that never can deceive him,
Is full of thousand sweets, and rich content;
The smooth-leaved beeches in the field receive him
With coolest shades, till noontide rage is spent;
His life is neither toss'd in boist'rous seas
Of troublous word, nor lost in slothful ease:
Pleased and full blest he lives, when he his God can please.

His bed of wool yields safe and quiet sleeps,
While by his side his faithful spouse hath place;
His little son into his bosom creeps,
The lively picture of his father's face:
Never his humble house nor state torment him:
Less he could like, if less his God had sent him;
And when he dies, green turfs, with grassy tomb, content him.

Phineas Fletcher
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