Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe by George Eliot.

Silas Marner is George Eliot's third novel (following Adam Bede, 1859, and The Mill on the Floss, 1860) and her shortest novel, and was published in 1861. She described it as "a story of old-fashioned village life" (indeed most of her novels are set in the past - only Daniel Deronda, 1876, was set around the time she was writing), and to Blackwood (her publisher), she said she doubted that it would interest anyone "since Wordsworth is dead", but, "it sets in a strong light the remedial influences of pure, natural human relations."

In it she tells the story of a weaver, Silas Marner, who had left his town in Northern England having been framed for a crime he did not commit - stealing from a deacon from the Calvinist congregation in Lantern Yard as the deacon lay seriously ill. Having been excommunicated from his church and rejected by his fiancé Silas moves to pastoral village of Raveloe in the Midlands where he lives as a recluse, spending all his time working as a weaver, and having only his savings to give him comfort. And there he lives for many largely uneventful years, attracting either suspicion or indifference. When his gold is stolen by Dunsey Cass, the son of the local squire, he falls into a deeper depression.

Meanwhile, Godfrey Cass, the elder son of the squire, is in love with Nancy Lammeter however he has previously secretly married a young woman called Molly Farren, an opium addict with whom he has a daughter (only Dunsey knows his secret and he constantly blackmails Godfrey). Molly has resolved to ruin Godfrey however her plan goes badly wrong and she dies having got lost one snowy night. Her little girl Eppie wanders into Silas' house and he adopts her, quickly growing to love and care for her. By doing so he becomes more sociable, the villagers respect and wish to help him bring the girl up and he in turn consults them and so makes friends as time passes. But the question must be asked - for how long will Godfrey's secret remain a secret?

This is a wonderful book, as realistic as a fairy tale could get I would say, and one of my favourite Eliots. It's incredibly satisfying; like all good fairy tales, bad deeds don't go unpunished and goodness is rewarded. It's beautifully written, believable, and very touching - the life of Silas Marner and his progress is very moving. I've read Silas Marner before a good few years ago now and never forgot him or Eppie. This strongly bound community and the ties of the individual to the social is very Eliot, and though I think perhaps now old fashioned, it is perfectly nostalgic. A very good novel indeed.

To finish, here are the illustrations by Hugh Thomson for the 1907 edition of Silas Marner.

Comments

  1. Realistic as a fairytale? What a great phrase! I need to visit Silas Marner soon. Thanks for the inspiration to do so.

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  2. I love this book, too. I've never thought of Silas Marner as a sort of fairy tale, but you're right, it does have that feel. George Eliot is one of my favorite "classic" authors. Love your post!

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    1. She's one of my favourites too! I think Adam Bede is still the absolute best, though :)

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  3. Heartily agree with all the praise offered. One of the most heartwarming and satisfying works of literature.

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    1. Definitely :) Loved it, fancy re-reading it actually, but I ought to try some more Eliot I suppose!

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