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Silas Marner
George Eliot




The art and originality in the story lies in the completely innocent cast given to the miserliness of the old weaver, his almost entire freedom from any touch of moral responsibility for the growth of this passion, and in the complete and unresisted revulsion of feeling caused by the loss of his gold and the substitution of a living interest in its place. Silas Marner's character is no common conception.

R. H. Hutton, review in The Economist, 1861

In all those of our author's books which have borne the name of the hero or heroine- Adam Bede, Silas Marner, Romola, and Felix Holt- the person so put forward has really played a subordinate part. The author may have set out with the intention of maintaining him supreme; but her material has become rebellious in her hands, and the technical hero has been eclipsed by the real one.... Godfrey Cass, with his life-long secret, is by right the hero of Silas Marner."

Henry James, Atlantic Monthly, 1866

George Eliot's concentration on the moral side of human nature is the chief source of her peculiar glory, the kernel of her precious unique contribution to our literature. Her imagination is not a distorting glass like Dickens', vitalizing her figures by accentuating their personal idiosyncrasies, nor is it, like Charlotte Bronte's, a painted window suffusing them with the color of her own live temperament; it is an X-ray, bringing them to life by the clearness with which she penetrates to the secret mainspring of their actions.

David Cecil, Victorian Novelists, 1935

(George Eliot) was more aware than her immediate predecessors of the complexity of characters and her creations cannot be labelled good or bad, nor accorded the wholesale approval or disapproval of the reader as readily as can many Victorian heroes or heroines.

Joan Bennett, George Eliot: Her Mind and Art, 1948

George Eliot can make the apparently simple mind as interesting as the sophisticated and more inventively creative mind of the artist. Nothing in the human imagination was alien to her imagination.

Barbara Hardy, Particularities: Readings in George Eliot, 1982


Nothing can be more profound than this picture of the manner in which all human beings are influenced by their environment... on laying down the book we do not dwell upon Silas Marner or Godfrey Cass or Dolly Winthrop, or any particular character, but are forced to embrace them all with all their restricted country life. Nothing short of Raveloe satisfies the memory.

Unsigned review in Westminster Review, 1861

We feel that there must be a silent guest in the chimney-corner of the 'Rainbow,' so thoroughly at home with the natives as to put no stress upon their behaviour, and yet one who has travelled out of sight of the village spire, and known the thoughts and feelings which are stirring in the great world outside.

Leslie Stephen, Cornhill magazine, 1881


We seem to be looking at... any of those domestic or rustic paintings of the Dutch school, where every leaf in the elm trees or the limes is painted, every gnarl of the bark inscribed, every rut followed with fidelity. We follow the people out of the hedgerows and the lanes into the kitchen. We see the endless meals, the eternal cup of tea; and the dog rests his head on our boot or flies barking to the yard, while young children toddle in and out of the drama at the least convenient moments.

V. S. Pritchett, The Living Novel, 1947


Another striking thing (about George Eliot's writing) is the sense of gravity attached to an evil intention or to a failure of resolution, which because of the interdependence of mankind spreads its fatal repercussions in every direction; and another, the sense of the mysterious greatness of human life and the life of nature, the solemn mysteries in which we play a part while knowing no more about them than does the growing flower.

Marcel Proust, Contre Sainte-Beuve, collected 1954


George Eliot's revolt against her inherited faith was based on intellectual grounds alone. At no time was there a moral revolt. It was inevitable, therefore, that, being what she was, she should have spent the rest of her life trying to preserve the Christian morality without supernatural sanctions.

Edward Wagenknecht, Cavalcade of the English Novel, 1954

For most of us Silas Marner evokes painful memories of literature forced down our throats in the second year of high school. We were probably right in disliking it then, for it is an adult's book.... it is a serious and intelligent treatment of human life and conduct.

Jerome Thale, The Novels of George Eliot, 1959

[Silas Marner Contents]


We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
Hempstead High School, Hempstead, New York

Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York

Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
Fort Morgan, Colorado

Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Tamalpais Union High School District
Mill Valley, California

Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
State University of New York College at Buffalo

Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
State University of New York at Buffalo

Frank O'Hare, Professor of English and Director of Writing
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee
National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Guilderland Central School District, New York

Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois

[Silas Marner Contents]




Cross, J. W. The Life of George Eliot. New York: Amis Press, Inc., 1965. (First published London 1884.) The "official" biography, by Eliot's husband, edits her journals, letters, and conversations to give an admiring view of her life.

Haight, Gordon S. George Eliot: A Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968. The standard biography, by perhaps the most influential Eliot scholar.

Hanson, Lawrence & Elisabeth. Marian Evans and George Eliot. London: Oxford University Press, 1952. Readable, reliable, and insightful.

Laski, Marghanita. George Eliot and Her World. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973. Well illustrated.

Redinger, Ruby V. George Eliot: The Emergent Self. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975. An in-depth psychological study of Eliot's formative years, up to the writing of Silas Marner.


Leavis, F. R. The Great Tradition. New York: New York University Press, 1964. A study of the major authors of English literature, paying great attention to Eliot.

Praz, Mario. The Hero in Eclipse in Victorian Fiction. London: Oxford University Press, 1956. How the concept of the "hero" changed through Eliot's work and others'.

Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977. A study of women writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Wagenknecht, Edward. Cavalcade of the English Novel. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1954. Places Eliot in context of Victorian literature.


Carroll, David, ed. George Eliot: The Critical Heritage. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1971. Reviews written when Eliot's works first appeared.

Creeger, George R., ed. George Eliot: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970. A selection of modern views.

Haight, Gordon S. A Century of George Eliot Criticism. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965. Major critical articles on Eliot, from 1865 to 1965.

Hardy, Barbara, ed. Critical Essays on George Eliot. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970. Several good essays- note Lilian Haddakin's on Silas Marner.

Stang, Richard, ed. Discussions of George Eliot. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1960. Includes most of the important essays on Eliot and her works.


Ashton, Rosemary. George Eliot. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. Particularly good on Eliot's intellectual influences.

Bennett, Joan. George Eliot: Her Mind and Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1948. A sensitive and sensible book, full of insights.

Hardy, Barbara. The Novels of George Eliot. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959. A major study of Eliot's form and structure.

Harvey, W. J. The Art of George Eliot. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969. Valuable look at Eliot's techniques.

Knoepflmacher, W. C. George Eliot's Early Novels. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968. A study of Eliot's literary development, up through Silas Marner.

Thale, Jerome. The Novels of George Eliot, New York: Columbia University Press, 1959. A thoughtful study, especially good on Silas Marner.


Scenes of Clerical Life (1858) Three stories of provincial English characters.

Adam Bede (1859) The tragic love of a young carpenter for a vain, thoughtless country girl.

The Mill on The Floss (1860) A semi-autobiographical novel about a country childhood and young womanhood.

Romola (1862-63) A novel about a failed love affair between a morally serious young woman and a gifted but corrupt young man, set in fifteenth-century Florence.

Felix Holt (1866) Politics of the Industrial Revolution set off a plot about inheritance and family secrets.

The Spanish Gypsy (1868) A verse drama.

Middlemarch (1871-72) A rich social novel, possibly her masterpiece, analyzing love and life in an English provincial town.

Daniel Deronda (1875) A realistic view of upperclass marriage interwoven with a young man's conversion to Jewish political activism.

The Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1878) A volume of essays.


ECC [Silas Marner Contents] []
["George Eliot" by Virginia Woolf]

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