I have had this lovely Hesperus edition of Amos Barton, George Eliot’s very first attempt at fiction, for a couple of years now. After reading my first Eliot earlier this summer (The Mill on the Floss), I turned to this little tome with renewed interest. This one is all about curates, money, housekeeping, and village gossip. The storyline is engaging enough (your basic poor curate and his family suffer the slings and arrows of gossip and hardship, suffer a loss, and ultimately resign themselves to the outcome) and the world that Eliot creates is interesting to live in for 94 pages. In our overstimulated lives it is hard to imagine living such a staid existence. In particular I loved this description of dinner party conversation that Eliot was no doubt mocking but which must have been all too common during her life:
Mr. Bridmain studied conversation as an art. To ladies he spoke of the weather, and was accustomed to consider it under three points of view: as a question of climate in general, comparing England with other countries in this respect; as a personal question, enquiring how it affected his lady interloctutor in particular; and as a question of probabilities, discussing whether there would be a change or a continuance of the present atmospheric conditions.
I don’t know how the ladies could stand all the excitement.