Wednesday, June 18, 2008

1. On vacation in Senegal, 2. Read Adam Bede

I'm either on my way to, in, or returning from Senegal, depending on when you are reading this. I will return July 2.

One book coming with me is Adam Bede. Prof. Novel Reading is hosting a George Eliot summer book club at The Valve. Here's the leisurely reading schedule, and here is the first discussion. I don't understand about 50% of what is written over there, but Prof. Maitzen should be a trustworthy guide.

My travel makes my participation unlikely, but I am happy to read along and catch up. An advantage of being an Amateur Reader is that one can read this 600 pager over the summer just as well as that one. Take the opportunity, and read Adam Bede.

One comment, having only read a few chapters. Since I had recently been thinking about the influence of Walter Scott, I was amused to see that Adam Bede, Eliot's first novel, begins in 1799, exactly 60 years before its year of publication. The long title of Scott's first novel is Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since. So whatever Eliot's many reasons might be for choosing that date, there's also a little nod to Scott.

Then, in Chapter 3, there's a long paragraph of landscape description that has a suspicious resemblance not only to the description of a landscape painting, but specifically to the sorts of description I have been reading in Modern Painters:

"And directly below them the eye rested on a more advanced line of hanging woods, divided by bright patches of pasture or furrowed crops, and not yet deepened into the uniform leafy curtains of high summer, but still showing the warm tints of the young oak and the tender green of the ash and lime." And so on. This is Eliot, not Ruskin.

Eliot uses more metaphorical language than Ruskin, but compare to his chapters on "On Truth of Vegetation" or "On Truth of Earth." Eliot's probably not the only great writer of her generation who learned about nature description from John Ruskin.

Always interesting to root through a writer's toolbox.


  1. It's funny you mentioned that painterly technique because I'm going to mention (once I get my post up *ahem*) that the first two chapters produced that exact same effect, although with the first I thought of Millais' "Christ in the House with His Parents". Coincidentally, he was in his own bit of religious controversy, I think, being a Tractarian.

  2. Scott is in the air, somehow. Check it out:

    what an odd thing. Safe journey -- call me when you get back.

  3. I have just discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading it. My own interest is early 20th C with occasional excursions back to the 19th.

  4. What fun reading crossovers you have encountered. I hope you have a good and safe trip.

  5. And in chapter 5:

    "Before twelve o'clock there had been some heavy storms of rain, and the water lay in deep gutters on the sides of the gravel-walks in the garden of Broxton Parsonage; the great Provence roses had been cruelly tossed by the wind and beaten by the rain, and all the delicate-stemmed border-flowers had been dashed down and stained with the wet soil. A melancholy morning--because it was nearly time hay harvest should begin, and instead of that the meadows were likely to be flooded.

    Visions of J.M. Turner?

  6. ModernDash - exactly. And if the reference is to Turner, it's straight from Ruskin, Turner's great champion.