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Friday, 28 June 2013

Genuine Devotion should never to be despised...

This is my June post for The Artful Readers Club, reviewing "Scenes of Clerical Life" by(Mary Ann Evans) George Eliot
(St John the Baptist church Throapham)
Where to begin.....after last months disappointment it was with a heavy heart that I started reading this classical piece, knowing it to be written in a similar style. Again it is a narrative piece, describing the lives of several clergymen and their associations with a rustic community during the early 1800's as Methodism and Evangelicalism are starting to get a proper foothold in English parishes.
But oh my...the difference I found reading this amazingly well balanced book!!! Not being a Christian you may think I would have found little to like about the stories it contains, but it seems to me the authoress(Mary Ann Evans) took great pains to show us that clergymen of good and strong faith are not always as grey and serious as we may think.
The book is broken down into 3 stories about Reverend Barton, Mr Gilfil and Mr Tryan...and the depth of emotion that their lives held, unseen by the majority of the people who thought they knew them.
The writing itself is very intense in some areas(in the Dickensian, Shakespearian way of wordiness), but just at those moments that you begin to feel like your trudging through mud the sun sparkles on a dewy leaf and you find yourself surrounded by a veritable oasis of fragrant imagery that leaves your mind in a whirl. I found myself agog, reading passages over to make sure I had the correct interpretation of the story as I was often led into a daydream of far off country gardens and ornate finery. The book is set in a time period when women wore lace caps indoors, never left the house without their bonnet, and "appearances" were all important...again not something I've ever been accused of lol
The best example I could think to show you of the subtle wit of the authoress, is when describing the attributes of one particular gentleman preacher, she says he is popular among the working men of the fields due to "...his ability to dispense with the exuberance of wordy frippery..." (we as a family have now adopted that phrase..wordy frippery..:D)
I don't, however, wish to give the impression that this is a humorous novel...I found the stories intensely moving, sometimes heartbreaking, but they way the whole subject was approached made them immensely enjoyable to read.
After reading "Young Enthusiasts"  last month I was left with no interest in any of the characters portrayed there...but with this collection of stories I came to truly care about each and every one involved. Theirs are stories of hope, love and faith, and the word "Devotion" was left in my heart with regard to each of them. It is not a clergyman's lot to be a burden to his parishioners, but to help them carry theirs, and these stories  so beautifully written are a reminder that they are human too, and suffer just as we do.....possibly even more so. I think this excerpt shows a sample of the humanity and faith portrayed...;

He came forward, and, putting out his hand, said, "I am glad you sent for me-I am so thankful you thought I could be of any comfort to you." Janet took his hand in silence. She was unable to utter any words of mere politeness, or even of gratitude; her heart was too full of other words that had welled up the moment she had met his pitying glance, and felt her doubts fall away.

Not a scene of bodice ripping romance, but the moment a tormented soul reached out, asked for help and was offered it freely.
My only difficulty with this book was choosing what to make from the huge catalogue of inspiration available...but one theme in particular kept recurring through all the different stories...sewing.
Many references are made to the general pastime of needlework by the ladies involved. Whether it be mending, darning, embroidery, knitting, crochet or tapestry work, at some point they all perform this necessary service. So I decided to do a little cross-stitch...

well actually it turned into of field poppies(from an old Edwardian Lady's Diary project book) signifying remembrance, and one of a church window(from the block pattern book I posted about earlier)
Enjoy :D XXX



  1. This is definitely a book for me! What a wonderful review - got quite hot under the collar reading about it! Being one who is never seen indoors without a lace cap, I know I shall love it. Your cross stitch is a worthy tribute to the novel and very well done. Thank you.

    Janet xx

  2. Gina that's an amazing review and I'm so glad you got to enjoy this book when last months had been a struggle. Your art is also very beautiful!

  3. I'll spend the entire day looking for opportunities to use the phrase "wordy frippery." I should probably read some Jane Austen, word wordy frippery is a way of life ;-D

    I'm right with you in thinking that the life of a truly devout Christian man is full of sacrifice (and many times pain). I mean, they stop doing the things that is natural for a person to do, and the body and mind will rebel to that. It takes a lot of will to go against your own nature and still be kind to your fellow man. I'm glad you found a book full of these fellows.

    The cross-stitching looks lovely. I love the window; it allows me to say, "Gina cross-stitched a cross." Yep, I'm very mature. And the flowers are sooo bright!

  4. Another vote here for "wordy frippery" to be the phrase of the day :) I'm glad you enjoyed your book this month a lot more than last month :) and your cross stitched designs are fantastic - that's definitely on my list of skills-to-learn-one-day

  5. Oh, I used to do a lot of cross stitching in the early days of our marriage! Now I'm all taken by spinning yarn! :-)
    Thanks for a lovely review!

  6. Great review, Gina...that book sounds like something I'd love!! Your "word frippery" phrase will also become part of my vocabulary...I know so many people who fit that category of speaker!! :) As for your cross-stitching... I call that above and beyond...beautiful!!

  7. Oh Gina. Your review touched me in ways that, as you put it, were "surrounded by a veritable oasis of fragrant imagery...." What an ingenious phrase and great review. And then there is the art! I'm so, so impressed with your two cross stitch entries. They are incredible.

  8. Clerical life...hmm, yes, I bet the characters were quite intriguing. Your review, Gina, clearly shows you enjoyed it; and, I believe I would, too. I will be adding it to my ever growing list of books to read. LOL. Your cross-stitching is beautiful! Great idea.

  9. Your reviews are amazing!! Thanks Gina ;o) I love your creations you made to go along with the book ;o)

  10. I love George Eliot so much. I just wish I could go back in time and meet Mary Ann in person! Your review is lovely and does justice to a wonderful writer. As you probably know, she lost her faith in Christianity, but remained a truly spiritual and balanced woman when it came to matters religious. I love that you chose to produce some cross stitch - needlework is an undervalued art. Women for centuries expressed the most amazing things through their needles as well as their pens! They are so seldom given credit for this extraordinary art/skill! I love poppies too! Julie Annxx

  11. Fabulous review of an incredible novel and I agree, author extraordinaire. What an honour to your enjoyment of the novel to make such beautiful pieces of hand work. They will always remind you of the book and will forever be treasures. xoDonna

  12. What a lovely idea to do cross stitch, both lovely. Like the sound of this book so much i have just ordered it for the Kindle. Super review. Thank you.
    Jen x

  13. Oh Gina how wonderful. I really like the sound of the book. Just for the way you described it, what an effective reciew. I may have to look this one up. And how lovely that you did some cross stitch :) wonderful Dxx