❰EPUB❯ ✰ Felix Holt: The Radical Author George Eliot – Freepe.co

When The Young Nobleman Harold Transome Returns To England From The Colonies With A Self Made Fortune, He Scandalizes The Town Of Treby Magna With His Decision To Stand For Parliament As A Radical But After The Idealistic Felix Holt Also Returns To The Town, The Difference Between Harold S Opportunistic Values And Holt S Profound Beliefs Becomes Apparent Forthright, Brusque And Driven By A Firm Desire To Educate The Working Class, Felix Is At First Viewed With Suspicion By Many, Including The Elegant But Vain Esther Lyon, The Daughter Of The Local Clergyman As She Discovers, However, His Blunt Words Conceal Both Passion And Deep Integrity Soon The Romantic And Over Refined Esther Finds Herself Overwhelmed By A Heart Wrenching Decision Whether To Choose The Wealthy Transome As A Husband, Or The Impoverished But Honest Felix Holt

10 thoughts on “Felix Holt: The Radical

  1. says:

    Towards the end of this long but intensely interesting narrative, the reader is told exactly how much time has passed since the first of the many events of the story The narrator sounded surprised at how brief a period it had been, and I was surprised too because I d been reading this book for quite a while and I d come to associate it with the passing of a considerable period of time That was partly due to the many events that occurred in my own life while I d been reading about Felix Holt s life, but also to the fact that I d read two books by Ali Smith in the meantime Felix Holt had had to wait calmly in the background while I helterskeltered through Smith s Autumn and Winter.The contrast between Smith s twenty first century urban Britain and the rural world of George Eliot s 19th century Loamshire couldn t be stark at first glance but it has occurred to me on finishing Felix Holt that it and Ali Smith s Seasonal series are not so very different after all One of the key events in Eliot s novel concerns the election of a candidate to parliament This was a time before universal suffrage so only the small number of men who owned land or property had votes However election agents often roused great mobs of landless people to demonstrate in favour of a particular candidate In this way, people with no vote managed to have an influence on the outcome of elections The mobs might have had only the barest notions about the candidate s policies, but, inflamed by free drink and scurrilous handbills circulated by the election agents, they could make such a clamor in support of the agent s favourite, and against the opposition, that they could sway the course of the voting.Ali Smith s Seasonal series touches on a voting issue too, the referendum that resulted in Britain leaving the European Union Though every adult citizen in Britain now has a vote, it could be argued that many of the voters had only a partial understanding of what they were voting for and were manipulated by the twenty first century equivalent of the election agent and their clever use of media We have come a long way from handbills and free drinks but people are still as open to influence from misleading headlines as ever they were Election results are still controlled by small groups of powerful people.The other overlap between this Eliot novel and the Smith books concerns the role of women in the narrative Readers who are familiar with Ali Smith know that her main characters are invariably woman but making the main character a woman is not a given in the case of George Eliot She has several books in which the main focus is on a male character Silas Marner, for example, and Adam Bede and Daniel Deronda But while this book is named after a male character, Eliot s story is predominantly about a female character, Esther Lyon Felix Holt is essential to the plot but it is Esther who makes the key choices and decisions that influence all the outcomes There are two other important characters in this novel, the parliamentary candidate, Harold Transome, and his mother, the doyenne of Transome Court Harold strides through the book as if he owns it but it is his mother who holds the controls of his life His decisions become meaningless in the face of hers.We know that in the mid nineteenth century, women, even if they owned land or property, didn t have the right to vote, and that they had little power over their own lives Husbands were chosen for them by their fathers and everything thereafter was chosen by their husbands, or eventually by their sons George Eliot presents us here with two rare cases of women who refuse to let fathers, husbands or sons decide for them for better or for worse

  2. says:

    4.5 starsOne of the least read of Eliot s novels sitting in the middle of her output I found it had a surprising resonance for today It was published in 1866 but was set in the time of the Great Reform Act in 1832, when the vote was extended not by much, the electorate increasing from about 500,000 to just over 800,000 As Eliot was writing the Second Reform Act was being promulgated The landed classes and aristocracy were bringing on board some of the wealthier middle classes.The plot centres around an election in a Midlands town in 1832 probably modelled on Eliot s home town Nuneaton the riot in the book is very like the one in Nuneaton in 1832 The voices of the Tory side are as you would predict On the other side is Harold Transome, a wealthy landowner just returned from abroad a widower with a son He returns to find his estate is causing some concern and shocks his mother and friends by announcing he is standing as a Radical Felix Holt is an educated, but poor Radical who has also returned from journeying in Scotland to stay with his mother and work as a watch repairer Meanwhile the Rev Rufus Lyon a dissenting minister and his step daughter Esther make up the other main protagonists There develops a sort of legal and electoral thriller with some twists relating to birth and inheritance and a significant riot on Election Day Inevitably there is a love triangle involving Esther, Felix and Transome and Eliot works it all out in an interesting way All the lawyers are corrupt and self serving and true to type The working class characters are a little less convincing.There are some interesting lines of thought Eliot looks at the situation of older women in the form of Mrs Transome and Mrs Holt, the mothers of the male protagonists Both feel helpless in the face of their strong minded sons who barely tolerate them Contrast the very sympathetic relationship between Esther and her father, Rev Lyon Another major theme is of course political change and the book often in the form of Holt asks difficult questions Does the electorate always get things right That brings us straight to the US and UK today The political landscape in the novel is out of joint and all are aware of it and there is a good deal of anger at the grassroots level, often without direction Holt himself is not arguing for extending the franchise he believes in gaining power for the working class by building a movement from the bottom based on education Partial change at the top was no change Holt, of course was right, as there was now a larger electorate to bribe, so you had to be even richer to enter politics.Of course there is a love story going on, but I was much interested in the parallels with Trump and Brexit.

  3. says:

    Very enjoyable story was further enhanced by Nadia May s superb rendition of it for Blackstone Audio AudioBookStand This was my husband s introduction to George Eliot and I m glad it was a mostly cheerful even humorous novel as her works can be dark Mrs Holt, Felix s mother, is a hoot and May has captured her perfectly Highly recommended especially in the audio format.

  4. says:

    I commented in relation to John Updike s Terrorist that a sentence of 157 words was the nail in its coffin I noticed while reading Felix Holt that there were four consecutive sentences of 78, 13, 100, and 64 words The difference is that in 1866 George Eliot wrote perfect prose, properly punctuated and capable of being understood and enjoyed despite the sentence length The whole book is a clever, frank portrayal of the 1832 election when England I use the specific advisedly was in the middle of Reform As is to be expected with George Eliot there is an element of romance, pathos and moralising but the less than happy endings found in some of here books has been left aside for once.Thoroughly enjoyable.I can recommend the Everyman edition which has footnotes to help with some of the obscure classical or contemporary references and words which are now obsolete like megrims A delightful little word, meaning whims or fancies, I wonder what poor little megrims did to fall into disuse Similarly, opodeldoc a medical plaster or liniment not linement as Everyman s editor spelled it of soap, opium and herbs is a wonderful word I wish I had a chance to drop that into the conversation.As always with Victorian novels I learn a lot about the social life and times and sometimes I am surprised by simple little things I had, for example, always assumed that the use of the word Jew as synonymous with money lending was simply because of their predominance in that field What I had failed to realise was that Christians were forbidden by Canon Law from money lending and that is how the Jewish predominance in that field first arose.As with many of the best books the number of quotations I could have included here are legion but I will settle for a couple of the shorter ones These social changes in Treby parish are comparatively public matters, and this history is chiefly concerned with the private lot of a few men and women but there is no private life which has not been determined by a wider public life, from the time when the primeval milkmaid had to wander with the wanderings of her clan, because the cow she milked was one of a herd which had made the pastures bare Esther was a little amazed herself at what she had come to So our lives glide on the river ends we don t know where, and the sea begins, and then there is no jumping ashore.

  5. says:

    review later

  6. says:

    Ugh Double Ugh I struggled with this almost from the beginning and, frankly, wish I d abandoned it before I got far enough that I felt I had too much invested in it to do so Eliot kept going off on tangents Sometimes my mind would wander and I d read passages again, just to make sure I hadn t missed anything And I hadn t Not all of the tangents were of the religious nor even the political sort The below was understandable than many, but gives you a glimpse Keep in mind that not one character ever plays chess, there is never any suggestion of a match Fancy what a game at chess would be if all the chessmen had passions and intellects, or less small and cunning if you were not only uncertain about your adversary s men, but a little uncertain about your own if your knight could shuffle himself on to a new square by the sly if your bishop, in disgust at your castling, could wheedle your pawns out of their places and if your pawns, hating you because they are pawns, could make away from their appointed posts that you might get checkmate on a sudden You might be the longest headed of deductive reasoners, and yet you might be beaten by your own pawns You would be especially likely to be beat, if you depended arrogantly on your mathematical imagination, and regarded your passionate pieces with contempt.I found the characterizations to be mostly one dimensional and the plot to be fairly predictable Remember, I m the one who doesn t know what will happen next Read others by George Eliot Read this only if you insist on reading her entire oeurvre.

  7. says:

    I make no secret of the fact that I think George Eliot is a literary badass, and Felix Holt The Radical is just the latest example of these well deserved credentials This is essentially a political and legal thriller set in 1832 England on the cusp of the passage of the First Reform Act Among other things, the Reform Acts of the 1800s redefined the electoral districts for the English Parliament and expanded the franchise ever so slightly The sleepy English town of Treby finds itself the centre of political action during the latest election campaign Harold Transome returns home after fifteen years abroad and decides to run as the Radical candidate, much to the surprise of his Tory family Meanwhile, in typical Eliot fashion, the Felix Holt doesn t show up for the first fifty pages of his own book Despite Transome and Holt s self declared Radicalism, the two butt heads, and soon it s obvious neither really embodies the label they ve chosen Meanwhile, a dastardly lawyer plots possible revenge against Transome, and it all hinges on the question of paternity and inheritance of a preacher s daughter.You hooked yet Because I know that the language in novels like this can be an obstacle to enjoying them Eliot is a fan of lengthy sentences and even longer paragraphs Her description belabours points until they become entire discourses her dialogue is of a series of speeches fired back and forth like broadside salvos With this style, however, comes a consummate ability to draw out the most intricate descriptions of human foibles and fragility We see this quite early in Eliot s portrayal of the ageing Mrs Transome, and later when we delve into Esther s motivations for obsessing over the strange and somewhat offensive Mr Holt Unlike modern thrillers, which tend to sacrifice depth of character for depth of field in the action, Felix Holt is a character driven thriller in which Eliot asks how our upbringing, gender, and political convictions influence the choices we make and how far we will go to get what we want.I could spendFirst, we have Harold Transome He comes back home after living in the East mostly Smyrna , where he had a wife who since died and a kid whom he mostly ignores, in that great fashion of the English gentility Like many a man convinced of his competence, he essentially swoops down on Transome Court like the North Wind we re doing things the Harold Transome way, and if you don t like it, then tough He engages the Transomes lawyer, Jermyn, as his election agent even while plotting to remove Jermyn at the most convenient opportunity He ignores his mother and the tough time she s been having of keeping up the estate but that s mostly because Transome ignores women in general, finding the weaker sex useless for everything except stroking his ego and likely stroking well you know what I mean.Transome runs as the Radical candidate for this district I never completely understood why he was going for Parliament, except perhaps because he felt it was the prestigious thing to do He certainly never evokes a sense of statesmanship Although he good naturedly and naively attempts to put a stop to the rabble rousing activities Jermyn s minion engages in on Transome s behalf, Transome does not in and of himself spend much time espousing Radical views His political allegiance seems a reaction against the stagnant Toryism of the countryside than any conviction that England needs to change.I guess the most redeeming thing we can say about Transome is that he s not a total dick When he learns that Esther has legal claim to Transome Court, his first reaction is not to conceal the news but actually tell her and then kind of sort of attempt to court her in the hopes he can keep the estate this way Now, the cynical would point out he s just pre empting the uncomfortable disclosure from Jermyn, and he obviously talks himself into loving Esther instead of harbouring true feelings for her And there is something to that But Transome is not a villain so much as an opportunistic upper middle class businessman granted, the distinction between these two labels is not always clear Whereas Transome considers himself a man of the world in a quite literal sense and almost condescends to bring himself down to the worker s level, Felix Holt is quite proud of his poverty He looks down on the rich, in a moral sense Like Transome, he identifies as a Radical but doesn t necessarily embody that philosophy he in fact discourages workers from getting it into their heads that they need to vote to effect political change Holt wants everyone to behave nicely in the hopes that this will persuade the people in charge to be nicer in return In her Address to the Working Man included as an appendix to this edition, Eliot writes in Holt s voice and explains that expanding the franchise to uneducated workers would be a bad idea right now, because it would encourage a kind of ignorant populism that would pull the country down.And so Felix Holt is fascinating, because it is not actually a very radical novel At the time Eliot was writing it, of course, those in favour of Reform were seen as quite radical people and then you had the unions, and later, the people advocating for secret ballots But if anything, this novel shows that Eliot is herself calling only for gradual change She doesn t want workers to have the right to vote until they also have the education she feels is necessary for them to vote properly I find this paradox fascinating, because in some ways she has hit on the crucial point franchise is no good if the people enfranchised have little knowledge on which to base a decision Simply guaranteeing everyone over 18 the right to vote is not enough, then we are obligated to provide civic education and in this respect, I don t think our present government does nearly enough.So Holt, then, is the common man who nevertheless acts as a voice of caution He is continually trying to apply the brakes, as seen in his foolish and ill fated attempt to curb the rioting on election day It sometimes seems like Eliot focuses less on him than on any other main character Nevertheless, his role as titular character is deserved because he ties all the other characters together He interacts with everyone else, subtly shaping the nature of the conversation It is the not quite love triangle among Holt, Esther, and Transome that precipitates the novel s conclusion.In Esther we see Eliot wrestle with ideas of femininity, education of women, and the duties that children have for their parents I ve always lauded the way Eliot s writing has a feminist tone for the Victorian period in which she lived and, by all accounts, Mary Ann Evans was a pretty spectacular woman Nevertheless, Esther demonstrates some of the limits of Eliot s endorsement of women s liberation On one hand, Eliot mocks those women around Treby who look down on Esther for being over educated for a preacher s daughter and for putting on airs On the other, she uses Felix as a foil for Esther s ego and high opinion of herself after a single meeting, Esther becomes desperate to prove to Felix at every turn that she can be humble and be open to being lead by a man i.e., him in matters of substance Eliot places Esther in a role complementary to the men in her life she must support and aid her ageing father be led by the man she chooses as a husband and nurture the children in her charge, whether it s as a mother or a teacher In this respect, while Eliot is quick to call out the double standards that adversely affect women s quality of life, she is not quite ready to tear down conventional gender roles.Felix Holt culminates in an election, a riot, a trial, and shenanigans over estate ownership It all ends in tears, and then a wedding, and finally a happily ever after, for most involved The winds of change are evident throughout the novel, but the ending seems to assure us that all will go on as it largely was before the rich will be rich, the poor will be poor, and there will be Tories and Whigs and the occasional Radical doing whatever it is men of means do in Parliament while your average worker drinks and works the mines This is not, therefore, that radical of a book But Eliot manages to deliver an amazing story full of intrigue, backstabbing, characters who are all out for themselves.I picked an excellent time to read this as well And I don t just mean because Thanksgiving Saturday was unseasonably pleasant and I could read this outside while listening to the new Florence the Machine album No, I mean that in Canada we re a week away from a federal election The campaigning in this book reminded me of the lengthy campaigning happening here Eliot s coverage of the Reform Act is a potent reminder that we are lucky we have the right to vote and by we, I don t just mean land owning white men While I completely understand why some people are discouraged by our political system and don t believe their vote will count, I m still disappointed when someone I know shrugs off the idea that they should vote It is a duty, and it is not one we should take for granted considering that some of us have had it for less than a century And it s certainly in the interests of the people in power to keep you from voting, particularly if you are young, or poor, or from a minority group and interested in expressing your opinions.This might sound trite, but one of the most radical things you can do as a Canadian on October 19 is vote Go do it.And then go read Felix Holt It s far from my favourite Eliot novel, but it shows the beginnings of all the skill and ability with character and setting that makes her one of my favourite authors Eliot manages to convey a sense of entirety, that microcosm of the human experience she is not overly cynical or overly optimistic she simply shows what is and what might be.

  8. says:

    I once read an essay about the objections to women s suffrage One argument that anti suffrage activists made was that voting was a proxy for fighting men will wage war over political power, but they can save blood and energy by taking a vote, allowing the larger army to win without the smaller one having to die Very civilised, no Women should not be allowed the vote because women don t fight imagine if there was a vote in which women all voted one way and men all voted the other What, exactly, would prevent the men from doing what they wanted anyway, safe in the knowledge that women couldn t stop them Now I suspect that you and I can poke some holes in that argument, but Felix Holt The Radical does have some scenes that wonderfully illustrate the pugillistic nature of early voting Voters had to get up on platform to declare their vote publicly, surrounded by the drunken mob, with their employer and landlord looking on sternly Some men crept in to vote early, before the crowd had had time to grow big and rowdy One character wrapped all his limbs in flannel, put on three coats, and went to vote like the michellin man Another fell into the hands of the crowd, and was so befuddled by everyone screaming the names of their preferred candidates in his ear that he accidentally blurted out the wrong name on the stage In the end, the crowd got completely over excited and went off on a riot, with disastrous consequences for all the characters in the book.But that s by the by The election is the event that the plot hangs on but it s not really the point The meat of the story is Esther Lyon s romantic choice between fake, snobby, radical Harold Transome, and literally perfect human being, radical Felix Holt Incidentally, for reasons only tangentially related to the text I imagine Felix Holt to look alot like Jamie Fraser So, on one level Esther s dilemma is the standard dilemma of every trashy YA romantic subplot Oh no Which of these two men will I choose It s so tough being loved by two men Poor me And Esther s dilemma is not the only part of the book that seems weirdly trashy to me There s also the mysterious matter of Esther s parentage apparently love of velvet cushions is a gene And the mysterious matter of that other question of parentage, which resolves itself with a very satisfying level of melodrama What I m saying is this is my first ever George Eliot novel and I was not expecting this level of Wilkie Collins I like it I was just surprised.Anyway, Esther s dilemma it s not a spoiler to say that she picks the right guy which is to say the good guy , because the interesting part is Eliot s exquisite, fine lined depiction of each character, their thoughts, failings, virtues, and reasoning Each of them is completely plausible, even as they walk this somewhat clich d path and don t we all As if our own loves and marriages were somehow wildly original.I was especially touched by Harold Transome s vague realisation that he might ve been a better man that Esther might ve made him a better man I felt an awful pang for him when he learnt The Terrible Secret because it s the sort of secret that s shocking for a Victorian and irrelevant for us, so his struggle to behave honourably upon learning the truth is doubly poignant I felt terribly sorry for Mrs Transome, for her rather tragic life, and for the painful way that her tragedy was born entirely of her own actions, her own character, and her own beliefs And Esther who struggles with herself to discern substance from appearance this was an especially good depiction of youth and the mingled pride, folly, idealism, na vety, wilfullness, good intentions, bad temptations, and basically everything that goes into being young and trying to make good decisions while simulataneously learning how to make good decisions.And finally, Felix, who is perfect, but still a pretty well drawn perfection.

  9. says:

    Felix Holt 1866 is not the best loved of George Eliot s novels, and in some ways it s easy to see why The male protagonist, the earnest idealist Felix Holt, is too idealized himself to be a truly compelling character, and the tale of his moral conversion of the beautiful and worldly Esther Lyon may be a little too pious and pedagogical for most modern readers The plot has its creaks as well, rather, sometimes lurching perilously close to the model of the Victorian sensation novel la Wilkie Collins in respect both of melodramatic subject matter and of narrative devices There are coincidences here at which even Collins would raise an eyebrow.Despite these criticisms, there is plenty to enjoy in Felix Holt The narrative is set at the time of the English parliamentary reform bill of 1832, and the plot centers around local electoral politics in the invented Midlands town of Treby Magna Eliot shows her usual, sure hand in evoking an entire society in all its sedimented complexity, caught here at a moment of transition A stunning, filmic opening scene, representing the approach to Treby Magna from the back of a stagecoach, shows a land half in the industrial nineteenth century, and half still in the ancient, unchanging agricultural world In these midland districts the traveller passed rapidly from one phase of English life to another after looking down on a village grimy with coal dust, noisy with the shaking of looms, he might skirt a parish all of fields, high hedges, and deep rutted lanes after the coach had rattled over the pavement of a manufacturing town, the scene of riots and trades union meetings, it would take him in another ten minutes into a rural region, where the neighbourhood of the town was only felt in the advantages of a near market for corn, cheese, and hay. The episode serves as a perfect frame for the political landscape of Treby, rooted in an ancient, feudal logic whereby land ownership signifies political preeminence, but shaken by the promptings of a newer, nineteenth century world, of politically organized labor and radical, post Enlightenment thought All of this works very well, as do the socially defined spaces of the novel, from the leafy glades of Treby Manor, home to the brooding Lady Transome to the cramped lodgings of Esther s father, the nonconformist preacher Rufus Lyon to the publics or alehouses of the hardscrabble colliers of surrounding mining towns There are also some fine minor characters Lady Transome herself her radical son, Harold, returning from a louche period in the moral wasteland of abroad their slick, shady, secret harboring lawyer Matthew Jermyn and the equally suave and secretive Maurice Christian, secretary of the Tory candidate Phillip Dubarry These shadowy souls are a splendid crew, with enough moral murkiness between them to compensate for the whiter than whiteness of the novel s protagonists I was disappointed when they faded out at the end Reading the novel soon after Thomas Hardy s early novel Desperate Remedies 1871 , I was struck by how much Hardy was influenced by Felix Holt Eliot s Lady Transome must surely be the prototype for Hardy s striking Miss Aldclyffe, her sexualized, less melancholy twin I wondered also whether Eliot s smug squire Harold Transome, with his padded yoke ready for the neck of every man, woman, and child that depended on him, lurked somewhere in the literary ancestry of the title character of George Meredith s 1879 The Egoist, another of my recent Victorian reads.

  10. says:

    OK, so this is my first ever Eliot so bare with me It s New Year s Day and I find myself in an Air BnB Of course I m ashamed of myself, but willing to admit my faults or the faults of poverty in Budapest and my wife wants to go to lunch so I ll quickly sketch out a few thoughts I went back n forth a bit pleasure wise with this novel I love Victorian novels, intricate plotting, and the dialogic clashing of characters, so those aspects pleased me very much Eliot is obviously a star in the form and all of these aspects are classic features of novels of the period and are handled exquisitely I m also an author completely opposed to the modern pressures of bourgeois writing so I loved the fact that there were no likable characters at all in this novel This is as it should be Did I feel for and suffer with the characters by the end of course This is how empathy is constructed and maintained in a world of self interested, frightened, and desperate human beings all very wary of one another The love story palled, however, on this older and perhaps too jaded twice divorced romantic failure My third wife is standing by the door tapping her foot so, you see, failure On the bright side, I loved the politics and the close description of the machinations that went into a British election of the period Very engrossing The big revelation toward the end was pretty evident from the earliest scenes dealing with those characters so that s either good or bad, I suppose, depending upon the author s intention something we will never know and or a reader s annoyance delight in having things hidden and revealed dramatically in a narrative s denouement Speaking for myself, I m usually a very naive reader hoodwinked normally by such devices although they neither please nor annoy me so the fact that I figured this one out almost from the get go probably means it was over telegraphed, again depending upon some subjective measure of such things Anyway, I will leave off comparing the novel s politics to today s swamp rats and all of their anti rhetorical rhetoric, but you will certainly find something upon which to meditate here in whatever political situation you find yourself, for the business of and the reasons for obtaining political office in the Western democracies remain pretty much unchanged these last two hundred plus years Also I will say that I liked Felix Holt, The Radical well enough to continue on reading Eliot Perhaps Romola next I do live in Florence and I have a lovely old hardback edition with photos of my adopted city from the last century Cheers, and Happy New Year everybody