George Eliot, Terence Cave
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It came to me first of all, quite suddenly, as a sort of legendary tale, suggested by my recollection of having once, in early childhood, seen a linen-weaver with a bag on his back; but, as my mind dwelt on the subject, I became inclined to a more realistic treatment.
Falsely accused, cut off from his past, Silas the weaver is reduced to a spider-like existence, endlessly weaving his web and hoarding his gold. Meanwhile, Godfrey Cass, son of the squire, contracts a secret marriage. While the village celebrates Christmas and New Year, two apparently inexplicable events occur: Silas loses his gold and finds a child on his hearth. The imaginative control George Eliot displays as her narrative gradually reveals causes and connections has rarely been surpassed.
Silas Marner (1861) is the shortest and most immediately accessible of Eliot’s novels. She takes the materials of legend and fairy tale and provides them with a historically precise setting, drawing on some of the most advanced ideas of her day in order to represent states of mind and belief at the limits of rational perception.
This edition, which is based on the carefully corrected text George Eliot prepared a few months after the first edition, is accompanied by an introduction which illuminates the intellectual context of what has often been presented as a nostalgic, sentimental tale.
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