The first four novels written by George Eliot form a group by themselves; and while all similar to each other in their main characteristics, are in important respects different from her later works. This group includes Clerical Scenes, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner. With these may also be classed “Brother Jacob.” They are all alike novels of memory, and they deal mainly with common life. Her own life and the surroundings of her childhood, the memories and associations and suggestions of her early life, are drawn upon. The simple surroundings and ideas of the midland village are seldom strayed away from, and most of the characters are farmers and their laborers, artisans or clergymen. The Mill on the Floss offers a partial exception to this statement, for in that book we touch upon the border of a different form of society, but we scarcely enter into it, and the leading characters are from the same class as those in the other books of this group. “Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story” alone enters wholly within the circle of aristocratic society. There is more of the realism of actual life in these novels than in her later ones, greater spontaneity and insight, a deeper sympathy and a more tender pathos. They came more out of her heart and sympathies, are more impassioned and pathetic.
Throughout the Scenes of Clerical Life are descriptions of actual scenes and incidents known to George Eliot in her girlhood. Mrs. Hackit is a portrait of her own mother. In the first chapter of “Amos Barton,” Shepperton Church is that at Chilvers Colon, which she attended throughout her childhood. It is from memory, and with an accurate pen, she describes—
Shepperton Church as it was in the old days with its outer court of rough stucco, its red-tiled roof, its heterogeneous windows patched with desultory bits of painted glass, and its little flight of steps with their wooden rail running up the outer wall, and leading to the school-children’s gallery. Then inside, what dear old quaintnesses! which I began to look at with delight, even when I was so crude a member of the congregation that my nurse found it necessary to provide for the reinforcement of my devotional patience by smuggling bread-and-butter into the sacred edifice. There was the chancel, guarded by two little cherubims looking uncomfortably squeezed between arch and