SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE
George Eliot's first published work consisted of three short novellas: The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, Mr Gilfil's Love-Story, and Janet's Repentance. Their depiction of the lives of ordinary men and women in a provincial Midlands town initiated a new era of nineteenth-century literary realism. The tales concern rural members of the clergy and the gossip and factions that a small town generates around them. Amos Barton only realizes how much he depends upon his wife's selfless love when she dies prematurely; Mr Gilfil's devotion to a girl who loves another is only fleetingly rewarded; and Janet Dempster suffers years of domestic abuse before the influence of an Evangelical minister turns her life around. These stories are remarkable for the tenderness with which Eliot portrays a bygone time of religious belief in a newly secular age, giving literary fiction an alternative language to religion and philosophy for the observation and understanding of human experience.