Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Outrage

'The eponymous hero of the novel, Adam Bede, is a carpenter in his middle 20s living on the north Midlands estate of a family named Donnithorne at the end of the 18th century. Bede is a remarkable man: self-willed, self-disciplined, a hard worker, a gifted natural mathematician.

Bede has fallen in love with the pretty niece of a neighboring prosperous farmer, Hester (or "Hetty") Sorrel. Hetty is a worthless girl: vain, selfish, and foolish. Despite (or maybe because of) her family's strong admiration for Adam, Hetty spurns him - and instead falls into a lethal love affair with the young heir to the Donithorne estate, Arthur. The young squire-to-be is a good-natured and basically honorable person, but weak and spoiled.'

This from David Frum's Diary on National Review- almost a year old, but at last it has come to the affronted eyes of Hetty Sorrel. 'Worthless girl', indeed! Yet I cannot bring myself to blame him, for did not George Eliot herself aver that she interviewed Adam Bede in his old age, and is not history always the victor's version of events? As usual when distressed (now that my mentor Dr Isaacs has been translated to the celestial sphere), I questioned my attached friend Ruth Raven, for I could not remember if George Eliot had once used the word 'worthless' of me. Said R.R.:

'I am but a lowly teacher in a Further Education College, but if I described a seventeen-year-old as worthless, my job would be on the line. I am sure that Mr Frum is merely over-interpreting. Besides, as you have rightly said in Hetty, or to Hell with Adam Bede (available from, one cannot be seventeen forever. I suggest that you get on with mending that pile of bodices, and cheer up.'

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