Felix Holt, The Radical

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A novel by G. Eliot, published 1866, set in 1832 in Loamshire.

Harold Transome arrives from the East to inherit the family estate, and startles his family by standing as a Radical candidate. His political convictions are not incompatible with ‘treating’ the local workers, and his character is strongly contrasted with that of Felix Holt, austere, idealistic, and passionate, who has deliberately chosen the life of an artisan, and who aims to stir his fellow workers to a sense of their own worth and destiny. The heroine, Esther, who supposes herself to be the daughter of old Lyon, the Independent minister, has an innate love of refinement, and when Felix chastises her for her frivolity she gains a new consciousness, and gradually falls in love with him. A complex chain of events reveals that Esther is the heir to the Transome estate; Harold woos her, and Esther is forced to choose between his wordly attractions, and poverty with Felix. She renounces her claim to the estate and chooses Felix. It is revealed to Harold at the end of the novel that he is not his father's son, but the son of the hated lawyer Jermyn; the account of the years of suffering of the proud and lonely Mrs Transome, subjected in secrecy to a man she no longer respects, ever fearful of her son's discovery, befriended only by her faithful servant Denner, forms, in the view of Leavis, the most successful part of the book.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

George Eliot (1819—1880) novelist

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