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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 99, October 25, 1890   By:

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VOL. 99.

October 25, 1890.




[On the paper in which the MS. of this novel was wrapped, the following note was written in a bold feminine hand: "This is a highly religious story. GEORGE ELIOT was unable to write properly about religion. The novel is certain to be well reviewed. It is calculated to adorn the study table of a Bishop. The £1000 prize must be handed over at once to the Institute which is to be founded to encourage new religions in the alleys of St. Pancras. H.J.W.P."]


It was evening evening in Oxford. There are evenings in other places occasionally. Cambridge sometimes puts forward weak imitations. But, on the whole, there are no evenings which have so much of the true, inward, mystic spirit as Oxford evenings. A solemn hush broods over the grey quadrangles, and this, too, in spite of the happy laughter of the undergraduates playing touch last on the grass plots, and leaping, like a merry army of marsh dwellers, each over the back of the other, on their way to the deeply impressive services of their respective college chapels. Inside, the organs were pealing majestically, in response to the deft fingers of many highly respectable musicians, and all the proud traditions, the legendary struggles, the well loved examinations, the affectionate memories of generations of proctorial officers, the innocent rustications, the warning appeals of authoritative Deans all these seemed gathered together into one last loud trumpet call, as a tall, impressionable youth, carrying with him a spasm of feeling, a Celtic temperament, a moved, flashing look, and a surplice many sizes too large for him, dashed with a kind of quivering, breathless sigh, into the chapel of St. Boniface's just as the porter was about to close the door. This was ROBERT, or, as his friends lovingly called him, BOB SILLIMERE. His mother had been an Irish lady, full of the best Irish humour; after a short trial, she was, however, found to be a superfluous character, and as she began to develop differences with CATHERINE, she caught an acute inflammation of the lungs, and died after a few days, in the eleventh chapter.


BOB sat still awhile, his agitation soothed by the comforting sense of the oaken seat beneath him. At school he had been called by his school fellows "the Knitting needle," a remarkable example of the well known fondness of boys for sharp, short nicknames; but this did not trouble him now. He and his eagerness, his boundless curiosity, and his lovable mistakes, were now part and parcel of the new life of Oxford new to him, but old as the ages, that, with their rhythmic recurrent flow, like the pulse of [ Two pages of fancy writing are here omitted. ED.] BRIGHAM and BLACK were in chapel, too. They were Dons, older than BOB, but his intimate friends. They had but little belief, but BLACK often preached, and BRIGHAM held undecided views on life and matrimony, having been brought up in the cramped atmosphere of a middle class parlour. At Oxford, the two took pupils, and helped to shape BOB's life. Once BRIGHAM had pretended, as an act or pure benevolence, to be a Pro Proctor, but as he had a sardonic scorn, and a face which could become a marble mask, the Vice Chancellor called upon him to resign his position, and he never afterwards repeated the experiment.


One evening BOB was wandering dreamily on the banks of the Upper River. He sat down, and thought deeply. Opposite to him was a wide green expanse dotted with white patches of geese. There and then, by the gliding river, with a mass of reeds and a few poplars to fill in the landscape, he determined to become a clergyman. How strange that he should never have thought of this before; how sudden it was; how wonderful! But the die was cast; alea jacta est , as he had read yesterday in an early edition of St... Continue reading book >>

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