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Felix Holt, The Radical

By: George Eliot

"Harold Transome is a landowner who goes against his family's political tradition (much to his mother's distress), while Felix Holt is a sincere radical. The setting of the book, the 1832 parliament election, is used to discuss the social problems of that time. A secondary plot involves Esther Lyon, the stepdaughter of a minister who is the real heiress to the Transome estate, with whom both Harold Transome and Felix Holt fall in love.

As the story starts, the reader is introduced to the fictitious community of Treby in the English Midlands in 1832, around the time of the First Reform Act. Harold Transome, a local landowner, has returned home after a fifteen-year trading career in the Middle East. Wealthy from trade, he stands for election to Parliament from the county seat of North Loamshire. But contrary to his family's Tory traditions, he intends to stand as a Radical. This alienates him from his traditional allies and causes despair for his mother, Mrs. Transome. Harold Transome gains the support of his Tory uncle, the Rector of Little Treby, and enlists the help of his family lawyer, Matthew Jermyn, as an electioneering agent.

Much of his electioneering is focused in Treby Magna. In this village resides Felix Holt, who has recently returned from extensive travels in Glasgow to live with his mother. He meets with Rev. Rufus Lyon, a Dissenting minister in Treby Magna, and his stepdaughter, Esther. Felix and Mr. Lyon become ready friends, but he appears to treat Esther with condescension. Felix and Rev. Lyon both appear aligned to the Radical cause.

Harold Transome learns that Jermyn has been mismanaging the Transome estate and embezzling money for himself. Transome remains silent during the election, yet Jermyn tries to devise a plan to save himself from future prosecution. Meanwhile, Felix witnesses some electioneering for the Radical cause in the nearby mining town of Sproxton. He is upset with the 'treating' of workers with beer in exchange for their vocal support. Felix relays his concerns to Harold Transome, who chastises John Johnson for his electioneering methods. However, Jermyn convinces Transome not to interfere.

Rev. Lyon learns from Maurice Christian, servant of Philip Debarry, about the possible identity of Esther's biological father. Rev. Lyon decides to tell Esther the truth about her father. Esther's outlook on life changes upon finding that she is in fact Rev. Lyon's stepdaughter. Her relationship with her stepfather deepens, while she also desires to emulate the high moral standards impressed upon her by Felix Holt. Seeing the change in Esther's character, Felix Holt begins to fall in love with her. However, both share the feeling that they are destined never to marry each other. Meanwhile, Rev. Lyon challenges Rev. Augustus Debarry to a theological debate. The debate is initially agreed to, but is cancelled at the last minute.

Riots erupt on election day in Treby Magna. Drunken mine workers from Sproxton assault townspeople and wantonly destroy property. Felix Holt is caught up in the riots, and tries foolhardily to direct its hostility away from the town. But in the end, Felix Holt is charged with the manslaughter of a constable who tried to break up the riot. Harold Transome also loses the election to Debarry.

 

Book Details

Language

English

Original Language

English

Published In

1866

Author

Mary Ann Evans known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. Like Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, she...

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