Author: George Eliot
Dates: 22 November 1819 by 22 December 1880
Title of Book: Adam Bede
When Seth had once begun to urge his suit, he went on earnestly and almost hurriedly, lest Dinah should speak some decisive word before he had poured forth all the arguments he had prepared. His cheeks became flushed as he went on his mild grey eyes filled with tears, and his voice trembled as he spoke the last sentence. They had reached one of those very narrow passes between two tall stones, which performed the office of a stile in Loamshire, and Dinah paused as she turned towards Seth and said, in her tender but calm treble notes, “Seth Bede, I thank you for your love towards me, and if I could think of any man as more than a Christian brother, I think it would be you. But my heart is not free to marry. That is good for other women, and it is a great and a blessed thing to be a wife and mother; but ‘as God has distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every man, so let him walk.’ God has called me to minister to others, not to have any joys or sorrows of my own, but to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and to weep with those that weep. He has called me to speak his word, and he has greatly owned my work. It could only be on a very clear showing that I could leave the brethren and sisters at Snowfield, who are favoured with very little of this world’s good; where the trees are few, so that a child might count them, and there’s very hard living for the poor in the winter. It has been given me to help, to comfort, and strengthen the little flock there and to call in many wanderers; and my soul is filled with these things from my rising up till my lying down. My life is too short, and God’s work is too great for me to think of making a home for myself in this world. I’ve not turned a deaf ear to your words, Seth, for when I saw as your love was given to me, I thought it might be a leading of Providence for me to change my way of life, and that we should be fellow-helpers; and I spread the matter before the Lord. But whenever I tried to fix my mind on marriage, and our living together, other thoughts always came in–the times when I’ve prayed by the sick and dying, and the happy hours I’ve had preaching, when my heart was filled with love, and the Word was given to me abundantly. And when I’ve opened the Bible for direction, I’ve always lighted on some clear word to tell me where my work lay. I believe what you say, Seth, that you would try to be a help and not a hindrance to my work; but I see that our marriage is not God’s will–He draws my heart another way. I desire to live and die without husband or children. I seem to have no room in my soul for wants and fears of my own, it has pleased God to fill my heart so full with the wants and sufferings of his poor people.”
Seth was unable to reply, and they walked on in silence. At last, as they were nearly at the yard-gate, he said, “Well, Dinah, I must seek for strength to bear it, and to endure as seeing Him who is invisible. But I feel now how weak my faith is. It seems as if, when you are gone, I could never joy in anything any more. I think it’s something passing the love of women as I feel for you, for I could be content without your marrying me if I could go and live at Snowfield and be near you. I trusted as the strong love God has given me towards you was a leading for us both; but it seems it was only meant for my trial. Perhaps I feel more for you than I ought to feel for any creature, for I often can’t help saying of you what the hymn says–
In darkest shades if she appear,
My dawning is begun;
She is my soul’s bright morning-star,
And she my rising sun.
That may be wrong, and I am to be taught better. But you wouldn’t be displeased with me if things turned out so as I could leave this country and go to live at Snowfield?”
“No, Seth; but I counsel you to wait patiently, and not lightly to leave your own country and kindred. Do nothing without the Lord’s clear bidding. It’s a bleak and barren country there, not like this land of Goshen you’ve been used to. We mustn’t be in a hurry to fix and choose our own lot; we must wait to be guided.”
Brief Biography: Mary Anne Evans better known as George Eliot was a novelist, journalist and translator. She was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She used a male pen name to ensure her work would be taken seriously.