Book Three: The Downfall: The Tulliver family really starts going downhill in Book 3. Tom and Maggie argue with their aunts and uncles for not giving them much help in their time of needed. Maggie gets angry with Tom for seemingly taking their mother's side against their father - Maggie feels her mother is being petty about her furniture and other items being sold instead of worrying about Mr. Tulliver. However, Mr. Tulliver begins to slowly recover.
Tom also finds that Latin and other things he's learned while at school are not very useful for a job where he must make a good amount of money. Their father tells Tom to sign him name in the bible for what Maggie feels is wicked:
"Tom entered with his usual saddened evening face, but his eyes fell
immediately on the open Bible and the inkstand, and he glanced with a
look of anxious surprise at his father, who was saying,–
"Come, come, you're late; I want you."
"Is there anything the matter, father?" said Tom.
"You sit down, all of you," said Mr. Tulliver, peremptorily.
"And, Tom, sit down here; I've got something for you to write i' the Bible."
They all three sat down, looking at him. He began to speak slowly, looking first at his wife.
"I've made up my mind, Bessy, and I'll be as good as my word to you.
There'll be the same grave made for us to lie down in, and we mustn't be
bearing one another ill-will. I'll stop in the old place, and I'll
serve under Wakem, and I'll serve him like an honest man; there's no
Tulliver but what's honest, mind that, Tom,"–here his voice
rose,–"they'll have it to throw up against me as I paid a dividend, but
it wasn't my fault; it was because there's raskills in the world.
They've been too many for me, and I must give in. I'll put my neck in
harness,–for you've a right to say as I've brought you into trouble,
Bessy,–and I'll serve him as honest as if he was no raskill; I'm an
honest man, though I shall never hold my head up no more. I'm a tree as
is broke–a tree as is broke."
He paused and looked on the ground. Then suddenly raising his head, he said, in a louder yet deeper tone:
"But I won't forgive him! I know what they say, he never meant me any
harm. That's the way Old Harry props up the rascals. He's been at the
bottom of everything; but he's a fine gentleman,–I know, I know. I
shouldn't ha' gone to law, they say. But who made it so as there was no
arbitratin', and no justice to be got? It signifies nothing to him, I
know that; he's one o' them fine gentlemen as get money by doing
business for poorer folks, and when he's made beggars of 'em he'll give
'em charity. I won't forgive him! I wish he might be punished with shame
till his own son 'ud like to forget him. I wish he may do summat as
they'd make him work at the treadmill! But he won't,–he's too big a
raskill to let the law lay hold on him. And you mind this, Tom,–you
never forgive him neither, if you mean to be my son. There'll maybe come
a time when you may make him feel; it'll never come to me; I'n got my
head under the yoke. Now write–write it i' the Bible."
"Oh, father, what?" said Maggie, sinking down by his knee, pale and trembling. "It's wicked to curse and bear malice."
"It isn't wicked, I tell you," said her father, fiercely. "It's
wicked as the raskills should prosper; it's the Devil's doing. Do as I
tell you, Tom. Write."
"What am I to write?" said Tom, with gloomy submission.
"Write as your father, Edward Tulliver, took service under John
Wakem, the man as had helped to ruin him, because I'd promised my wife
to make her what amends I could for her trouble, and because I wanted to
die in th' old place where I was born and my father was born. Put that
i' the right words–you know how–and then write, as I don't forgive Wakem
for all that; and for all I'll serve him honest, I wish evil may befall
him. Write that."
There was a dead silence as Tom's pen moved along the paper; Mrs. Tulliver looked scared, and Maggie trembled like a leaf.
"Now let me hear what you've wrote," said Mr. Tulliver, Tom read aloud slowly.
"Now write–write as you'll remember what Wakem's done to your father,
and you'll make him and his feel it, if ever the day comes. And sign
your name Thomas Tulliver."
"Oh no, father, dear father!" said Maggie, almost choked with fear. "You shouldn't make Tom write that."
"Be quiet, Maggie!" said Tom. "I shall write it." " - The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, pp. 282-284.
Book Four: The Valley of Humiliation: I love how in this section Bob, an old friend of Tom's, gives Maggie some books after he knows she was upset about the books in her home being sold:
" Apparently, however, they were not the object to which he wished to
call Maggie's attention, but rather something which he had carried under
his arm, wrapped in a red handkerchief.
"See here!" he said again, laying the red parcel on the others and
unfolding it; "you won't think I'm a-makin' too free, Miss, I hope, but I
lighted on these books, and I thought they might make up to you a bit
for them as you've lost; for I heared you speak o' picturs,–an' as for
picturs, look here!"
The opening of the red handkerchief had disclosed a superannuated
"Keepsake" and six or seven numbers of a "Portrait Gallery," in royal
octavo; and the emphatic request to look referred to a portrait of
George the Fourth in all the majesty of his depressed cranium and
"There's all sorts o' genelmen here," Bob went on, turning over the
leaves with some excitement, "wi' all sorts o' nones,–an' some bald an'
some wi' wigs,–Parlament genelmen, I reckon. An' here," he added,
opening the "Keepsake,"–"here's ladies for you, some wi' curly hair and
some wi' smooth, an' some a-smiling wi' their heads o' one side, an'
some as if they were goin' to cry,–look here,–a-sittin' on the ground
out o' door, dressed like the ladies I'n seen get out o' the carriages
at the balls in th' Old Hall there. My eyes! I wonder what the chaps
wear as go a-courtin' 'em! I sot up till the clock was gone twelve last
night, a-lookin' at 'em,–I did,–till they stared at me out o' the
picturs as if they'd know when I spoke to 'em. But, lors! I shouldn't
know what to say to 'em. They'll be more fittin' company for you, Miss;
and the man at the book-stall, he said they banged iverything for
picturs; he said they was a fust-rate article."
"And you've bought them for me, Bob?" said Maggie, deeply touched by
this simple kindness. "How very, very good of you! But I'm afraid you
gave a great deal of money for them."
"Not me!" said Bob. "I'd ha' gev three times the money if they'll
make up to you a bit for them as was sold away from you, Miss. For I'n
niver forgot how you looked when you fretted about the books bein' gone;
it's stuck by me as if it was a pictur hingin' before me. An' when I
see'd the book open upo' the stall, wi' the lady lookin' out of it wi'
eyes a bit like your'n when you was frettin',–you'll excuse my takin'
the liberty, Miss,–I thought I'd make free to buy it for you, an' then I
bought the books full o' genelmen to match; an' then"–here Bob took up
the small stringed packet of books–"I thought you might like a bit more
print as well as the picturs, an' I got these for a sayso,–they're
cram-full o' print, an' I thought they'd do no harm comin' along wi'
these bettermost books. An' I hope you won't say me nay, an' tell me as
you won't have 'em, like Mr. Tom did wi' the suvreigns."
"No, indeed, Bob," said Maggie, "I'm very thankful to you for
thinking of me, and being so good to me and Tom. I don't think any one
ever did such a kind thing for me before. I haven't many friends who
care for me." " - The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, pp. 297 - 298
And I also like this whole little commentary about being content:
" ...but Thomas à Kempis?–the name had come across her in her reading, and
she felt the satisfaction, which every one knows, of getting some ideas
to attach to a name that strays solitary in the memory. She took up the
little, old, clumsy book with some curiosity; it had the corners turned
down in many places, and some hand, now forever quiet, had made at
certain passages strong pen-and-ink marks, long since browned by time.
Maggie turned from leaf to leaf, and read where the quiet hand pointed:
"Know that the love of thyself doth hurt thee more than anything in the
world…. If thou seekest this or that, and wouldst be here or there to
enjoy thy own will and pleasure, thou shalt never be quiet nor free from
care; for in everything somewhat will be wanting, and in every place
there will be some that will cross thee…. Both above and below, which
way soever thou dost turn thee, everywhere thou shalt find the Cross;
and everywhere of necessity thou must have patience, if thou wilt have
inward peace, and enjoy an everlasting crown…. If thou desirest to mount
unto this height, thou must set out courageously, and lay the axe to
the root, that thou mayest pluck up and destroy that hidden inordinate
inclination to thyself, and unto all private and earthly good. On this
sin, that a man inordinately loveth himself, almost all dependeth,
whatsoever is thoroughly to be overcome; which evil being once overcome
and subdued, there will presently ensue great peace and tranquillity….
It is but little thou sufferest in comparison of them that have suffered
so much, were so strongly tempted, so grievously afflicted, so many
ways tried and exercised. Thou oughtest therefore to call to mind the
more heavy sufferings of others, that thou mayest the easier bear thy
little adversities. And if they seem not little unto thee, beware lest
thy impatience be the cause thereof…. Blessed are those ears that
receive the whispers of the divine voice, and listen not to the
whisperings of the world. Blessed are those ears which hearken not unto
the voice which soundeth outwardly, but unto the Truth, which teacheth
A strange thrill of awe passed through Maggie while she read, as if
she had been wakened in the night by a strain of solemn music, telling
of beings whose souls had been astir while hers was in stupor. She went
on from one brown mark to another, where the quiet hand seemed to point,
hardly conscious that she was reading, seeming rather to listen while a
low voice said;
"Why dost thou here gaze about, since this is not the place of thy
rest? In heaven ought to be thy dwelling, and all earthly things are to
be looked on as they forward thy journey thither. All things pass away,
and thou together with them. Beware thou cleavest not unto them, lest
thou be entangled and perish…. If a man should give all his substance,
yet it is as nothing. And if he should do great penances, yet are they
but little. And if he should attain to all knowledge, he is yet far off.
And if he should be of great virtue, and very fervent devotion, yet is
there much wanting; to wit, one thing, which is most necessary for him.
What is that? That having left all, he leave himself, and go wholly out
of himself, and retain nothing of self-love…. I have often said unto
thee, and now again I say the same, Forsake thyself, resign thyself, and
thou shalt enjoy much inward peace…. Then shall all vain imaginations,
evil perturbations, and superfluous cares fly away; then shall
immoderate fear leave thee, and inordinate love shall die." " - The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, pp. 304 - 305
Overall the books were actually pretty boring. The parts with Tom and his job is dull but I did like the parts with Bob, and Maggie's character is starting to grow on me. And I LOVED the part that quoted Thomas a Kempis. It was so true!
P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures in these posts. Barnaby Rudge had a TON of illustrations, but I can't really seem to find any for The Mill on the Floss.
Picture from Google Images.