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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

On 'Furriners' (Foreigners) and 'Furrin' Churches, George Eliot (1857, 1858)


From Scenes of Clerical Life, George Eliot

See also: Wikisource

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'Well,' said Mrs. Sharp, with the air of a person who held liberal views, but knew where to draw the line, 'I'm not a-going to defend the furriners, for I've as good reason to know what they are as most folks, an' nobody'll ever hear me say but what they're next door to heathens, and the hile they eat wi' their victuals is enough to turn any Christian's stomach. But for all that—an' for all as the trouble in respect o' washin' and managin' has fell upo' me through the journey—I can't say but what I think as my Lady an' Sir Cristifer's done a right thing by a hinnicent child as doesn't know its right hand from its left, i' bringing it where it'll learn to speak summat better nor gibberish, and be brought up i' the true religion. For as for them furrin churches as Sir Cristifer is so unaccountable mad after, wi' pictures o' men an' women a-showing themselves just for all the world as God made 'em. I think, for my part, as it's welly a sin to go into 'em.'

'You're likely to have more foreigners, however,' said Mr. Warren, who liked to provoke the gardener, 'for Sir Christopher has engaged some Italian workmen to help in the alterations in the house.'

'Olterations!' exclaimed Mrs. Bellamy, in alarm. 'What olterations!'

'Why,' answered Mr. Warren, 'Sir Christopher, as I understand, is going to make a new thing of the old Manor-house both inside and out. And he's got portfolios full of plans and pictures coming. It is to be cased with stone, in the Gothic style—pretty near like the churches, you know, as far as I can make out; and the ceilings are to be beyond anything that's been seen in the country. Sir Christopher's been giving a deal of study to it.'

'Dear heart alive!' said Mrs. Bellamy, 'we shall be pisoned wi' lime an' plaster, an' hev the house full o' workmen colloguing wi' the maids, an' makin' no end o' mischief.'

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A Note and Query

"The hile they eat": an English Midlands dialect transliteration of Ancient Greek ὕλη? The substance they eat? Or from the Latin hilum, a small thing, a trifle," un rien, une parcelle"? At first I took it to be a Midlands dialect word for 'oil'. Any better explanations? Could it come from the Nepalese for 'muddy'? I think not. Perhaps it refers to some rough bread made from wheat flour (by association with a hile, or bundle of sheaves of wheat)?

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"Scenes of Clerical Life is the title under which George Eliot's first published fictional work, a collection of three short stories, was released in book form, and the first of her works to be released under her famous pseudonym. The stories were first published in Blackwood's Magazine over the course of the year 1857, initially anonymously, before being released as a two-volume set by Blackwood and Sons in January 1858", from Biblio





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