English, Department of



Sheila Woolfe

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 48 (2017)


Published by The George Eliot Review Online https://GeorgeEliotReview.org


During the festivities surrounding the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, much was said about his Warwickshire roots, and commentators noted, not for the first time, his use of Warwickshire dialect. The same is frequently said about George Eliot, of course. A good example occurs early in Felix Holt, in the coachman's words as he takes passengers up the hill past the village of Little Treby:

How many times in the year, as the coach rolled past the neglected-looking lodges which interrupted the screen of trees, and showed the river winding through a finely-timbered park, had the coachman answered the same questions, or told the same thing without being questioned! That? Oh, that was Transome Court, a place there had been a fine sight of lawsuits about. Generations back, the heir of the Transome name had bargained away the estate, and it fell to the Durfeys [ ... ]. But the Durfeys' claim had been disputed over and over again; and [ ... ] the lawyers had found their luck in it. (emphasis added)'

'A fine sight', in North Warwickshire parlance, means 'a great many, or a multitude'. Growing up there myself, I often used to hear this as a child: 'You'll hear a sight more about it before I'm done with you!' George Eliot's recall of the language of her childhood is, as ever, spot-on.