Silas Marner

George Eliot

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Benignity. A shadowy conception of power that by much persuasion can be induced to refrain from inflicting harm, is the shape most easily taken by the sense of the Invisible in the minds of men who have always been pressed close by primitive wants, and to whom a life of hard toil has never been illuminated by any enthusiastic religious faith. To them pain and mishap present a far wider range of possibilities than gladness and enjoyment: their imagination is almost barren of the images that feed desire and hope, but is all overgrown by recollections that are a perpetual pasture to fear. Is there anything you can fancy that you would like to eat? I once said to an old labouring-man, who was in his last illness, and who had refused all the food his wife had Offered him. No, he an swered, I've never been used to nothing but common victual, and I can't eat that. Experience had b'red no fancies in him that could raise the phantasm of appetite.

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