Cover image for


Author: Arnold Bennett
Published: 1900
Language: English
Wordcount: 183,524 / 531 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 53
LoC Category: PR
Downloads: 1,507
Added to site: 2007.04.29 16729

A coming-of-age story set in the Midlands of Victorian England, following Edwin Clayhanger as he leaves school, takes over the family business, and falls in love.

Show Excerpt

had a difficulty been genuinely faced. And as for philosophy, he had not the slightest conception of what it meant. He imagined that a philosopher was one who made the best of a bad job, and he had never heard the word used in any other sense. He had great potential intellectual curiosity, but nobody had thought to stimulate it by even casually telling him that the finest minds of humanity had been trying to systematise the mysteries for quite twenty-five centuries. Of physical science he had been taught nothing, save a grotesque perversion to the effect that gravity was a force which drew things towards the centre of the earth. In the matter of chemistry it had been practically demonstrated to him scores of times, so that he should never forget this grand basic truth, that sodium and potassium may be relied upon to fizz flamingly about on a surface of water. Of geology he was perfectly ignorant, though he lived in a district whose whole livelihood depended on the scientific use of geological knowledge, and


Average Rating of 2 from 1 reviews: **
Leah A. Zeldes

Arnold Bennett's 1900 Bildungsroman follows Edwin Clayhanger, the mild-mannered son of a tyrannical and foul-tempered self-made man. This novel, though nothing at all like Bennett's fun mystery/thriller "The Grand Babylon Hotel," at first seems promisingly Dickensian, but peters off as disappointingly, as does Clayhanger's life and that of most of his circle.

Growing up in an industrial, provincial English town, Edwin aspires to be an architect, but his father, Darius, pulls him out of school at age 16 and becomes incensed at the idea of his son doing anything but coming to work in his printing business. Edwin has two sisters, the placid older Maggie and the waspish younger Clara; an insinuating aunt, Clara Hamps, widowed sister of his late mother; and a slightly younger, more brilliant schoolfriend, Charlie Orgreave, unaccountably nicknamed "The Sunday."

The book is full of things like that — ideas that are brought in and seem to be significant, but which are never explored or explained. In a later example, Darius Clayhanger, in his death throes, calls continually for "Clara," but we're left uncertain as to whether he means his daughter, as Edwin assumes, or his sister-in-law, because nothing in the preceding text shows his having any strong partiality for either. More importantly, the author — apparently deliberately — withholds the explanation of a mysteriously event with a profound impact on Edwin, central to the plot and really the main thing that kept me reading to the abrupt, unenlightening and exceedingly dissatisfying conclusion.

The years roll on, and Edwin seems to be drifting along. Charlie Orgreave comes from a larger, wealthier, better educated and more affectionate family than Edwin's; he remains in school after Edwin leaves and then goes off to train to be a doctor. Nevertheless, the two remain friendly, and Edwin becomes a friend of the family, particularly Charlie's architect father, Osmond, and his charming and sympathetic sister, Janet. The Orgeaves influence Edwin in a variety of ways, especially in exposing him to the arts.

Through them, he meets Hilda Lessways, an abrupt young woman whom at first he finds repellent, yet he falls in love with her, and she with him. Directly after they reveal their feelings to each other, she rushes off — for reasons she doesn't explain. They exchange letters, in which she says she his wholly his. The next he hears of her, she's married someone else. Edwin gets no explanation, not even a "Dear John" letter.

Years go by. Edwin, Maggie and Janet remain single. Maggie might be in love with a celibate vicar, but there's no hint of suitors for either young woman, and no explanation of why they appear so unsought. Edwin, we assume, is too heartbroken to look at other women, even the admirable Janet. He ponders the futility of their lives.

Edwin is past 30 when Hilda reappears on the scene. She remains, however, abrupt, elusive and close-mouthed until the very end. At that point she tells Edwin that she's only ever loved him, and that she'll explain everything. Then the book ends.

The reader never finds out Hilda's reason for jilting Edwin, what happened to her, why she told him nothing and omitted the real truth of her circumstances when they met later on, or whether they're finally going to get together at last. More than a decade later, Bennett wrote "Hilda Lessways," which supposedly tells her side of the story, but after wading through this one, I'm not sure I'm curious enough to read it.



Join 120,000+ fellow readers! Get Free eBooks and book bargains from ManyBooks in your inbox. 

We respect your email privacy

(Promote your book here)

Featured Books

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook

The Titan Drowns: Time Travel Romance

New Atlantis Time Travel Romance Book 6
Nhys Glover


"Heroism and... Read more

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook

Valkyrie's Vengeance

Loki's Wolves Book 0
Melissa Snark

Fans of paranormal and urban fantasy will enjoy... Read more

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook

Helga: Out of Hedgelands

Wood Cow Chronicles Book 1
Rick Johnson

VOLUME ONE in the WOOD COW CHRONICLES series. <... Read more

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook

Mademoiselle At Arms

A Georgian Romance
Elizabeth Bailey

Set in the late Georgian era, Elizabeth Bailey’... Read more

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook


Nightmare of the Clans Book One
Pamela E. Cash

There are six secret clans across the world–Afr... Read more

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook

The Tales of Tim Hurtletuta - New Beginnings

Tales of Tim Hurtletuta Series, Book 1
Matthew James Wilkins

"Tim Hurtletuta has forgotten something. He can... Read more

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook

After the Cure

Deirdre Gould

Eight years ago the December Plague swept throu... Read more

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook

The Unveiling

Book One (Age of Faith 1)
Tamara Leigh

12th century England: Two men vie for the thron... Read more

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook

Healing Her Heart

Crystal Lake Series Book 1
Laura Scott

Dr. Gabe Allen has a rule about dating colleagues... Read more

Cover image for Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett - Free eBook

Never A Choice

The Choices Trilogy #1
Dee Palmer

Bethany Thorne has secrets and she’s told a few... Read more

login | register

User ID


reset password

Help ManyBooks by sharing this page!

See it as donating a moment of your social media time, every little thing helps us improve and stay online.

Popular in This Genre

The list of books below is based on the weekly downloads by our users regardless of eReader device or file format.

Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
by Théophile Gautier
War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
The ''Genius''
by Theodore Dreiser
Moby Dick
by Herman Melville
The Secret Adversary
by Agatha Christie
Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Brontë

See more popular titles from this genre.