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John Halifax, Gentleman

Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

Book Overview: 

This novel was one of the popular and beloved novels in the Victorian era. It is told in the first person by Phineas Fletcher, an invalid son of a Quaker tanner who is presented to us in the beginning as a lonely youth. John Halifax, the first friend he ever had, is a poor orphan who is taken in by his father to help in the work which his sickly son can't constantly do. Phineas tells us in an unforgettable way how John succeeded in rising from his humble beginning and become a wealthy and successful man. But with the money come horrible troubles... In an unforgettable manner, we learn to know all the characters of the novel as if they really lived.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .f which would, as we had calculated, cost him considerable loss, did he utter a word or move a muscle.

John at length asked him if he were satisfied.

"Quite satisfied."

But, having said this, he sat so long, his hands locked together on his knees, and his hat drawn down, hiding all the face except the rigid mouth and chin—sat so long, so motionless, that we became uneasy.

John spoke to him gently, almost as a son would have spoken.

"Are you very lame still? Could I help you to walk home?"

My father looked up, and slowly held out his hand.

"Thee hast been a good lad, and a kind lad to us; I thank thee."

There was no answer, none. But all the words in the world could not match that happy silence.

By degrees we got my father home. It was just such another summer morning as the one, two years back, when we two had stood, exhausted and trembling, befor. . . Read More

Community Reviews

John Halifax: young orphan, poor boy, friend, hard worker, kind.
John Halifax: a gentleman in the very best sense of the word. He may not have wealth, rank or position, but he has integrity, character, principles, faith, and the love of a good woman.
I loved this story. We first meet John when he is

This old forgotten classic was a delightful read in that by reading about old fashioned values, integrity, and honor, made me want to do better and be better, especially as a help meet. I suppose many would say it is nothing more than moralizing hero worship, but I find that it is something society

I really loved this book. It was beautifully written, with such a powerful storyline, following two men over the course of more than forty years of their lives. I loved the relationship between Phineas and John and really loved all the twists and turns in the narrative. A great read.

One of the lesser read C19th novels and I can see why. I was curious to read a novel which is positive about progress, both social and industrial and to that end there are a number of good episodes herein.

However, this tale is told in a style bordering on adulation. Indeed, you may wonder if the nar

This book has restored my faith in Victorian literature after some doubt crept in with Harrison Ainsworth and Bulwer Lytton, groan.
Napoleonic wars, bread riots, religious intolerance, industrial revolution....it's all here in the life of this most perfect of heroes. Don't read it if you don't like o

There's a lot of Dickens influence here. It also reminds me of Gaskell's North and South with the dreary English weather and a focus on working class and their sometimes violent clashes with the gentry. The narrative structure is interesting in that the narrator is not the hero--I'm not sure this wo

I began reading a well-loved copy of this upon my 18-year-old daughter's recommendation, while visiting at the charming Quail Hollow Farm homestead where she is interning at this CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Upon my return home I requested it by inter-library loan and received a copy from

I've got an old Everyman edition dated 1941.

I think it's time for a 'John Halifax , Gentleman' revival. I saw it as a TV drama in the 70's but it hasn't been dramatised since.
From chapter 1 my heart ached for lonely Phineas and brave, homeless John and I cried at the end. I was worried that it would

Damn those lady novelists. If it wasn't for George Eliot, or Elizabeth Gaskell or those bothersome Brontës, Mrs Craik would have been remembered as being one of the better Victorian women writers. This is the only book I know that is set in Tewkesbury and one of the few (Cider with Rosie, The Choir)

John Halifax was a devoted husband, father and friend. His story, narrated by his best friend, Phineas, although old fashioned, inspired me to want to be a better person, to love others deeper, and to never give up. He never forgot where he came from and he was grateful and faithful to the people th

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