The Ordeal of Richard Feverel "Speech Is The Small Change Of Silence"

George Meredith

"Speech Is The Small Change Of Silence"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: How far can education go and what are its results? This is the question posed and answered in this novel, the most autobiographical of Meredith's prose works. Sir Austen, the dogmatic father, attempts to educate his son by making the boy into a tool of reason controlled from without, but in his zeal for rationality he neglects his son's emotions. Thus when young Richard falls in love with the charming Lucy, he loses control and marries against his father's wishes. Sir Austen, however, is unwilling to let his son find happiness in marriage: he gets his nephew Adrian to help him separate the lovers. The quotation comes from the section in which Richard first brings Adrian into his home, unaware of the schemes of his father. As he tries to learn of his father's reaction to his marriage, Adrian cleverly plays with his emotions, the most vulnerable part of his character:

Richard fretted restlessly opposite his cool relative.
"Adrian! what did he say when he heard of it? I want to know exactly what words he said."
"Well says the sage, my son! 'Speech is the small change of Silence.' He said less than I do."
"That's how he took it!" cried Richard, and plunged in meditation.