... for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 490.
Or Mrs. Casaubon calls on Mrs. Lydgate or "Dodo" calls on "Rosy",
Dorothea waited a little; she had discerned a faint pleasure stealing over Rosamond's face. But there was no answer, and she went on, with a gathering tremor, "Marriage is so unlike everything else. There is something even awful in the nearness it brings. ..."
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 465.
The Bulstrodes, Harriet and Nicholas, confront a sad and regretful moment, soiling their present, of his past. George Eliot talks sublimely and solemnly of the love that some of her characters have.
His confession was silent, and her promise of faithfulness was silent. Open-minded as she was, she nevertheless shrank from the words which would have expressed their mutual consciousness, as she would have shrunk from flakes of fire. She could not say, "How much is only slander and false suspicion?" and he did not say, "I am innocent."
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 440.
The Lydgates, Rosamond and Tertius, were soiled by the same affair that tainted the Bulstrodes but in the present. The marriages contrast and are moral if one thinks of selfishness as a lack of trust and selflessness as loving. One marriage is of spousal acceptance, the other is not and the Lydgates (the "not") are many years younger than the Bulstrodes.
"Rosamond, have you heard anything that distresses you?"
"Yes," she answered, laying down her work, which she had been carrying on with a languid semi-consciousness, most unlike her usual self.
"What have you heard?"
"Everything, I suppose. Papa told me."
"That people think me disgraced?"
"Yes," said Rosamond, faintly, beginning to sew again automatically.
There was silence. Lydgate thought, "If she has any trust in me—any notion of what I am, she ought to speak now and say that she does not believe I have deserved disgrace."
But Rosamond on her side went on moving her fingers languidly. Whatever was to be said on the subject she expected to come from Tertius. What did she know? And if he were innocent of any wrong, why did he not do something to clear himself?
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 443.
And on Lydgate's enthusiasm there was constantly pressing not a simple weight of sorrow, but the biting presence of a petty degrading care, such as casts the blight of irony over all higher effort.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 344, (my emphasis).
Mrs. Cadwallader said, privately, "You will certainly go mad in that house alone, my dear. You will see visions. We have all got to exert ourselves a little to keep sane, and call things by the same names as other people call them by. To be sure, for younger sons and women who have no money, it is a sort of provision to go mad: they are taken care of then. But you must not run into that. I dare say you are a little bored here with our good dowager; but think what a bore you might become yourself to your fellow-creatures if you were always playing tragedy queen and taking things sublimely. Sitting alone in that library at Lowick you may fancy yourself ruling the weather; you must get a few people round you who wouldn't believe you if you told them. That is a good lowering medicine."
"I never called everything by the same name that all the people about me did," said Dorothea, stoutly.
"But I suppose you have found out your mistake, my dear," said Mrs. Cadwallader, "and that is a proof of sanity."
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 315, (my emphasis).
But this result was questionable. And what else could he do for Dorothea? What was his devotion worth to her? It was impossible to tell. He would not go out of her reach. He saw no creature among her friends to whom he could believe that she spoke with the same simple confidence as to him. She had once said that she would like him to stay; and stay he would, whatever fire-breathing dragons might hiss around her.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 276.
She began to hear herself, and was checked into stillness. Like one who has lost his way and is weary, she sat and saw as in one glance all the paths of her young hope which she should never find again. And just as clearly in the miserable light she saw her own and her husband's solitude—how they walked apart so that she was obliged to survey him. If he had drawn her towards him, she would never have surveyed him—never have said, "Is he worth living for?" but would have felt him simply a part of her own life. Now she said bitterly, "It is his fault, not mine." In the jar of her whole being, Pity was overthrown. Was it her fault that she had believed in him—had believed in his worthiness?—And what, exactly, was he?— She was able enough to estimate him—she who waited on his glances with trembling, and shut her best soul in prison, paying it only hidden visits, that she might be petty enough to please him. In such a crisis as this, some women begin to hate.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 252.
The author becomes a character in her novel: not only by this cited instance but so many times over that one doubts the separation of herself from her fictive creations. It's almost that the third person narration, as omniscient as it is, becomes first person in it's irony—in it's all knowingness—George Eliot has a limited perspective oddly caused by the extent of her purported knowledge. Her credibility is in question.
Having made this rather lofty comparison I am less uneasy in calling attention to the existence of low people by whose interference, however little we may like it, the course of the world is very much determined.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 243.
Mr. Farebrother left the house soon after, and seeing Mary in the orchard with Letty (her younger sister), went to say good-by to her. They made a pretty picture in the western light which brought out the brightness of the apples on the old scant-leaved boughs—Mary in her lavender gingham and black ribbons holding a basket, while Letty in her well-worn nankin picked up the fallen apples. If you want to know more particularly how Mary looked, ten to one you will see a face like hers in the crowded street to-morrow, if you are there on the watch: she will not be among those daughters of Zion who are haughty, and walk with stretched-out necks and wanton eyes, mincing as they go: let all those pass, and fix your eyes on some small plump brownish person of firm but quiet carriage, who looks about her, but does not suppose that anybody is looking at her. If she has a broad face and square brow, well-marked eyebrows and curly dark hair, a certain expression of amusement in her glance which her mouth keeps the secret of, and for the rest features entirely insignificant—take that ordinary but not disagreeable person for a portrait of Mary Garth. If you made her smile, she would show you perfect little teeth; if you made her angry, she would not raise her voice, but would probably say one of the bitterest things you have ever tasted the flavor of; if you did her a kindness, she would never forget it.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 240.
"But I have a belief of my own, and it comforts me."
"What is that?" said Will, rather jealous of the belief.
"That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil—widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower."
"That is a beautiful mysticism—it is a—"
"Please not to call it by any name," said Dorothea, putting out her hands entreatingly. "You will say it is Persian, or something else geographical. It is my life. I have found it out, and cannot part with it. I have always been finding out my religion since I was a little girl. I used to pray so much—now I hardly ever pray. I try not to have desires merely for myself, because they may not be good for others, and I have too much already. I only told you, that you might know quite well how my days go at Lowick."
"God bless you for telling me!" said Will, ardently, and rather wondering at himself. They were looking at each other like two fond children who were talking confidentially of birds.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 231, (my emphasis).
There are many wonderful mixtures in the world which are all alike called love, and claim the privileges of a sublime rage which is an apology for everything (in literature and the drama). Happily Rosamond did not think of committing any desperate act: she plaited her fair hair as beautifully as usual, and kept herself proudly calm. Her most cheerful supposition was that her aunt Bulstrode had interfered in some way to hinder Lydgate's visits: everything was better than a spontaneous indifference in him. Any one who imagines ten days too short a time—not for falling into leanness, lightness, or other measurable effects of passion, but—for the whole spiritual circuit of alarmed conjecture and disappointment, is ignorant of what can go on in the elegant leisure of a young lady's mind.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 178.
In the Vatican Ladislaw speaks of language, painting, women and of Mrs. Casaubon to Naumann who has come upon her among the hewn marbles; he's been overwhelmed by Dorothea's beauty and desires to paint her.
"Language gives a fuller image, which is all the better for beings vague. After all, the true seeing is within; and painting stares at you with an insistent imperfection. I feel that especially about representations of women. As if a woman were a mere colored superficies! You must wait for movement and tone. There is a difference in their very breathing: they change from moment to moment.—This woman whom you have just seen, for example: how would you paint her voice, pray? But her voice is much diviner than anything you have seen of her."
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 116.
When I saw Albrecht Dürer's painting of Christ as Salvator Mundi at the Met—how does one paint the voice? Whether its synæsthesia or not, one imagination deserves another—I thought of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit and Kurt Cobain.
Albrecht Dürer Salvator Mundi 1505
In Rome on her wedding voyage, or as we say now, her honeymoon,
She had been led through the best galleries, had been taken to the chief points of view, had been shown the grandest ruins and the most glorious churches, and she had ended by oftenest choosing to drive out to the Campagna where she could feel alone with the earth and sky, away-from the oppressive masquerade of ages, in which her own life too seemed to become a masque with enigmatical costumes.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 117.
It is not easy to film this picture of Dorothea (that goes on for several sentences before and after the one quoted) or to depict the personal interactions in Middlemarch that George Eliot renders so well in her prose. Maybe the script of the BBC miniseries should have been much longer and taken into account the human detail of the English characters to match the book, or might the writer of the screenplay have chosen a smaller segment of the novel to describe better the people in the complex world in which Eliot writes.
Perhaps for a screenwriter to adapt the whole of Middlemarch would be like Harold Pinter's adapting À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust that was never produced. Yet Pinter's Proust screenplay stands as a literary marvel.
Pray think no ill of Miss Noble. That basket held small savings from her more portable food, destined for the children of her poor friends among whom she trotted on fine mornings; fostering and petting all needy creatures being so spontaneous a delight to her, that she regarded it much as if it had been a pleasant vice that she was addicted to. Perhaps she was conscious of being tempted to steal from those who had much that she might give to those who had nothing, and carried in her conscience the guilt of that repressed desire.
One must be poor to know the luxury of giving!
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 102.
Dr. Lydgate, who is in Paris for his studies of medicine, falls in love with a French actress, Laure, who was scripted to stab her husband, an actor, in a play they were in; she actually stabs him to death before Lydgate's eyes—the audience is shocked—he clamors up onto the stage to help but the husband dies.
Laure is acquitted of the crime. He is sympathetic and finds her performing in Avignon,
"You have come all the way from Paris to find me?" she said to him the next day, sitting before him with folded arms, and looking at him with eyes that seemed to wonder as an untamed ruminating animal wonders. "Are all Englishmen like that?"
"I came because I could not live without trying to see you. You are lonely; I love you; I want you to consent to be my wife; I will wait, but I want you to promise that you will marry me—no one else."
Laure looked at him in silence with a melancholy radiance from under her grand eyelids, until he was full of rapturous certainty, and knelt close to her knees.
"I will tell you something," she said, in her cooing way, keeping her arms folded. "My foot really slipped."
"I know, I know," said Lydgate, deprecatingly. "It was a fatal accident—a dreadful stroke of calamity that bound me to you the more."
Again Laure paused a little and then said, slowly, "I meant to do it."
Lydgate, strong man as he was, turned pale and trembled: moments seemed to pass before he rose and stood at a distance from her.
"There was a secret, then," he said at last, even vehemently. "He was brutal to you: you hated him."
"No! he wearied me; he was too fond: he would live in Paris, and not in my country; that was not agreeable to me."
"Great God!" said Lydgate, in a groan of horror. "And you planned to murder him?"
"I did not plan: it came to me in the play—I meant to do it."
Lydgate stood mute, and unconsciously pressed his hat on while he looked at her. He saw this woman—the first to whom he had given his young adoration—amid the throng of stupid criminals.
"You are a good young man," she said. "But I do not like husbands. I will never have another."
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 92.
Fred banters with his beautiful sister Rosamond,
"I should think you were an uncommonly fast young lady," said Fred, eating his toast with the utmost composure.
"I cannot see why brothers are to make themselves disagreeable, any more than sisters."
"I don't make myself disagreeable; it is you who find me so. Disagreeable is a word that describes your feelings and not my actions."
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 61
With the Vincy siblings, Fred and Rosamond, a new story begins after the marriage of Dorothea to Mr. Casaubon and they begin their honeymoon voyage to Rome.
I will finish the first book of the eight books in Middlemarch—by reading the last chapter of the twelve chapters in that book—and start reading Emma by Jane Austen as I want to investigate her use of free indirect discourse, her play of register (James Woods) and her style in general. There is a wealth of secondary readings on Austen, but Eliot has fewer critical books devoted to her.
As I did with The Portrait of a Lady I will come back to Middlemarch and George Eliot after reading Emma by Jane Austen as I interrupted Henry James with Gustave Flaubert to read L'Éducation Sentimental.
Henry James (who liked reading Middlemarch) and George Eliot differ in that James assigns evil in The Portrait of a Lady to his characters Serena Merle and Gilbert Osmond (of course they were victims of their time too) but Eliot assigns evil in Middlemarch to the Victorian circumstances that her characters experienced—she does not personalize that evil as James does.
And toward the end of The Portrait... I loved the logic with which Gilbert Osmond speaks to Isabel—his control made me shudder. That she returns to him is the portrait of her that you choose to see.
Mary Ann Evans (1819 – 1880) was known by her pen name George Eliot; she was an English novelist, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.
Samuel Laurence, c. 1860
She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure her works would be taken seriously. Female authors were published under their own names during Eliot's life, but she wanted to escape the stereotype of women only writing lighthearted romances. An additional factor in her use of a pen name may have been a desire to shield her private life from public scrutiny and to prevent scandals attending her relationship with the married George Henry Lewes, with whom she lived for over 20 years.
Her 1872 work Middlemarch has been described by Martin Amis and Julian Barnes as the greatest novel in the English language.
George Eliot certainly has a sense of humor,
"My dear child, what is this?—this about your sister's engagement?" said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"She is engaged to marry Mr. Casaubon," said Celia, resorting, as usual, to the simplest statement of fact, and enjoying this opportunity of speaking to the Rector's wife alone.
"This is frightful. How long has it been going on?"
"I only knew of it yesterday. They are to be married in six weeks."
"Well, my dear, I wish you joy of your brother-in-law."
"I am so sorry for Dorothea."
"Sorry! It is her doing, I suppose."
"Yes; she says Mr. Casaubon has a great soul."
"With all my heart."
"Oh, Mrs. Cadwallader, I don't think it can be nice to marry a man with a great soul."
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1872, page 34.
Mr. Casaubon sincerely speaks,
"... Hitherto I have known few pleasures save of the severer kind: my satisfactions have been those of the solitary student. I have been little disposed to gather flowers that would wither in my hand, but now I shall pluck them with eagerness, to place them in your bosom."
No speech could have been more thoroughly honest in its intention: the frigid rhetoric at the end was as sincere as the bark of a dog, or the cawing of an amorous rook.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1872, page 31.
Thank you. I finished The Portrait of a Lady and started Middlemarch. I was listening to it on the way to the tannery in Quakertown today and I thought of you and colors. "It is strange how deeply colors seem to penetrate one, like scent."
"How very beautiful these gems are!" said Dorothea, under a new current of feeling, as sudden as the gleam. "It is strange how deeply colors seem to penetrate one, like scent. I suppose that is the reason why gems are used as spiritual emblems in the Revelation of St. John. They look like fragments of heaven. I think that emerald is more beautiful than any of them."
"And there is a bracelet to match it," said Celia. "We did not notice this at first."
"They are lovely," said Dorothea, slipping the ring and bracelet on her finely turned finger and wrist, and holding them towards the window on a level with her eyes. All the while her thought was trying to justify her delight in the colors by merging them in her mystic religious joy.
"You would like those, Dorothea," said Celia, rather falteringly, beginning to think with wonder that her sister showed some weakness, and also that emeralds would suit her own complexion even better than purple amethysts. "You must keep that ring and bracelet—if nothing else. But see, these agates are very pretty and quiet."
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1869-1872, page 9.
Sheep-stealing was a capital offense in England in 1869.
She (Dorothea Brooke) bethought herself now of the condemned criminal. "What news have you brought about the sheep-stealer, uncle?"
"What, poor Bunch?—well, it seems we can't get him off—he is to be hanged."
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1869-1872, page 24.
MissBrooke (Dorothea, or Dodo as her sister tenderly calls her) had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
Her hand and wrist were so finely formed that she could wear sleeves not less bare of style than those in which the Blessed Virgin appeared to Italian painters; and her profile as well as her stature and bearing seemed to gain the more dignity from her plain garments, which by the side of provincial fashion gave her the impressiveness of a fine quotation from the Bible—or from one of our elder poets—in a paragraph of today's newspaper.
Middlemarch, George Eliot 1869-1872, page 5.
Tips From Fashion Insiders on How to Wear Sneakers With a Suit, from the New York Times
WILL WELCH, STYLE EDITOR, GQ
“Wearing sneakers with a suit is a way to show that you’re wearing the suit because you want to, not because you have to. It’s a declaration of cool. The suit has to be pretty slim and hip to begin with for this to be effective. Start with minimal sneakers that aren’t covered in crazy colors or logos..."
These are minimal. I remember Converse All Stars; when I was a kid, I wore them long before Nike made shoes.
Converse Rubber Shoe Company was created by Marquis Mills Converse in 1908 in Malden, Massachusetts. In 1917, the company designed a shoe called the All Star. The shoe was composed of a rubber sole and canvas upper and was designed to be an elite shoe for the professional basketball league. In 1921, a basketball player by the name of Charles "Chuck" Taylor joined a basketball team sponsored by the Converse Company called The Converse All Stars. Taylor held basketball clinics in high schools all over the county and while teaching the fundamentals of the game, he sold the All Star shoes. As a salesman and athlete for the company, Taylor also made improvements to the shoe he loved. His ideas for the shoe were designed to provide enhanced flexibility and support and also incorporated a patch to protect the ankle. All Stars were soon worn by a variety of professional basketball players and became the envy of all aspiring basketball players...
Today's poor dress will be tomorrow's fashion; a girl friend winkingly said, "I make my own style," as if she were a modern day "Dodo".