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Sunday, March 10, 2013

We Middlemarchers are not so tame as you take us to be.

Middlemarch, Book II - Old and Young by George Eliot (Marian Evans)

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
I've decided to give you my notes as the plot summary:

- Bulstrode (friend of Featherstone's and acquaintance of Fred Vincy) grudgingly writes letter about Fred to Featherstone. Fred *not* gambling on Featherstone's future death.
- Fred loves Mary Garth (currently living with Featherstone, plain and with few prospects); Mary tells Fred: in Your Dreams!
- Rosamond likes Lydgate (new town doc); he likes her, but plans to wait a decade to marry (seriously burned in a past life)
- Town chaplaincy comes to a vote between Farebrother and Tyke -- Lydgate decides it. Tyke wins!
- Will Ladislaw (Casaubon's cousin) and german painter friend Naumann see Dorothea in a museum in Rome - Naumann wants to paint her.
- Naumann paints Dorothea and the sallow Casaubon.
- Will visits Dorothea on her own; falls for her; she likes him, but as a Friend
- Dorothea and Casaubon - trouble in Paradise!
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

To change things up, I'm going to paint you a portrait of a few different characters by giving you a sentence (or two) that sums up their personality in a nutshell:

Mr. Lydgate (the new town doctor)
- "I have not yet been pained by finding any excessive talent in Middlemarch." hagh.
- "For the first time Lydgate was feeling the hampering, threadlike pressure of small social conditions and their frustrating complexity."

Fred Vincy (Featherstone's nephew, Rosamond's brother)
"When Fred got into debt, it always seemed to him highly probable that something or other - he did not necessarily conceive what - would come to pass enabling him to pay in due time."

Mary Garth (lives with Featherstone, Fred's in love with her)
"I think any hardship is better than pretending to do what one is paid for and never really doing it."

Rosamond Vincy (Fred's sister, in love with Lydgate)
"'Fred, pray defer your practising till tomorrow; you will make Mr. Lydgate ill. He has an ear." heh. heh.

Dr. Sprague and Dr. Minchin (the other town doctors)
"In short, Dr. Sprague had weight and might be expected to grapple with a disease and throw it, while Dr. Minchin might be better able to detect it lurking and to circumvent it."

Reverend Edward Casaubon (Dorothea's hubby, Will Ladislaw's cousin)
"With his taper stuck before him he forgot the absence of windows, and in bitter manuscript remarks on other men's notions about the solar deities, he had become indifferent to the sunlight."

Dorothea Brooke (now Casaubon) (Celia's older sister, Casaubon's wife)
- "She did not really see the streak of sunlight on the floor more than she saw the statues; she was inwardly seeing the light of years to come in her own home and over the English fields and elms and hedge-bordered high-roads, and feeling that the way in which they might be filled with joyful devotedness was not so clear to her as it had been."
- "I am not a sad, melancholy creature. I am never unhappy long together." reminds me of a Proust line, "I was only unhappy for one day at a time."

Will Ladislaw (Casaubon's cousin, in love with Dorothea)
- "Will Ladislaw's smile was delightful unless you were angry with him beforehand: it was a gush of inward light illuminating the transparent skin as well as the eyes, and playing about every curve and line as if some Ariel were touching them with a new charm and banishing forever the traces of moodiness."
- "I have a hyperbolical tongue: it catches fire as it goes."

Mrs. Farebrother (town vicar's mother)
"She presently informed Mr. Lydgate that they were not often in want of medical aid in the house. She had brought up her children to wear flannel and not to over-eat themselves, which last habit she considered the chief reason why people needed doctors." hagh. hear that, everyone? get on your flannel and stop over-eating! ;)

The Casaubons (now a couple), on married life
- "The fact is unalterable that a fellow-mortal with whose nature you are acquainted solely through the brief entrances and exits of a few imaginative weeks called courtship may, when seen in the continuity of married companionship, be disclosed as something better or worse than what you have preconceived, but will certainly not appear altogether the same."
- "And this cruel outward accuser was there in the shape of a wife - nay, of a young bride, who, instead of observing his abundant pen-schratches and amplitude of paper with the uncritical awe of an elegant-minded canary-bird, seemed to present herself as a spy watching everything with a malign power of inference."

Passages I Particularly Liked:
- "When a conversation has taken a wrong turn for us, we only get farther and farther into the swamp of awkwardness."

- on famous people having been banal creatures once: "But that Herschel, for example, who 'broke the barriers of the heavens' - did he not once play a provincial church organ and give music lessons to stumbling pianists? Each of those Shining Ones had to walk on the earth among neighbours who perhaps thought much more of his gait and his garments than of anything which was to give him a title to everlasting fame; each of them had his little local personal history sprinkled with small temptations and sordid cares, which made the retarding friction of his course towards final companionship with the immortals."

- "When you get me a good man made out of arguments, I will get you a good dinner with reading you the cookery-book."

- "There are characters which are continually creating collisions and nodes for themselves in dramas which nobody is prepared to act with them. Their susceptibilities will clash against objects that remain innocently quiet."

- "But this stupendous fragmentariness heightened the dreamlike strangeness of her bridal life."

- "She had ended by oftenest choosing to drive out to the Campagna where she could feel alone with the earth and the sky, away from the oppressive masquerade of ages, in which her own life too seemed to become a masque with enigmatical costumes."

- "If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence."

Onwards to Book III, and more of this Endparade!

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