Monday, March 27, 2006

Discuss amongst yourselves

A few days ago, Ella was deliberating over what to say about Book II:
My own post is coming; I think it's going to be on Mr. Farebrother's collection of freaky pickled animals, and the symbolism therein. Or I might run out of steam and post something short, lurid, and grossly italicised like "Can you believe Lydgate's affair with that French actress? What was he thinking?"

Ella chose to write about something else, but I still think these topics merit consideration. Really, what was he thinking?

I loved chapter 15!

It made me laugh:
A great historian, as he insisted on calling himself, who had the happiness to be dead a hundred and twenty years ago, and so to take his place among the colossi whose huge legs our living pettiness is observed to walk under, glories in his copious remarks and digressions as the least imitable part of his work, and especially in those initial chapters to the successive books of his history, where he seems to bring his armchair to the proscenium and chat with us in all the lusty ease of his fine English. But Fielding lived when the days were longer (for time, like money, is measured by our needs), when summer afternoons were spacious, and the clock ticked slowly in the winter evenings. We belated historians must not linger after his example; and if we did so, it is probable that our chat would be thin and eager, as if delivered from a campstool in a parrot-house. I at least have so much to do in unraveling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe.

(Note that this is the first time the narrator uses the first person.)

It made me cry:
For in the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness; for perhaps their ardor in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardor of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly. Nothing in the world more subtle than the process of their gradual change! In the beginning they inhaled it unknowingly: you and I may have sent some of our breath towards infecting them, when we uttered our conforming falsities or drew our silly conclusions: or perhaps it came with the vibrations from a woman's glance.

More great lines from Book II:

"I have not yet been pained by finding any excessive talent in Middlemarch." (Lydgate, ch 13)

"Not of the least use in the world for him to say he could be better. Might, could, would — they are contemptible auxiliaries." (Mary, ch 14)

It had already occurred to him that books were stuff, and that life was stupid. (ch 15)

Knowledge seemed to him a very superficial affair, easily mastered: judging from the conversation of his elders, he had apparently got already more than was necessary for mature life. (ch 15)

And poor Dorothea! — "the light had changed" (ch 20):
How was it that in the weeks since her marriage, Dorothea had not distinctly observed but felt with a stifling depression, that the large vistas and wide fresh air which she had dreamed of finding in her husband's mind were replaced by anterooms and winding passages which seemed to lead nowhither?.... Having once embarked on your marital voyage, it is impossible not to be aware that you make no way and that the sea is not within sight — that, in fact, you are exploring an enclosed basin.


Blogger Sam said...

All great lines, indeed! Another one I quite liked was:
"My father says an idle man ought not to exist, much less be married." (ch 14)

I have more to say about "what was he thinking," but it will have to wait until discussion about chapter three, when we know him better.

11:23 PM  
Blogger piksea said...

What the heck was the 'monster' in the jar that Farebrother gave to Lydgate? Or, am I the only one who wondered about that?

12:11 PM  
Anonymous rachel said...

They don't say, but it's something without a brain -- that suggests some mammal with a fatal birth defect to me (presumably not human, but I could see a pig or a kitten). I suppose it could be some weird fish or amphibian where they just can't correctly IDENTIFY the brain, science being what it was in those days.

I suppose it depends how ghoulish you're ready to believe Lydgate is.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Martha said...

There are so many good quotes! I loved some of the descriptions of Rome, too-- how about:

"after the brief, narrow experience of her girlhood she was beholding Rome, the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar."

And in the next sentence, Eliot uses the phrase " stupendous fragmentariness". Wow! As in:
"But this stupendous fragmentariness heightened the dream-like strangeness of her bridal life."

4:57 PM  
Blogger Ella said...

Okay, Lydgate is EXTREMELY ghoulish. Anyone who would leave his frogs and mice twiching under experimental apparatus while he goes out to moon over a homicidal French artiste is ghoulish.

Actually, I think Eliot is a little fascinated with icky thinks herself. But that's okay, I don't mind reading about experimental frogs and pickled brainless things. Adds a little je ne sais quoi, right?

And how on earth do you get Blogger to recognize italics? I can't write without them. No, really.

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so very behind in my reading--I JUST finished book 2, so I'm pondering what (if anything) I have to say about it. My eyes glazed over a bit when it came to the election of Tyke over Farebrother, although I suppose that was Eliot's intention--to show us how utterly stultifying that process was, and how important it was to the participants.

I felt a little for Causabon in this chapter--endlessly researching, but terrified to commit and write SOMETHING.

As far as quotes, I loved this one, "There is hardly any contact more depressing to a young ardent creature than that of a mind in which years full of knowledge seem to have issued in a blank absence of interest or sympathy."

I was happy to see Dorothea return, and even happier to see Fred again at the beginning of Book 3.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Isabella said...

I'd like to think the monster was something vaguely human. Seeing as Lydgate doesn't have time for "natural history," I figure it must have profound medical interest.

9:44 PM  

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