Wednesday, April 05, 2006

And All Those Other Writers in "Middlemarch"...

The more I read “Middlemarch” the more I keep coming across references to other literature. George Eliot must have been fantastically well-read; I’d love to get my hands on an annotated edition so I can see all the references I’m missing. Here are the ones that have already made me smile:

“Why, you might take to some light study – conchology, now: I always think that must be a light study. Or get Dorothea to read you light things – Smollett – “Roderick Random”, “Humphrey Clinker”: they are a bit broad, but she may read anything now that she’s married, you know. I remember they made me laugh uncommonly – there’s a droll bit about a postilion’s breeches. We have no such humor now.”

The scene he is referring to is the one where Humphrey rides alongside a coach containing the woman he loves, wearing too-small pants which have ripped apart moments before. I can just see Mr. Brooks laughing himself silly over it. Later in Book 3, we meet Borthrup Trumbull, who is of a more serious bent.

“You have an interesting work there, I see, Miss Garth,” he observed, when Mary re-entered. “It is by the author of “Waverly”: that is, Sir Walter Scott. I have bought one of his works myself – a very nice thing, a very superior publication, entitled “Ivanhoe”. You will not get any writer to beat him in a hurry, I think – he will not, in my opinion, be readily surpassed. I have just been reading a portion at the commencement of “Anne of Jeerstein”. It commences well.”

My advice to you, Mary, is that you'd better not spend too much time on someone who worships Walter Scott.

How about you, fellow readers? Any other allusions I'm missing?


Anonymous rachel said...

Ella, sweetie, if you've read "Humphrey Clinker", you're head and shoulders more on top of it than any of us. Well, okay, than ME. Don't want to insult my fellow 'Marchers.

Thanks for explaining that one, BTW -- gives us a better idea what Uncle Brooke considers slightly racy reading! Wouldn't want young ladies reading about underpants before they're married!

12:33 AM  
Blogger Isabella said...

I'd love to see an annotated edition.

One reference that has me curious: We're told (end ch 16) that Rosamond's favourite poem is Lalla Rookh (Thomas Moore, 1817), which I suppose reflects on her character somehow. I don't know anything about it other than what's told here. It's considered an Oriental romance.

Interestingly, Moore had expensive taste and accrued a large debt, forcing him to leave Britain.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Isabella said...

I'd been meaning to ask about the epigraphs at the start of each chapter. Some are attributed (there's Paradise Lost, Don Quixote, etc), but very many are not. I assumed most editions would footnote a source for these. I've Googled a few quotations and they bring me to Middlemarch, implying they're original to Eliot.

I'm particularly interested in the snippets between 1st Gent and 2nd Gent, as they seem to act as on ongoing chorus.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Ella said...

Rachel, the scandal is THERE ARE NO UNDERPANTS!

Smollet does make a nice comment, if I remember correctly, about how unusual it is for a lady to view the new moon in mid-afternoon.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Isabella, there seems to be a lot of information at the SparkNotes site about the epigraphs. I didn't actually click the link, but it looked promising.

I'm almost on schedule! Hanging behind just a bit but hanging...

11:34 AM  
Blogger gina c said...

Ella, I looked at my Norton Critical editon last evening and its pretty sparse regarding these things. I will look more closely this weekend, but its far from the kind of deep annotation I have seen in books like "the Annotated Walden/Alice/Wizard of Oz/Sherlock Holmes" series of books that came out a few years back but in my opinion are worth tracking down. Not sure anyone has done a full scale Annotated Middlemarch! Someone ought to. Also, I read on a site (dont recall where) that the un-attributed quotes are by Eliot herself. Does anyone know if this is true?

11:41 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Ella -- GOOD GOD, WOMAN! No underpants?!? Hehe, I forgot what era we were dealing with.

Gina -- I read they were Eliot's own invention as well. I'll look for a source on that. If she was making stuff like that up, well... tee hee, is all I can say. I love making up fake quotes myself, although they're usually more transparently fake.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Raehan said...

Oh I love Trumbull strutting in front of Mary kind of like a stiff rooster.

I have a someone annotated edition and will look up some of these references.

10:25 PM  

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