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Middlemarch
byGeorge Eliot

Synopsis:
With sure and subtle touch, Eliot paints a luminous and spacious landscape of life in a provincial town, interweaving her themes with a proliferation of characters: an innocent idealist; a self-defeated young doctor; a naive young woman; and a cold man, who "lives too much with the dead".
 

Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (1 of 24), Read 52 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, July 17, 2000 10:26 PM This is a reminder that beginning August 1, Classics Corner will discuss Middlemarch by George Eliot. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (2 of 24), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 08:42 AM I've started Middlemarch and am enjoying it enormously. There have already been two references to Milton, making me smile smugly since I finally understand them. And, the Preface would have hooked me even if I hadn't been motivated. She starts with a description of Saint Theresa. Then, says: Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity..... Ah yes. Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (3 of 24), Read 35 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, July 21, 2000 04:47 PM I don't think I can read fast enough to make it by the first. But this is a very fascinating novel. I'm certainly enjoying this one, especially in light of our recent readings of Howard's End, Mrs. Dalloway, and of course--as noted by Barb--Paradise Lost. All the works are in some ways thematically entangled. Fascinating year thus far. Dan
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (4 of 24), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, July 21, 2000 05:23 PM {Sound of skull striking desk: "Thunk!"} Note to self: Take No-Doz, wear helmet for discussion of Middlemarch. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (5 of 24), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Elaine Walsh (elainewalsh@usa.net) Date: Friday, July 21, 2000 07:16 PM I'm so excited that you're discussing Middlemarch. I read it earlier this year; now I'll have to dig it out and refresh my memory. It's definitely a book that needs discussion; it made me regret I didn't read it in college. --Elaine
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (6 of 24), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Friday, July 21, 2000 11:52 PM Dick! Dick! Chin up, big fella! Mao made the Long March. You can, too. Steve
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (7 of 24), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, July 21, 2000 11:53 PM Yeah, but the chubby little dude didn't have to make it twice. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (8 of 24), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Saturday, July 22, 2000 02:39 PM Just got started on Middlemarch and think it will be a great read! I looked up George Eliot in Harold Bloom's Canon and he had some very impressive things to say about the book and the author. I do like the historical period and geography as this novel's setting. Charles Dickens, one of my great favorites uses a similar setting as well. Can't wait for the comments and discussion this book will evoke. Ernie
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (9 of 24), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, July 22, 2000 11:16 PM Aw, Dick, you better brush-up. You're going to get some real debate on Middlemarch this time around. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (10 of 24), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, July 22, 2000 11:46 PM I know I can count on you guys. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (11 of 24), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, July 23, 2000 08:30 AM I'm about 300 pages in and enjoying it immensely. What I love is her humor and her descriptions of relationships between people. The woman knew how to paint a picture. Sherry
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (12 of 24), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Wednesday, July 26, 2000 11:58 PM "A man's mind -- what there is of it -- has the advantage of being masculine, -- as the soaring birch-tree is of a higher kind than the most soaring palm, -- and even his ignorance is of a sounder quality." Hey! Is that some kind of insult? Who picked this thing out? Seriously, this book is hilarious. I particularly like Mr. Casaubon's letter of proposal. Like Dorthea, I trembled when I read it, fell on my knees, and was unable to pray.
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (13 of 24), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Thursday, July 27, 2000 08:31 AM I know exactly what you mean, Jim. I'm underlining lots of passages I find extremely funny. Did people know she was a woman when she wrote this? I found an interesting website about the writing of Middlemarch. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/english/eliot/middlemarch/pub.html Sherry
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (14 of 24), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, July 27, 2000 09:10 AM Thank you for that website, Sherry. I love finding these places. When I tell the folks in my house that Eliot has an incredible sense of humor, they look at me like I'm a little nuts. They haven't read her and this is not exactly her reputation. However, moments like this can cause me to laugh out loud: (Celia in reference to Mr. Casaubon): O Mrs. Cadwallader, I don't think it can be nice to marry a man with a great soul. Well, my dear, take warning. You know the look of one now; when the next comes and wants to marry you, don't you accept him. And, then there are the little insightful gems that echo in my head: 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. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.. I am really enjoying this book! Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (15 of 24), Read 30 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Thursday, July 27, 2000 11:26 AM I liked this description of Mr. Casaubon: "... he was as genuine a character as any ruminant animal...." Can't you just see him chewing his cud? And after looking up "ruminant" in the dictionary (just to make sure that I really knew what it meant), this part of the definition sheds even more light on Mr. Casaubon's personality -- "characterized by chewing again what has been swallowed". Mr. C's work seemed like a great big re-chewing of mounds of pre-chewed information. Sherry
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (16 of 24), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Saturday, July 29, 2000 11:16 AM I was surprised and delighted to find the abundance of great humor in this novel, Sherry and Jim. One of my favorite aspects of that is the wittily sarcastic treatment of Celia, the doting Just a sample of what I'm talking about: After three months Freshitt had become rather oppressive: to sit like a model for Saint Catherine looking rapturously at Celia’s baby would not do for many hours in the day, and to remain in that momentous babe’s presence with persistent disregard was a course that could not have been tolerated in a childless sister. Dorothea would have been capable of carrying baby joyfully for a mile if there had been need, and of loving it the more tenderly for that labour; but to an aunt who does not recognize her infant nephew as Bouddha, and has nothing to do for him but to admire, his behaviour is apt to appear monotonous, and the interest of watching him exhaustible. Steve
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (17 of 24), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Saturday, July 29, 2000 12:23 PM I just read that section yesterday. Great portrait of a first- time mother's self-absorption and expectation that all should be awed by watching baby have a bath. Sherry
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (18 of 24), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, July 29, 2000 12:51 PM I felt so bad for Mr.Casaubon...at least through the first half of this book..."never to be liberated from a small shivering self.." how pathetically sad. And then I realized he was actually very similar to my first husband...again, how pathetically sad.... Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (19 of 24), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, July 29, 2000 04:32 PM Eliot is a master at "tongue in cheek" humor for sure, and at first i didn't see the depth of her characters..still I trudged on, and as I approach the end of this book, I find the true personality of each character had been revealed completely. (And, boy, wouldn't you love to just start yanking at that Rosamond's "plaits"?LOL) Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (20 of 24), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Sunday, July 30, 2000 02:27 PM Sorry I am not as far along as most of you. My problem is the small print book that I own and that I need to take along on a trip. (The one I had before had larger print but was due at the local library so I had to return it). I love the humor and George Eliot's shrewd insight into what makes people tick. I admired the same lines that have been quoted earlier on the board. The book was a fine pick. Whoever suggested it? I won't be near a computer for a couple of weeks so I will miss out on seeing your postings for a while. Ernie
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (21 of 24), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, July 30, 2000 08:17 PM Barb Moors nominated this one, Ernie. Have a great time on your trip. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (22 of 24), Read 15 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Tuesday, August 01, 2000 07:11 AM I finished this yesterday, the last 150 pages in one sitting. What a book. I don't want to read anything else for a while because the images and emotions are so real and intense. I've heard several people say this is their favorite book. I can understand that now. Sherry
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (23 of 24), Read 13 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, August 01, 2000 07:37 PM One thing I found very interesting about this novel, was that Eliot periodically became the "narrator". In the introduction of this book, it states "Eliot can make intellectual connections that they (the characters) could scarcely articulate". Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (24 of 24), Read 11 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, August 02, 2000 10:38 AM I'm down to my last 200 pages, enjoying every word but not quite done. Will be here soon, Beej! Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (25 of 36), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Friday, August 04, 2000 11:17 AM After reading most of the day yesterday, I finished Middlemarch last night. What an experience! I love the feeling of getting to the end of reading 799 pages and wanting more. I've been trying to pick my favorite facet of this book. I think it has to be the character development over time of Dorothea and Lydgate. These two characters started out so cocksure regarding what was right and what was wrong, sure that it would always be simple to tell the difference. Eliot's painting of their progress and change in reaction to the blows to the midsection that life dealt them in a relatively short period was deftly done. Then, there are these progressive layers of minor characters. Mary Garth has some of the best lines in literature. Mr. Farebrother should have a book of his own. The insecurities of Mr. Casaubon are timeless; most of us know this man at some level. I even understood Mr. Bulstrode. In fact, I kept comparing Eliot to Tolstoy as I read. She has the same ability to make each character understandable. Even if their actions were reprehensible, I could feel their very human motivations. I liked that narrator's voice, Beej. I know it's been criticized by fans of modern literature. This was the age of telling as well as demonstrating. Tolstoy did it too. However, they both used it so well that it works for me. I especially like Eliot's use of irony in this capacity. My only criticism was a bit too much melodrama toward the end when Dorothea suspects that Will is having an affair with Rosamunde. The image of her heart being compared to a mother watching a child being cut in two by a sword seemed overdone. So, tell me more about your impressions, Beej. Ann, are you on vacation? And, what about everyone else, I'm dying to hear your reactions. Meanwhile, now I get the fun of reading what Bloom has to say in his Canon and the sections on Middlemarch in Karl's biography of Eliot. Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (26 of 36), Read 35 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Friday, August 04, 2000 12:12 PM Steve, Sherry, Dick, Jim, Elaine, Dan, and Ernie, scrolling back through, I see that all of you are reading (or reviewing) Middlemarch too. How is it going? I'd love to hear your comments. Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (27 of 36), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, August 04, 2000 02:03 PM Barb, It's been awhile since I read this one, but my favorite character in this book (even more than Dorothea) was Lydgate. I couldn't put this book down towards the end (although the other members of my --at that time--small bookclub couldn't even get through it). I convinced myself that somehow Eliot would bring Lydgate and Dorothea together at the end. They were so obviously "right" for each other. SPOILER ALERT ***************************** Of course, she did not, and it is a stronger, more true-to- life book because of that. I do think that Will was a weakly drawn character. Compared to Lydgate, who had substance and complexity, Will struck me as a cardboard figure. What did you think of him, Barb? Although I know it isn't fashionable, I really enjoy Eliot's authorial intrusions. If they weren't so witty I might feel differently. The great 19ty century writers were such great story tellers. They were verbose, of course, and a modern editor would cut their works to half, but I have never found anyone in twentieth century literature who can compare to Tolstoy, Eliot, Thackery, Dostoevesky and Dickens (at his best) in his/her ability to create a new world populated with characters whose life and problems are as compelling as my own. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (28 of 36), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, August 04, 2000 02:23 PM My first thought after finishing this book was "THANK GOD I wasn't born a female in 19th century England!" This line, spoken by Mr. Brooke, had my teeth on edge: "Well, but now, Casaubon, such deep studies, classics, mathematics, that kind of thing, are too taxing for a woman -too taxing, you know." Mary Garth, I think, was the only female in this book who thought for herself. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (29 of 36), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, August 04, 2000 02:30 PM Ann, I thought Dorothea and Lydgate would end up together, too. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (30 of 36), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Friday, August 04, 2000 04:15 PM It has been some time since I read Middlemarch myself (actually I had just finished it when I joined into the CR fray for the first time), but I was very much impressed by the relationship that Eliot DID draw between Lydgate and Dorothea. I didn't for one moment think about them being pitched together romantically (knowing that Will was Dorothea's to-be significant other). However, I was completely in awe of the PLATONIC friendship that grew between Lydgate and Dorothea. I kept thinking to myself how refreshing to see a female and a male character thrown together in this fashion during this time period. This impressed me with Eliot to no end! Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (31 of 36), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, August 04, 2000 04:17 PM I'm reading this work, but I'm not even halfway through. Work and preparations for the upcoming school year keep me from reading all the live-long day. I would like to mention I like the manner in which the narrator of this work poses questions amongst the work, questions layered with irony and insight: Who can tell what just criticisms Murr the Cat may be passing on us beings of wider speculation? Mr. Casaubon was touched with an unknown delight (what man would not have been?) at this childlike unrestrained ardour: he was not surprised (what lover would have been?) that he should be the object of it. And my favorite passage thus far: Now, why on earth should Mrs. Cadwallader have been at all busy about Miss Brooke's marriage; and why, when one match that she liked to think she had a hand in was frustrated, should she have straightway contrived the preliminaries of another? Was there any ingenious plot, any hide-and-seek course of action, which might be detected by a careful telescopic watch? Not at all: a telescope might have swept the parishes of Tipton and Freshitt, the whole area visited by Mrs. Cadwallader in her phaeton, without witnessing any interview that could excite suspicion... I cannot think of many writers who pose so many questions to the reader during the course of the narrative. I admit I did find it rather amusing, as if someone were telling me a long tale with one arm over my shoulder and taking time during the scope of the tale to ask queries (to check if I am still paying attention) and to allow me the opportunity to see the feelings on the part of the storyteller towards the events being described. Interesting narrative, to say the least. Dan
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (32 of 36), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, August 04, 2000 07:29 PM Barb, didn't you love the Finale of this book, where we learn, in a nutshell, what happened to all these people through the years? My favorite line in the entire book, speaking of Dorothea, was the last: "But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: 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." SPOILER**********SPOILER********* And poor Lydgate...to die young and leave Rosamond all that insurance money.. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (33 of 36), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, August 05, 2000 08:40 AM Some of the wonderful irony of the story to me is that Dorothea and Lydgate (didn't you love it when you discovered that his first name was Tertius?) would never have chosen each other at the beginning of the story. Lydgate succumbed to Rosamunde's "infantine blondness" and decoration. Dorothea was a Puritan, if I understand correctly, looking for an equivalent moral outlook in a man. I don't think either would have thought that the other fit into what attracted them. After living with the results of their desires, they both looked like they've been kicked in the head. Still, though, I didn't get the sense that they were attracted to each other amorously. It was nice to see this absolute trusting friendship develop between a man and woman. Thinking of Will, Ann, I did think that I understood him a bit. I just never understood why Dorothea would remain attracted to him. He seemed to me to be a diletante. He was obviously very intelligent, but flitted from thing to thing preferring feeling superior to others when he needed to find an income of his own. I saw this same sort of relationship between Fred Vincy and Mary Garth. Mr. Farebrother seemed infinitely preferable (can you tell that I liked this guy?). Fred, at least, was making concrete progress. It's interesting to me that Eliot draws two of these kinds of relationships in one novel. Strong, very direct women in love with relatively unfocused men. Mary (in wonderful humor, I admit) says, "I should never like scolding anyone else so well; and that is a point to be thought of in a husband." I inwardly groaned for her. Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (34 of 36), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, August 05, 2000 08:51 AM Beej, I think that Eliot was just painting a fairly realistic picture of the choices that women had at that time. These lines regarding Dorothea in the "Finale" pretty much sum it up for me: Many who knew her, thought it a pity that so substantive and rare a creature should have been absorbed into the life of another and be only known in a certain circle as a wife and mother. But no one stated exactly what else that was in her power she ought rather to have done..... I thought Mary and Dorothea were both very strong characters. What I liked most about each was their directness. Eliot makes reference to that quality repeatedly. I think she must have valued it highly as well. But, I felt exactly as you did while reading this. It seems a very scary time to have been a woman. The 21st century starts looking better and better (-: Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (35 of 36), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, August 05, 2000 08:58 AM Dan, I love your description of the writer standing by your side and telling the story. That is just the sense that I get. Some of these 19th century writers do the authorial voice better than others but I find Eliot, at least in this novel, a master of it. And, Ann, I agree with you. The 19th century was a great era for the novel. The good authors were such wonderful story-tellers and the focus is so much on characterization. Eliot's "Finale" seems quaint now, but I liked her tying up of the threads. It's a very satisfying approach. On the other hand, in the 20th century, I love Carver and Munro who leave me hanging and drawing my own conclusions. I suppose that what is important is that you carry out your own approach with a bit of genius.... Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (36 of 36), Read 4 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Monday, August 07, 2000 10:57 AM I've been doing a lot of reading about George Eliot and Middlemarch in the past few days and want to post a bit of it to see what you all think. These are some excerpts from A.S. Byatt's introduction to my edition: ...I perceived it (Middlemarch)was about the growth, use and inevitable failure and frustration of all human energy.... George Eliot was, I suppose, the great English novelist of ideas. By "novelist of ideas" I do not here mean novelists like Peacock, Huxley or Orwell, whose novels are dramatic presentations of beliefs they wish to mock or uphold, whose characters represent ideas like allegorical figures. I mean, in George Eliot's case, that she took human thought, as well as human passion, as her proper subject--ideas, such as thoughts on "progress", on the nature of "culture", on the growth and decay of society and societies, are as much actors in her work as the men and women who contemplate the ideas, partially understand them or unknowingly exhibit them..... When I was a girl I was impressed by John Davenport's claim, in a Sunday newspaper novel-column, that "nobody ever really described what it felt like to be a woman." I now think that wasn't true then, and isn't true now. People are always describing that, sometimes ad nauseaum. George Eliot did that better than most writers too--because it was not all she did: she made a world in which intellect and passion, day-to-day cares and movements of whole societies cohere and disintegrate. She offered us scope, not certainties. That is what I would wish to celebrate. So, what do you think? Byatt has put all of what I've been thinking in surprisingly condensed form. Her whole intro is only five pages. Do you think she's right or has hit on the important points? Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (37 of 73), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, August 07, 2000 01:19 PM I am tempted to say, "A. S. Byatt well describes why Middlemarch could not properly be described as a 'chick book'." But I won't. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (38 of 73), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Monday, August 07, 2000 07:41 PM No, Dick, don't. My favorite 19th Century British Novels are David Copperfield, Tess of the d'Ubervilles, Wuthering Heights, and Middlemarch. If I were pressed, I would have to rate Middlemarch above the other three, purely from my own point of view. It equals the greatest strengths of each of the others. I did read it again for the discussion here. A second trip through it is even better than the first. There is so much here. However, all of you have alluded to the central and for me fascinating issue presented, that being this Dorothea and Lydgate thing. I think they were absolutely made for each other. This is so frustrating to me, but of course that is one of the reasons this novel is not a cheap relationship book. There is a short little paragraph that I cannot find right now that says something to the effect that people with grand aspirations and dreams in their youth tend to be abysmal at choosing a suitable marriage partner for carrying out those aspirations and dreams. Perhaps someone else marked it. There is wisdom in that. Lydgate does have some sense of what he missed: She seems to have what I never saw in any woman before--a fountain of friendship towards men--a man can make a friend of her. Casaubon must have raised some heroic hallucination in her. I wonder if she could have any other sort of passion for a man? Ladislaw?--there was certainly an unusual feeling between them. And Casauban must have had a notion of it. Well- -her love might help a man more than her money. Certainly, I am ready to discuss any other aspect of this novel. I could go on and on about this facet of it though. To conceive of the perfect couple and then successfully resist the temptation to put them together in the end is gutsy--and I could just grab George Eliot by the shoulders and shake her for it. Steve
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (39 of 73), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 08:48 AM There is something that doesn't sit well with me, in this assumption that Lydgate and Dorothea would have been the ideal match, but I can't put my finger on it. Perhaps it is the notion I have, that Lydgate might be nothing more than a younger version of Casaubon. There is a lack of passion in both of these men, I think, and contrary to what seems to be the favored impression of others here, I think Ladislaw was more suitable for Dorothea. There is just something about him that I believe matches an underlying passion in Dorothea. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (40 of 73), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 09:18 AM That is certainly a legitimate observation, Beej, and touches upon the very reason I brought this all up again. You very well could be right. My view is that with Ladislaw, Dorothea is simply going over to the opposite side of the spectrum in reaction to her earlier misadventures with Casaubon. It's a "rebound" thing and ill-fated--maybe. However, it is very realistic, even from my point of view. I cannot count the times I have been stunned by an acquaintance's choice in a mate. There is no logical accounting for others' choices in this regard. I see Ladislaw as a lightweight unable to really accomplish anything except big talk. No accident that he ends up a politician. On the other hand, maybe Ladislaw was a veritable terror in the sack. Goodness knows, Dorothea needed a little of that after Casaubon, who was undoubtedly impotent. (The "honeymoon" in Rome!) That kinda thing only goes so far though. Lydgate seems more a real kindred spirit to me. A side note. Rosamond is a perfect portrait of the high maintenance wife. Men who fall for this type of woman seem always to have a personality that cannot abide the thought of losing her. A real dead fall trap! I am acquainted with a lawyer who is going to go to federal prison as a result of his desperate attempts to finance his wife's preferred style of living. Steve
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (41 of 73), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 09:25 AM Oh Steve! You don't think a "veritable terror on the sack" isn't an accomplishment! hahahahaa!!! I'm almost disappointed in you!!! Ladislaw reminds me somewhat of Fred Vincy. Both these men centered their passions on the women they love rather than any future outcome of a career. And I think, especially in light of what is said in the Finale, they had the best marriages because of it. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (42 of 73), Read 30 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 09:37 AM And while we are at it,let me say, if Rosamond had had a "veritable terror in the sack" in Lydgate, I'd wager it wouldn't have mattered if she lived in a mansion or a cottage. This women would've had more on her "plait" than she could've handled! Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (43 of 73), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 09:59 AM Okay. Okay, Beej. You've got me. You've cornered me. You have persuaded me. Lydgate is one of those dependable, gentle, caring, sensitive, devoted souls, isn't he? The kind that women insist that they want and then trample on. My information, which is all rank hearsay of course, is that this type is booooooooooring twixt the sheets. They never say anything at all earthy while making love, nor do they ever try anything different, all for fear of offending the refined, female sensibilities of the adored loved one. This would also explain Rosamond's attraction to Ladislaw, too, wouldn't it? He projects something other than this. A certain animality. Was it Mae West who said, "A hard man is good to find?" Have we settled this question? There is tons more to talk about in this book. Steve
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (44 of 73), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 10:18 AM Okay, I am a bit baffled as to why Mary would not hand Featherstone the iron chest containing the wills. I understand she is concerned it might lay her open to some sort of suspicion, but since she is not aware of what is in the last will and testaments, why would this be a concern to her? Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (45 of 73), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 05:21 PM I was bad and did not reread Middlemarch, in spite of good intentions. But I really have to agree with Steve that Lydgate and Dorothea were perfect for each other. They both had such character and substance. Both wanted so much to accomplish something significant, both for others and their own sake. Neither was without flaws, of course, but they were fully rounded individuals. What a team they would have made! And they would never have been bored with each other. Unfortunately, Lydgate fell into the high maintenance, pretty little woman trap Steve has described. Divorce wasn't an option in those days. (Gee, I don't think Eliot's companion George Lewes ever divorced his wife even after she had born another man several children.) He was stuck, but I think he recognized his error. As for Will, he was just a lightweight pretty boy, IMHO. His character is weakly written and I don't know why. I have a very detailed biography of Eliot. Maybe I'll do some research. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (46 of 73), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 08:36 PM Ann, I agree with what is written in the finale about Dorothea and Ladislaw's marriage. " They were bound to a love stronger than any impulses which could have marred it. No life would have been possible to Dorothea which was not filled with emotion..." I just don't see a whole lot of impulse or emotion in Lydgate, though I agree he was a fine and noble man. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (47 of 73), Read 27 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 10:38 PM Beej, Out of curiosity, I checked out what Frederick R. Karl's biography George Eliot; Voice of a Century had to say about the characters in Middlemarch. Karl certainly highlights the sexual attraction of Will, which you picked up on. According to Karl, Dorothea went to extremes, from a sexless marriage to one based on almost entirely on sexual attraction: Dorothea's unconsummated marriage to Casaubon becomes a metaphor for the entire sexual process in which Dorothea, not to speak of other characters, is involved... In marrying an impotent Casaubon, Dorothea fulfills the Victorian "ideal" of a woman above sexual desire. But by being attracted to Will Ladislaw, she reveals a dirty secret which might well cheapen her: that his maleness is irresistible and that beneath their bantering romance is little more than sex. Okay, I might be able to buy this so far, but not the following comment on Lydgate and Rosamond: It is inconveivable that he and Rosamond continue to have sexual relations while they bicker over furniture, income, and related matters. What kind of world is Karl living in? I think sex and constant fighting co-exist all the time. Karl goes on to say that Rosamond "desexes" her huband by asking his uncle for assistance. Karl does state "One of the few failures in the novel is Ladislaw." Eliot's long time companion George Lewes, who was a very homely man, may have been a model in part for the sexy Will, but like most characters in literature he is a composite, as are Lydgate and Casaubon. Karl makes an interesting assertion that Eliot drew on her own less desirable traits as source material for Casaubon. These include her depression and despair (in spite of the fact that she and Lewes had a very close and productive relationship.) He says that both Casaubon and Lydgate reflect Eliot's ambition to do something very noteworthy, as well as her fear of failure. The one character that he does identify closely with a real life person is Mary Garth, and the model is Eliot herself. Mary is practical, just, not pretty, but witty and sharp, and simply more insightful that anyone else in the novel. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (48 of 73), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000 08:05 AM Ann, This is really interesting.! So, even though composites, Casaubon represented some of the darker aspects of Eliot's personality, Ladislaw represented some of the "brighter" aspects of Eliot's lover's personality, Mary is Eliot's "alter-ego", and Dorothea represented the typical Victorian woman, gone sexually haywire!(haywire by at least Victorian standards).There is some great psychological stuff to be analyzed here. Thanks for posting this info. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (49 of 73), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000 11:48 AM As to your earlier question about Mary's motives is refusing to retrieve the second will for old Pete, Beej, I think we have to take Mary's own word on this. She says, "I must refuse to do anything that might lay me open to suspicion." That makes sense to me and is entirely consistent with Mary's character. Still, I think she took some perverse satisfaction in thwarting the old bastard, too. Perhaps most importantly of all, however, for the purposes of the plot it was imperative that Fred not inherit any large sum of money. Clearly, at this stage of the game, Fred would have frittered it all away while at the same time not developing into a man of character worthy of Mary. In any event that whole section leading up to old Pete's death was great fun. I very much enjoyed those vultures hanging around the house. Whether or not Lydgate and Dorothea would have been a perfect match, I always looked forward to their meetings in this novel. Strange. It was pleasurable to read of them and their interaction when they were together. These characters do seem real, don't they? Steve
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (50 of 73), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000 12:03 PM Steve, One of the most appealing things to me re: Middlemarch was the REALness of the characters! This truly resonated with me and helped make this a favourite novel. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (51 of 73), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000 12:30 PM Steve, but why would she think it would lay her open to suspicion, unless she knew Fred would inherit? And as far as fitting it in with plot or character development, all Eliot needed to have done, was not make Fred involved at all. I'm confused..nothing new tho. Yes, I agree, Dorothea and Lyndgate would make wonderful friends for each other. So would have Dorothea and Casaubon. But lovers?naww... Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (52 of 73), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000 12:35 PM by the way, I am going on the assumption that it was not commonly known there were two different wills. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (53 of 73), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000 01:56 PM Okay, Beej, the more I think about it the more I lean toward conceding that was rather strange behavior on her part. I think your assumption is clearly correct. Nobody else knew about the two wills. Pete used two different lawyers so that neither of them knew either. Secondly, Mary clearly didn't know the effect of the two wills when she refused his request. I find it interesting that when she did find out about the content of the two at the reading of them, she didn't seem to feel all that badly about what she had done to good ole Fred. For my own part, I am going back in another attempt to understand this entail thing in the Brooke family. Dorothea's son ends up inheriting the Brooke estate. Sir James apparently could have done something to prevent this, but I don't understand. I think maybe Sir James was the one who created the entail. Maybe. The sad fact is that I am supposed to know something about this, but we don't run into entails very often in Iowa. Going to try to figure it out and would welcome anyone's insights on this thing. I wish Haggart would sort all that out for me. My information indicates that Alaskans are big on entails. Do brothers-in-law always simply tolerate each other as Eliot asserts? My own experience is consistent with this. Steve
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (54 of 73), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000 04:37 PM That's 'entrails' that Alaskans are big on, Steve. Preferably from some wild animal that we've shot to flinders with a high- powered weapon originally designed for taking out Russian armored vehicles. Cf. 'Road kill'. 'Entails' we don't got any of. Something about restraints on alienability being against public policy, although it's quite possible that was something I picked up from the Elian Gonzalez case. It's been a long time since law school. Hell, it's been a long time since breakfast. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (55 of 73), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000 08:08 AM What I want to know is: who got Casaubon's estate after Dorothea did the one thing that would keep her from it? I kept expecting an explanation in the Finale. I'm so mundane. I have been lurking for most of a week because I'm up at the cabin and there's no local connection. Just try to get through the notes as quickly as possible. I absolutely loved this book. A favorite part was when Dorothea went to talk to Rosamond. Her goodness extracted a little bit of selflessness from Rosamond (although it was temporary). But it was nice to see R do the right thing for once. I thought that was a very moving scene. Sherry
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (56 of 73), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000 10:33 AM Sherry, I have been trying to find the answer to your question concerning Casaubon's estate, but so far I haven't seen anything! I will keep looking, though. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (57 of 73), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000 08:22 PM Sherry, I found no mention of what happened to Casaubon's estate, and I thought this odd, because it was uncharacteristic of Eliot, especially when you consider her Finale. But the more I think about it, the more it seems really logical that she would omit this. If Casaubon was a "reflection" of Eliot's negative emotional and psychological makeup, it would be logical that once Dorothea was rid of Casaubon's "ghost", Eliot would perform a complete exorcism of it, altogether. Maybe it signifies a complete obliteration of the estate's importance. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (58 of 73), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000 08:55 PM Beej, Boy, it's been too long since I read this but I thought it was stated that the estate went to some distant heir if Dorothea no longer qualified under the terms of the will. Maybe I just assumed that. Eliot had many positive sides to her personality--she had one of the greatest intellects of her age and she was extremely generous, for example. She and Lewes were genuinely happy. But she did suffer from bad migraines and from what appear, in retrospect, to have been stress related disorders. She could also get depressed. It wasn't easy bucking society and living with your married lover in Victorian England, much less excelling in fields so traditionally dominated by men. She was also a very homely woman and that is never easy. Henry James described her as "magnificently ugly--deliciously hideous," although he was among her many admirers. Casaubon represented some of Eliot's negative side, according to her biographer Karl, but this was only one source for the character. Casaubon was a writer who was always preparing the perfect book, but could never come close to actually writing it. Eliot knew other writers like that, and she probably felt that way herself at times. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (59 of 73), Read 27 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000 09:07 PM Ann, I couldn't find anything, but I will assume you are correct that the estate went to a distant relative. I will look some more. I have a book,MODERN CRITICAL VIEWS OF GEORGE ELIOT, edited by Harold Bloom. This actually lists about 6 different models in Eliot's life, for Casaubon, including Eliot herself. But when asked after whom she modelled him, she simply pointed to her heart. Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (60 of 73), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, August 11, 2000 08:32 AM As I progress through this novel, I find Eliot returning again and again to the subject of the "Christian" person. So many characters in this novel struggle with notions as to what constitutes a good Christian. Notice how many clergymen there are in Middlemarch, for example. Consider Eliot's opening sentence of the novel: Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Eliot melds the deep mysteries of faith--in St. Theresa--with a better understanding of the "history of man." When conceiving of this novel, it is evident that Eliot wanted to illustrate the details of society--the scientific, the hereditary, the political, as well as the religious. Eliot then took one step forward: She strived to articulate the Christian character. Amidst Eliot's wonderful science metaphors and treatises on medicine and politics is Eliot's search for the good Christian. Here in Middlemarch, the Christian ethics are splintered and fragmented and even the clergymen seem more political than holy. Dorothea is able to ask Ladislaw: "What concept of Christianity do you follow?" Such a question does not phase us today, but in the 19th Century Eliot was illustrating that religion was no longer a solid bedrock upon which to build ethics or character--of even a society. Consider the "Christian" men Bulstrode or how cavalier Fred Vincy will become a clergyman not for God or to administer God's works but to win the favour of Mary Garth. Middlemarch creates its own systems, systems which are often run by the ignorant, the greedy, or the foolish. Such is the state and the people who dwell within that state. Bulstrode and his sense of a "divine plan" seem trivial in the scheme of things. Enter Dorothea and Lydgate--two people striving to raise the standard of living, to make Middlemarch a better place. One with a soul like St. Theresa's, the other a man of science. "The Virgin and the Dynamo" within a novel trying to keep society running efficiently and smoothly. They do not do this alone, of course, but they represent the "influence" of the common, unknown person on society's ethics and shape. I am only scratching the surface here, but Eliot's novel rises above mere affection and politics (I don't find this simply a great romance with treatises of the benefits of socialism thrown in for the reader's benefit). Eliot focuses on individuals and reveals their struggles to deal with the fragmentation of society in their own, unique ways. And in the process, Eliot illustrates that a "Christian" does not always confer that a man or woman is "good." Dan
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (61 of 73), Read 18 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, August 11, 2000 09:32 AM Beej, Wow! That certainly takes guts, to identify yourself as the source for one of the most repulsive characters in literature. I have to admire Eliot for that. Casaubon in right in the same category as Uriah Heep, as far as I'm concerned. They both make my skin crawl. Dan, those are very interesting comments which really highlight the breadth of Eliot's novel. She was very religious growing up, but lost much of her religious faith as she grew older. Morality was always one of her main concerns, however. You know, I have always been amazed at the characters in English novels who become ministers strictly for the financial living it provides them. There doesn't seem to be much thought of a religious vocation, does there? Maybe things are different nowadays. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (62 of 73), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Friday, August 11, 2000 11:49 AM How gratifying to come back from being off-line for a few days and find all of these insightful notes on Middlemarch! Ann, I read those two chapters in Karl's biography of Eliot about Middlemarch. I found the information that he put together from letters, historic papers, etc. fascinating, but I agree with you that some of his own conclusions are questionable. I can't imagine that Lydgate would've suspended any sexual relationship during their difficulties but I can imagine that Rosamunde might've resisted. And, while we're talking about sex, did you all realize that Dorothea and Causabon's marriage went unconsummated? Both Karl and Harold Bloom in his Canon state it as a foregone conclusion. Obviously, it's reasonable. But, I don't remember any point in the novel that actually said that. Of course, I often miss Victorian subtlety. Middlemarch is rivaling Anna Karenina in my affections (and, as Ann knows, that's saying something!). As I look for the reasons, I think it's because both Eliot and Tolstoy give us characters who are understandable, even when they could be villainous. From what I've read, they both put facets of themselves in almost every character. I remember Tolstoy being quoted as saying that he did exactly that in AK, even Anna. Eliot's statement that there are elements of her personality in Causabon is part of the same process. The result is that the characters, and therefore the story, are infinitely real. It's also an interesting statement about the complexity of the human character. Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (63 of 73), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, August 11, 2000 02:04 PM Barb..I am so happy you're back! I missed you here! I read this in the critical views book I picked up at the library: "For a woman who prided herself on her plenitude of heart, those early short-circuits of sensual emotion were painful to think on. No wonder she made Casaubon die of fatty degeneration of the heart. He is the repository of her inferior qualities, as Dorothea of her superior ones. She instilled her callow misimaginings, suitably shifted in clef, into old Casaubon, and her ripe affirmations into young Dorothea." I love this comparison of Eliot's "repository of inferior qualities" to a "fatty degeneration of the heart." Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (64 of 73), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, August 11, 2000 06:07 PM Ann: I do not believe Eliot shares your assessment that Casaubon is that despicable. Actually, I have found two passages where the narrator takes time to actually defend the man: But at present this caution against a too hasty judgement interests me more in relation to Mr. Casaubon than to his young cousin. If to Dorothea Mr. Casaubon had been the mere occasion which had set alight the fine inflammable material of her youthful illusions, does it follow that he was fairly represented in the minds of those less impassioned personages who have hitherto delivered their judgments concerning him? I protest against any absolute conclusion, any prejudice derived from Mrs. Cadwallader's contempt for a neighbouring clergyman's alleged greatness of soul, of Sir James Chettam's poor opnion of his rival's legs--from Mr. Brooke's failure to elicit a companion's ideas, or from Celia's criticism of a middle-aged scholar's personal appearance. I am not sure that the greatest man of his age, if ever that solitary superlative existed, could escape these unfavourable reflections of himself in various small mirrors; and even Milton, looking for his portrait in a spoon, must submit to have the facial angle of a bumpkin. --from Chapter 10 Granted, Eliot is using irony--but she is also making a point: Is Dorothea so dumb as to make a total mistake? Wasn't there something in Casaubon that was real and not her idealism? Eliot notes that Dorothea's fatuation with Casaubon was a case of "an angel beguiled" and not duped. Later on, the narrator really lays on some sentiments regarding Casaubon: For my part I am very sorry for him. It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self--never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardour of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted. --from Chapter 28 Eliot has compassion for Casaubon and manages to keep him from slipping too far from the reader's sympathy. Yet in the end his will contains that one despicable act for which even Dorothea seems unable to forgive him. Casuabon could have been worse--he could have been Roger Chillingworth in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. Dan
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (65 of 73), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, August 11, 2000 07:17 PM Daniel, I felt the same as you. When I read the paragraph containing the description of Casaubon as a "small hungry shivering self", I felt sad for him, and pitied him. I read a definition of "Casaubonism" as being "the entombing of the senses in the mind's cellarage." Pretty sad situation, i think. Now, to me, the despicable person was Mr. Featherstone. he was so utterly nasty, it was almost enjoyable! And to think , when he could not use his money to aid in getting his way (when he offered Mary money to unlock the iron chest) he cried like a baby! Now that's what I call repulsive! Beej
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (66 of 73), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, August 11, 2000 11:35 PM To be quite honest, Dan, it was the thought of Dorothea having to share a bed with Casaubon that made my skin crawl - impotent or not, he probably at least made an attempt to fulfill his marital duties. I also found him vain, incredibly boring, and completely self-centered. I don't remember feeling any sympathy for him, but obviously not every reader feels the same. I would definitely put Roger Chillingworth in the same category of awful literary husbands. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (67 of 73), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Saturday, August 12, 2000 02:35 AM Well, Ann, I think it is important that you try to uninvolve your emotions when pondering what Dan points out. Nobody is asking you to marry Casaubon. However, there are aspects of his personality that are endearing. Or maybe pathetic is a better word. I feel sorry for the poor old coot. Moreover, the whole point of this novel is Dorothea's misjudgment in marrying him, isn't it? So pray tell, how are we going to do without his character? Odd that Barbara continues to refer to Anne Karanina now and again. Anna's husband Karenin is a clone of Casaubon. Steve
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (68 of 73), Read 19 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, August 12, 2000 09:10 AM Excellent point, Steve!! And, yet, Eliot made me feel more sympathy for Casaubon than for Karenin. And, if I remember correctly, Ann Davey felt more sympathy for Karenin than anyone else discussing the book did. Is my memory correct, Ann? Beej, I love that definition of "casaubonism". It elicits a feeling of profound sadness, thinking of all the waste. If Eliot saw that potential in herself, it must have been haunting. Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (69 of 73), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, August 12, 2000 09:54 AM Dan's note about Christianity in Middlemarch sent me leafing through Karl's biography because I think this may be one of the most interesting aspects of Eliot's thinking. I wish I had the discipline to read this entire biography because it presents exhaustive detail. Ann (or anyone else), correct me if I'm getting any of this wrong. Eliot was raised a Calvinist, but later repudiated much of what it involved. However, she retained her desire for an ordered, moral society and thought that it could be attained without Christianity, as such. That's a pretty general statement, so, again, please jump in if I need correction. In any case, during the writing of Middlemarch, Karl says that Eliot was conducting a long correspondence with Harriot Beecher Stowe, partly in reference to some of these points.Stowe had just written Old Town Folks which I haven't read. I found the following very interesting: For there is strong Calvinism in the portrait of Dorothea, especially in her phase leading up to her marriage to Casaubon. Duty, discipline, even her playing an inferior role as female helper are all aspects of Calvinism assimilated into her character. Eliot says she is cheered by Stowe's awareness that a dogmatic system presents to society a mixed moral influence. In this, we have a few of Eliot's most firm beliefs: that any given system sends out mixed, often confusing signals; that information deriving from dogmatism can be misinformation , or at best misleading; that a moral system can be built only on eclectic principles; and that good and evil, if such distinctions are made, cannot be discovered by any dogma. Now, this last sentence is Karl's interpretation, obviously. However, I don't think it is lightly made. Actually, it seems to me to be the central idea of this book. Again, as I said earlier, we start with two characters, Lydgate and Dorothea, who are operating under fairly dogmatic systems, one religious and one scientific. And, we watch the failure of life to fit into these systems. Very little fits into their absolute beliefs. And, it seems to me that it branches off from there. Mr. Bulstrode, of course, is the ultimate example of the hypocrisy of religious dogma. Mr. Brooke gives us a light look at the same in political systems. Only those who operate on a system of fundamental integrity, the Garths, seem to have the means from the outset to triumph over their trials. What do you think? Am I getting off track here? Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (70 of 73), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, August 12, 2000 10:53 AM Barb: Thank you very much--I think that Karl and you have hammered a nail into the proverbial cross with this interpretation. Middlemarch does present a society which blossoms when dogma is not present. The happiest clergyman is the one buying natural history books and attending to an insect collection--not writing sermons or going around telling everyone what not to do. Dorothea says somewhere in the novel that she prefers a religion which "pardons more than it condemns." In fact, there is this sentence: "We are all of us born in moral stupidity, taking the world as an udder to feed our supreme selves..." Not religion, not clergymen--the 'world' is where humanity becomes morally astute. Dan
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (71 of 73), Read 19 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, August 12, 2000 09:35 AM Ann: I agree--I wouldn't want to share a bed with Casaubon, either. But there is this passage which ends Book Four, where Dorothea is concerned about Casaubon's health but he refuses to talk to her because he's concerned about Ladislaw getting his girl and things after he's dead: ...If he did not come soon she thought that she would go down and even risk incurring another pang....But she did hear the library door open, and slowly the light advanced up the staircase without noise from the footsteps on the carpet. When her husband stood opposite to her, she saw his face was more haggard (NOTE: This does not mean that Casaubon looked as if he was from Alaska). He started slightly on seeing her, and she looked up at him beseechingly, without speaking. "Dorothea!" he said, with a gentle surprise in his tone. "Were you waiting for me?" "Yes, I did not like to disturb you." "Come, my dear, come. You are young, and need not extend your life by watching." When the kind quiet melancholy of that speech fell on Dorothea's ears, she felt something like the thankfulness that might well up in us if we had narrowly escaped hurting a lamed creature. She put her hand into her husband's, and they went along the broad corridor together. This is one of the most tender moments between Casaubon and Dorothea, and it even hints that they are going to bed together. While unintentional, of course, it echoes Milton's final image of Adam and Even leaving paradise: The World was all before them, where to choose Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide; They hand in hand with wand'ring steps and slow, Through Eden took thir solitary way. Thus ends the epic of rational Adam and curious, passionate Eve--not a bad analogy between the scholar Casuabon and his young woman Dorothea--but not a perfect analogy either. My point is that Eliot inserted this scene to show that at some level there was love and tenderness by both and that it was not just a case of Dorothea doing all the giving and Casaubon doing all the taking. As for Farebrother the Miser--he seemed like the character Silas Marner in his greed and actions. Then again, perhaps it is that rare trait in Eliot which can look past the surface foibles of individuals and into their souls and actually sympathize and render that sympathy in her art. I'd like to backslap Casaubon for being a twit, but I still can see why he does the things he does and how someone like Dorothea can still love and care for him. Of course, the question arises as to whether or not Dorothea was just being a martyr with Casuabon, the "St. Theresa" who must lend a helping and loving hand to a creature who most the time ignores her existence. Lydgate reflects on Dorothea's selfless love for Casaubon at one point in the novel and wishes Rosamond could be more like her in character. Of course, what man wouldn't want his wife to be like Dorothea--selfless, loving, and living only to make your world a better, beautiful one. Dan
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (72 of 73), Read 18 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Saturday, August 12, 2000 11:18 AM No, not at all, Barb. Excellent observations. I learned something. Steve
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (73 of 73), Read 18 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, August 12, 2000 12:03 PM Yep, Barb, you're right. I was the only one in the discussion who felt sympathy for Karenin--and I was not playing the devil's advocate. I guess there's no accounting for taste. I couldn't feel anything similar for Casaubon, although several of you have posted quotes showing he was not such a terrible guy after all. These are great notes here on CC and I only wish I had followed up on my original intention to reread the book. Unfortunately, it's been a busy summer and I was distracted by newer books. Barb, I appreciate your note summarizing Eliot's views on religion and genuine morality. These themes are an integral part of her writing. The Karl biography is very well done and I have read some significant chunks, but it is so very detailed that I have never finished it. Ann
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (74 of 76), Read 18 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, August 13, 2000 02:39 PM Dan, thanks for bringing up Mr. Farebrother. He seems to rank just under the Garths for survival. Of course, he doesn't get Mary Garth, although I was rooting for his chances with her the whole time (knowing that it wouldn't happen). He teeters on that moral edge with his Whist playing but that seems to be more because the dogmatic folk have shut him out and he needs a means to support those who are dependent on him. Dorothea's support of him demonstrates just how far she's progressed from the beginning of the story. BTW, what in the world is Whist? I hear it mentioned in these 19th century novels but have no idea what kind of card game it actually was. What did you all think of the Vincys in relation to this framework? This was not a family that operated on a base of integrity though they're certainly not as bad as some others. Rosamunde does okay in the end though certainly not in the way she or her parents envisioned. Fred triumphs when he adopts the Garth's lifestyle and values. Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (75 of 76), Read 19 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, August 13, 2000 02:53 PM Barb: Whist is a precursor of contract bridge. The play is similar, but the scoring is different and there is no bidding, the trump suit being determined by other means. Here's a web site with some details: http://www.pagat.com/whist/whist.html David
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (76 of 76), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, August 13, 2000 02:58 PM Barb: Here is Daniel Pool's description of whist taken from his book What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist--the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England: Whist: A game for two couples, the partners sitting opposite one another and each player being dealt thirteen cards. The first person puts down a card which the next person must match in suit if he can. Otherwise, he must play the trump suit or discard. The person who plays the highest trump or the highest card of the suit led wins the trick and leads for the next trick. Points are won according to the number of tricks played and, sometimes, the number of honors held, and a game is won by getting 5 or 10 points, depending on whether "short" or "long" whist is played. A "rubber" usually consists of the best two out of three games. Whist is the ancestor of bridge. Dan
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (75 of 79), Read 15 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Thursday, August 17, 2000 03:06 PM I just returned from a charter boat trip to Vancouver Island and the Western BC inlets. We were crowded and lighting was poor. While I had Middlemarch with me I was unable to read a page of it, but for the short flight to Seattle. So, of course I am way behind but got a good feel for Eliot's writing and some of the characters. I love what I read even though the book gets a bit wordy and repetitious. But this is my criticism of almost all the books of that particular period. So it's probably just "ME". At the same time I am reading Iris Murdoch who is much more contemporary and I find her easier reading. A.S. Byatt, another contemporary woman writer is also easier for me. As a matter of fact she may well be my favorite. For this reason I got a lot out of her introduction quoted by, I believe Barb. Eliot slowly builds up her characters and action and at the end it all seems to fit together. My question is: Do I have the patience and time to finish Middlemarch in 2000 or will it take me another year. Well, you see I am retired and retired people as a rule a very busy doing this and that. But to tell the truth, don't accomplish very much. So I shall learn a lot from your excellent comments as I continue on.... Ernie
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (76 of 79), Read 13 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, August 19, 2000 08:17 AM Ernie, I hope you'll persevere. I did best with it when I devoted large chunks of time to really getting involved with it rather than doing it in bits and pieces. This is usually only possible for me in the summer and I can't imagine it being possible for you on a trip. I tend to like lighter, short books for that kind of reading. I was really glad that I read Middlemarch. I haven't read many books that so successfully organized so many characters around a central idea. Plus, I want to hear what you think! Glad to hear that your back from vacation. Barb
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (77 of 79), Read 15 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Saturday, August 19, 2000 08:26 AM Ernie, Barb is right. In fact, the last 200 pages flew. It was almost like I was reading a murder mystery. I just had to find out what happened. I think I read that whole section in one or two sessions. So please persevere. I know you'll be glad you did. Sherry
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (78 of 79), Read 13 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, August 19, 2000 11:08 AM I'll third everyone's comments, Ernie: The third quarter of the book begins to seriously drag and you get the impression that Eliot is being paid by the word and not writing from the heart. But the last quarter is stunning and brings together events and actions that you kick yourself for not predicting. Not that I'm being facetious, but the best part of Middlemarch is the end. I mean, how many 900 page books do you finish with, "Aww no--there's no more? There has to be a Middlemarch: The Next Generation somewhere..." Dan
Topic: AUGUST DISCUSSION: Middlemarch by George Eliot (79 of 79), Read 12 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, August 19, 2000 01:31 PM Ah, yes, Middlemarch: The Next Generation, I like that idea, Dan. Seriously though, this is one of those books. I just kept wanting to live with these people some more. Barb

 

 
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