Saturday, March 08, 2008



I just finished reading, or rather re-reading, George Eliot's Middlemarch, and this is a collection of passages that struck my fancy.

Chapter 1:
[I]s there any yoked creature without its private opinions?
Chapter 6:
I wish her joy of her hair shirt.
Chapter 6:
We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, 'Oh, nothing!' Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts—not to hurt others.
Chapter 12 (reminds me of a passage in The Mill on the Floss):
Little details gave each field a particular physiognomy, dear to the eyes that have looked on them from childhood: the pool in the corner where the grasses were dank and trees leaned whisperingly; the great oak shadowing a bare place in mid-pasture; the high bank where the ash-trees grew; the sudden slope of the old marl-pit making a red background for the burdock; the huddled roofs and ricks of the homestead without a traceable way of approach; the gray gate and fences against the depths of the bordering wood; and the stray hovel, its old, old thatch full of mossy hills and valleys with wondrous modulations of light and shadow such as we travel far to see in later life, and see larger, but not more beautiful. These are the things that make the gamut of joy in landscape to midland-bred souls—the things they toddled among, or perhaps learned by heart standing between their father's knees while he drove leisurely.
Chapter 12 (cf. what Dr. Johnson said on the subject):
'I did not mean to quarrel,' said Rosamond, putting on her hat.

'Quarrel? Nonsense; we have not quarrelled. If one is not to get into a rage sometimes, what is the good of being friends?'
Chapter 12:
The difficult task of knowing another soul is not for young gentlemen whose consciousness is chiefly made up of their own wishes.
Chapter 13:
'Oh, I am not angry, except with the ways of the world.'
Chapter 13:
'Might, could, would—they are contemptible auxiliaries.'
Chapter 16:
[N]one but the ancients can be always classical.
Chapter 16:
'But I have noticed that one always believes one's own town to be more stupid than any other.'
Chapter 17:
'I don't translate my own convenience into other people's duties.'
Chapter 20:
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.
Chapter 21:
[V]ery little achievement is required in order to pity another man's shortcomings.
Chapter 22:
'The best piety is to enjoy—when you can. You are doing the most then to save the earth's character as an agreeable planet. And enjoyment radiates. It is of no use to try and take care of all the world; that is being taken care of when you feel delight—in art or in anything else.'
Chapter 24 (on the custom of storing fruit in attics):
Fred liked it too, knowing it by heart even to the attic which smelt deliciously of apples and quinces...
Chapter 25:
'But selfish people always think their own discomfort of more importance than anything else in the world.'
Chapter 28:
'Does anybody read Aquinas?'
Chapter 32:
'I have just been reading a portion at the commencement of Anne of Jeersteen. It commences well.' (Things never began with Mr. Borthrop Trumbull: they always commenced, both in private life and on his handbills.)
Chapter 37 (a reminiscence of Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 4.31.67):
'I have had the gratification of meeting my former acquaintance, Dr. Spanning, to-day, and of being praised by one who is himself a worthy recipient of praise.'
Chapter 38:
'What a character for anybody with decent connections to show himself in!—one of those newspaper fellows!'
Chapter 38:
'I do wish people would behave like gentlemen,' said the good baronet, feeling that this was a simple and comprehensive programme for social well-being.
Chapter 42:
Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self.
Chapter 45 (note to Barack Obama):
'[N]othing is more offensive than this ostentation of reform, where there is no real amelioration.'
Chapter 46:
'You go against rottenness, and there is nothing more thoroughly rotten than making people believe that society can be cured by a political hocus-pocus.'
Chapter 56 (a good rant by Timothy Cooper):
'But come, you didn't mean any harm. Somebody told you the railroad was a bad thing. That was a lie. It may do a bit of harm here and there, to this and to that; and so does the sun in heaven. But the railway's a good thing.'

'Aw! good for the big folks to make money out on,' said old Timothy Cooper, who had stayed behind turning his hay while the others had been gone on their spree;—'I'n seen lots o' things turn up sin' I war a young un—the war an' the peace, and the canells, an' the oald King George, an' the Regen', an' the new King George, an' the new un as has got a new ne-ame—an' it's been all aloike to the poor mon. What's the canells been t' him? They'n brought him neyther me-at nor be-acon, nor wage to lay by, if he didn't save it wi' clemmin' his own inside. Times ha' got wusser for him sin' I war a young un. An' so it'll be wi' the railroads. They'll on'y leave the poor mon furder behind. But them are fools as meddle, and so I told the chaps here. This is the big folks's world, this is. But yo're for the big folks, Muster Garth, yo are.'

Timothy was a wiry old laborer, of a type lingering in those times—who had his savings in a stocking-foot, lived in a lone cottage, and was not to be wrought on by any oratory, having as little of the feudal spirit, and believing as little, as if he had not been totally unacquainted with the Age of Reason and the Rights of Man.
Chapter 56:
'The lad loves Mary, and a true love for a good woman is a great thing, Susan. It shapes many a rough fellow.'
Chapter 57:
'Yes, young people are usually blind to everything but their own wishes, and seldom imagine how much those wishes cost others,' said Mrs. Garth.
Chapter 63:
...Lydgate shrank, as from a burn, from the utterance of any word about his private affairs.
Chapter 63:
'It is a pity she is not better-looking.'

'I cannot say that,' said Mrs. Farebrother, decisively. 'I like her countenance. We must not always ask for beauty, when a good God has seen fit to make an excellent young woman without it.'
Chapter 72:
'I believe that people are almost always better than their neighbors think they are.'
Chapter 72:
'What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?'
Chapter 74:
There is a forsaking which still sits at the same board and lies on the same couch with the forsaken soul, withering it the more by unloving proximity.
Chapter 83 (more erotic than many an explicitly sexual passage):
It was never known which lips were the first to move towards the other lips; but they kissed tremblingly, and then they moved apart.
Chapter 85:
'Oh, dear, because I have always loved him. I should never like scolding any one else so well; and that is a point to be thought of in a husband.'
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.

Some of the following descriptions of the pedant Edward Casaubon remind me of myself.

Chapter 2:
...a dried bookworm towards fifty...
Chapter 6:
'As to his blood, I suppose the family quarterings are three cuttle-fish sable, and a commentator rampant.'
Chapter 8:
'He has got no good red blood in his body,' said Sir James.

'No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass and it was all semicolons and parentheses,' said Mrs. Cadwallader.
Chapter 15:
A liberal education had of course left him free to read the indecent passages in the school classics...
Chapter 21:
...this dried-up pedant, this elaborator of small explanations about as important as the surplus stock of false antiquities kept in a vendor's back chamber...
Chapter 29:
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 ardor of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted.
Chapter 42:
On this point, as on all others, he shrank from pity; and if the suspicion of being pitied for anything in his lot surmised or known in spite of himself was embittering, the idea of calling forth a show of compassion by frankly admitting an alarm or a sorrow was necessarily intolerable to him.

Finally, here are a couple of unintended double-entendres.

Chapter 63:
'You will never care any more about my one-eyed giant, Loo,' said Fred at the end.
Chapter 74:
'And with all her faults, few women are better. From a girl she had the neatest ways, and was always good-hearted, and as open as the day. You might look into her drawers when you would—always the same.'

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?