Category Archives: Middlemarch

64% done with Middlemarch


Fred is going to have to earn his keep and Caleb is going to be the techer. But at least he has something he knows he can work at to win Mary’s hand, unlike Dorothea who has no path available to her.

Fred’s father is a pain. Typical middle class loading over someone with their own success and making everyone else feel small. Caleb is compassionate as we should be and not “superior” to others.

64% done with Middlemarch

Great insght: “Caleb was in a difficulty known to any person attempting in dark times and unassisted by miracle to reason with rustics who are in possession of an undeniable truth which they know through a hard process of feeling, and can let it fall like a giant’s club on your neatly carved argument for a social benefit which they do not feel.”

63% done with Middlemarch


I doubt there has been a more insightful novel written about the middle class than this one. All the rules and norms and veiled, passive aggressive posturing hat makes up a society lacking great money but with a little education (and perhaps too much religion). I feel bad for Dorothea. She loves Will, and her feelings are not just as a woman’s but as a person’s. Who hasn’t longed deeply and been denied? Hurts

62% done with Middlemarch


Up until now we could until guess what Dorothea really felt about Will. We knew how he feels about her, but her feelings were layered. We could since she felt for Will but she betrayed nothing, not even to herself. And now that she’s alone we finally get her admission and just when there should be every possibility of happiness, she (and Will) are furthest from it because of everyone around them: Middlemarch.

60% done with Middlemarch


I really liked this chapter because not only is it very straight forward in its plot (no obscure political refreneces) but also straightforward in Fred’s and Mary’s feelings for each other, and especially here’s for what she wants to see him accomplish (or not, as in being clergy)

57% done with Middlemarch

I have to admit to being asurprised by Dorothea’s sisiter. She seems almmost cold, or even cruel to suggest that Dorothea (basically) write off Mr. Casaubon. Yes, he had been mean, but Dorothea had loved him (in her way). To be so blunt to Dorothea, all the while with the image of the healthy baby juxtaposed with the recent death seems rather unfeeling towards Dorothea.

55% done with Middlemarch


I had been willing to somewhat forgive Mr. Casaubon’s severe behavior, but his will (against Will) goes too far; what he did is cruel and vindictive. To think that could even be legal (forbid your widow from marrying a specfic person) is abhorant, but it’s worse morally because of how it could shame Dorothea, especially among such gossip-minded people as live in Middlemarch.

53% done with Middlemarch


Will seems to be testing his “place” in Middlemarch but he’s having a tough go of it – he seems to only have attracted Mr Brooke, who nobody seems toi take very seriously, and a parade of 7 year-olds. His trip to church to nettle Mr. Casaubon only made him uncomfortable, not the other way around. He’s very young and very inexperienced, but through this we see how society works.

52% done with Middlemarch


Honestly, I’m not too sure what this chapter was about, other than arguing about what motivates Lydgate or Will. I sometimes feel they are talking about things in a way that we, the reader, should know about, but that the author hasn’t yet told us about. it makes for dense reading at times.

51% done with Middlemarch


We get a clearer picture of why Lydgate is having trouble fundng his fever hospital. Many oppose him, mainly because he does things different and in Middlemarch that’s not something they like, or they are for him but usually for more than the most noble of reasons (except for Dorothea; she’s honestly trying to help, if naively).

50% done with Middlemarch

B5; C44

Dorothea isn’t considering her position to be giving money to Lydgate’s hospital. Yes, it is an honset and good deed she believes she is doing, but it does have a political message it sends to others in the town who oppose it. She’s taking a stance without realizing she’s doing so. People will talk.

49% done with Middlemarch

B5; C43

Lydgate and Rosamond’s relationship seems built on the idea of ambition, but they do seem complicit in it, as if they’ve found a good team mate in the affair. Will being at Rosamond’s house is a tad suspicious, though I doubt she would ever go in for that sort of thing.

47% done with Middlemarch


In many ways Mr. Casaubon is already dead, he’s just waiting around for his body to catch up with that knowledge.

Eliot is drawing comparisons between Mr. Casaubon who lives only for scholarly pursuits and has no life in him, to Fred who lives plenty yet has no sense. Both are being disappointed through disillusionment (Mr. Casaubon with marriage, Fred through not getting the money). Eliot begs for balance.

47% done with Middlemarch


“Who shall tell what may be the effect of writing? If it happens to have been cut in stone, though it lie face down-most for ages on a forsaken beach, or “rest quietly under the drums and tramplings of many conquests,” it may end by letting us into the secret of usurpations and other scandals gossiped about long empires ago:—this world being apparently a huge whispering-gallery.”

43% done with Middlemarch


Looks like I misread Mr Brooke a bit. He’s not liberal with his tenants, he’s sort of a slum landlord. He thinks he’s a jolly chap but his tenants are drunk and have had it with him.

I like that Eliot is making Mr Brooke an all-around good guy. We see some of the dirty underbelly of this sort of life that everyone is guilty of to one degree or another. We’re all hypocrites about some things, I suppose.

43% done with Middlemarch


“We must not have you getting too learned for a woman, you know.”

Oh, my, how times have changed. Imagine saying this to someone today.

This does bring up a related issue, however. Joseph Conrad is forever being labeled a racist for saying things like this about other races, yet is Eliot taken to task for having her characters speak as people did then? They are only products of their time, for good and bad.

43% done with Middlemarch


I’m going to have to admit to some ignorance in this chapter. I feel as if I was plopped down in the middle of a conversation about things and (some) people I don’t know anything about. I get they’re talking local politics and that Mr Brooke is (perhaps?) being too liberal with his new newspaper and how lax he is collecting rents from his farms. Beyond that, I’m a little lost here.

42% done with Middlemarch


Ironically, if Mr. Casaubon was not so smart, didn’t think things through so much, he might have at least been a position to do something rash that would have stirred the pot, let people know he was jealous of Will, show his weakness to others and, thus, possibly endeared himself a little. It’s his mind that is literally causing him grief. But he suffers quietly. In marriage he’s more alone than before.

42% done with Middlemarch


A lot of people go into a relationship with a baggage cart full of unrealistic expectations about the other person. They think they can change this and that, and that they too will be changed in some (better, of course) way. Poor Dorothea had such high hopes for her husband and is day by day being disillusioned in her “blue-green boudoir”. The novel does not think wisely of the decisions young people make.

42% done with Middlemarch


We can compare Will’s building of a relation with Dorothea with Rosamond’s manuvering of Lydgate. Will is not particularly ambitious, but he does greatly desire Dorothea – yet what one says, the other takes a different meaning than the other intended. Rosamond is much more simple, really. She wants Lydgate (for good or bad to her) and is able to “catch him” with just a few tears.

42% done with Middlemarch


“But it is very difficult to be learned; it seems as if people were worn out on the way to great thoughts, and can never enjoy them because they are too tired.” Thinking too much about what it means to enjoy life means you’re going to miss all the things that make life enjoyable.

41% done with Middlemarch


You gotta hand it to Rosamond in how well she can handle everyone and get what she wants. Fred could take a lesson from his sister.

Men give women a hard time sometimes when they say they work “harder” than women do, but that’s only in lifting heavy things: a woman works just as hard in how she can navigate people, something us men typically drown at sea when asked to. The domestic vs the industrial.

40% done with Middlemarch


What I enjoyed the most in this chapter was her observations of everyone as they waited and heard the will(s) to be read. Now the mystery is who is this Mr. Rigg (rigged!) , but also what will happen to Mary since she played a role in all this. And Fred, well, how often have we been close to a prize only to lose it because we were careless? Actions have consequences.

37% done with Middlemarch


We have a funeral, but we we really get is a lot of gossip (and Dorothea rightly says it’s sad to die and leave no one behind who loved them).

There’s an odd juxtaposition at the end here between death and the painting of Casaubon as Aquinas and how old and stodgy all that is, or at least, how out of touch it that theology is with regular people. Brooke doesn’t like art that’s too straining to keep up with.

36% done with Middlemarch


We’re never more popular than when we’re dying and in possession of something someone hopes to get from us. Mr. Featherstone is very popular now and no wonder he’s such a crank with family resembling vultures.

Mr. Trumbull is a fun buffoon, a real “bookman” who can’t pronounce the book titles. Ha!

35% done with Middlemarch


Unlike Dorthea, Rosamond knows what she’s doing. She may have some naive notions about what marrying Lydgate would entail, however, she plays the social game so well that any defect in Lydgate could be smoothed over by her ability. And I really did feel for her when after (only) 10 days went by with no Lydgate she was actually upset. And it was a tender moment between them.

33% done with Middlemarch


“But the end of Mr. Brooke’s pen was a thinking organ”, I love Mr. Brooke. Even all his terrible advice that would probably kill Mr. Casaubon if acted upon is good-natured and well-meaning, if a little thin in its intellectual stimulation (which, ironically, is what Mr. Casaubon actually should take up – man can’t live on bread alone).

Lydgate, of course, sees more opportunities to be a brilliant doctor.

33% done with Middlemarch


I liked that we finally got the point of view of Mr. Casaubon, however, he’s just as we’ve believed him to be: “to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self”.

His attack is interesting. Stress of the marriage? It comes after they disagree again.

Celia, as always, is observant, this time of Sir James who who is putting on some airs.

32% done with Middlemarch


“Here was a woman who had known some difficulty about marriage.” Did she think the marriage a bad one or just other people.

“And I don’t want to be married so very soon, because I think it is nice to be engaged.” Celia is clever as always

The dimness of Lowick Manor, the ghost-like image of the stag, the dun sky – all represent her husband. She hadn’t noticed before but it was always like this.

29% done with Middlemarch


Lydgate has no idea how many enemies he’s making. He wants to be a self-made man, well he’ll turn out to be unmade by everyone he’s turned against him. And just because he’s right in his opinions about how silly something like the “Keepsake” is, doesn’t mean he’s exempt from lording over everyone. Trivial fare is as much a social lubricant as alcohol, that’s why this sentimental nonsense if so loved by most.

29% done with Middlemarch


Fred doesn’t have typhoid fever, he’s just feeling the effects of growing a conscience. And Lydgate is probably over exaggerating the diagnosis so as to appear brilliant in front of Rosamond (and therefor make his name in the town). Wrench’s reputation sure will suffer.

Or maybe I’m being cynical?

28% done with Middlemarch


The reason why the Garth’s are so hard-up financially is because they’re such good people. The reason why people like Mr. Featherstone have money is because they don’t give a damn what other people think of them and probably don’t care for them either.

Eliot shows us the many facets of what blindly motivates people: Fred’s desire for idleness, Dorothea’s desire for the spiritual ideal, Naumann’s art.

27% done with Middlemarch


You can really feel Fred’s shame as he confesses to not having the money to pay the Garth’s back. This is compounded on how you can tell how much this will hurt the Garth’s. Just like regular middle-class people today, a financial blow like this can be near fatal. His actions effect more than his honor, which he recognizes, but pretty much runs away from out the door.

26% done with Middlemarch


I can’t imagine that Fred will turn out to be nearly the horse trader he thinks himself to be. He’s already bad enough with money he has (or owes) so you can only image how bad he’ll be with money he wants. Besides, making money by buying and selling only works if you already have money and if you’re clever enough to convince people what they want to sell isn’t actually worth as much as they think.

24% done with Middlemarch


We begin with the characters – through art – seeing each other as they would like to be see, especially vain Mr. Casaubon. We end the chapter with talking about what we hope to be true, though with Will’s and Dorothea’s intentions not exactly lining up (he loves her; she’s naive). Casaubon must sense this since he’s not a total fool.

Casaubon is becoming a bit of an ogre; I hope he humanized more later.

24% done with Middlemarch


This whole chapter Ladislaw is almost exclusively referred to as just Will. So there is a familiarity between her and him, but just subtle. And the difference with how he speaks to her as opposed to Mr. Casaubon (always Mr.) is striking – they speak more as two people close in age should speak (for the times). She’s also (through Will) seeing the world (and Casaubon) from a fresh point of view.

22% done with Middlemarch


Not that it’ss any surprise to the reader that Dorothea is growing miserable, but what is remarkable is how beautifully written this chapter is. She describes Rome as being this beautiful wreck of a city, a city that has made the civilized world, but is also neglected and difficult to understand. These descriptions of Rome reflect how she feels and it feels so lonely. And we end where ch 19 begins.

21% done with Middlemarch


Naumann and Ladislaw are fun.

We see Dorothea through two sets of eyes, one sees her as a beauty to be painted, the other as just Mrs. Casaubon. They even argue about interpretation, Naumann wishes to paint his Christian Antigone, Ladislaw doesn’t want much to do with her.

So even though we know Dorothea we see her, as everyone, as being very different people – we are seen this way: as multitudes.

17% done with Middlemarch


I feel like I should read this novel twice so that on second reading I’d have a stronger grasp of all that is going on. There is so much interconnected here, so many long-standing relationships that to just jump in is daunting.

Still, the gist of this chapter is the pettiness of small town politics and the will of Lydgate to go against the grain by voting for Tyke and not Farebrother as intended.

17% done with Middlemarch


“One must be poor to know the luxury of giving!” So true

“it was plain that a vicar might be adored by his womankind as the king of men and preachers, and yet be held by them to stand in much need of their direction.” and then Mr. Lydgate goes on about his insects because he likes them better perhaps than his flock.

“… you wear the harness and draw a good deal where your yoke-fellows pull you”

17% done with Middlemarch


Rosamond, though I don’t like her, is a great character. She’s just as ambitious as Lydgate, and is just as clever as him. She might not be book smart, but she’s smart in people, and herself. So her cynicism about Middlemarch is somewhat founded since she is, in a way, a little better than the people around her. Yet we call her a snob and Lydgate is just ambitious. Why is she seen as less than him?

17% done with Middlemarch


The story of Lydgate and the actress is fun and also telling. Just as Laure says “… I do not like husbands”, she could very well be talking about Middlemarch which “counted on swallowing Lydgate and assimilating him very comfortably”.

Lydgate stands out as being someone who wants to make something of himself – like Mr. Bulstrode – but does not want to be assimilated. He dreams of fame perhaps.

16% done with Middlemarch


I’d much rather be friends with idle Fred than either Mr. Featherstone or Mr. Bulstrode. They lord over everyone either with money or morality – they’re no different than Rosamond: petty and small. At least Fred has some fun.

Mary complains about feeling obliged to honor any many who falls in love with her – she should be independent too like men. Why should a woman be responsible for a man’s feelings?

13% done with Middlemarch

B2; C13

The one aspect I struggle with in this novel is continually having to get up to speed with a new character every chapter. Not only do we not get much physical description of surroundings, but we jump right into the heart of situations and I feel a little bewildered at first. As a chapter goes on I get the “hang of it”, so I’m looking forward to knowing whom everyone is so I can concentrate on what’s going on

13% done with Middlemarch


“”How can one describe a man? I can give you an inventory:” Ha!

“Oh, blameless people are always the most exasperating.”

“she even acted her own character, and so well, that she did not know it to be precisely her own.” = Rosamond is fake.

Rosamond and Fred really do feel like brother and sister.

All this talk about money and who gets what and acting the right way. So petty we all are.

10% done with Middlemarch


“All choice of words is slang. It marks a class.”

“Disagreeable is a word that describes your feelings and not my actions.”: everything is how you chose to see it.

Rosamond is a little snob but her family seem much more fun. She’s telling everyone what they “should” be doing but nobody takes her too seriously and her brother barbs right back at her. I would not like Rosamond at all in real life.

10% done with Middlemarch


“for we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them”

Here we get everyone’s opinion of everyone else at the dinner party. We also see the beginning of disillusionment Casaubon is having about the marriage. He seems to think he’s owed happiness. She seems to think her real happiness is to come. Lydgate knows it’s because she’s “too earnest”.

10% done with Middlemarch


Ladislaw is an interesting character. He sizes Dorothea up right quick. Casaubon sure doesn’t love him, though Brooke is jolly about him.

Casaubon is one of those who people who do everything “correctly” and “right” but they have no joy in it. A man like Brooke, or Sir James probably fail and idle quite a lot, but they’re not worried about pretenses. Ladislaw is right to want to get away to Italy ASAP.

10% done with Middlemarch

Mr. Casaubon’s manor-house is nice, but fading and sadness creeps around – just like Mr. Casaubon.

“she would have preferred, of finding that her home would be in a parish which had a larger share of the world’s misery, so that she might have had more active duties in it.” That’s not very Christian, but she at least admits to her prideful desire.

Mr Brooke is such a good man, he knows how to like people.

9% done with Middlemarch

“It is a very good quality in a man to have a trout-stream.”

That’s my problem, no trout-stream!

Somebody put a drop [of Casaubon’s blood] under a magnifying-glass and it was all semicolons and parentheses,”!

I’m sure we’ll get a more emphatic picture of Mr. Casaubon, but these quills in him are fun.

Mr. Cadwallader is smart to stay out of the whole thing: she’s not my daughter.

7% done with Middlemarch


It’s impossible not to notice how immensely intelligent Eliot is. And not just that she knows a lot of facts – what good are facts? – but that the sign of a truly intelligent person is knowing what the facts mean. Here she uses them to underscore a point she want to make, or to whatever purpose she needs them for. I doubt many of her male contemporaries were half as smart as her.

7% done with Middlemarch


Casaubon only wants a woman who won’t get in his way so he can just keep doing what he’s always done while he gets too old to do anything else.

Dorothea thinks Milton’s daughters were more submissive than they were. She won’t learn Latin just as she won’t learn Casaubon’s language. She can’t love if she feels inferior.

Brooke is teasing Casaubon. I love it.

7% done with Middlemarch


“But her feeling towards the vulgar rich was a sort of religious hatred: they had probably made all their money out of high retail prices, and Mrs. Cadwallader detested high prices for everything that was not paid in kind at the Rectory”, and “when a woman is not contradicted, she has no motive for obstinacy in her absurdities.”

Mrs. Cadwallader is great! This novel is great! It’s SO funny, even modern!

6% done with Middlemarch


“I don’t think it can be nice to marry a man with a great soul” Ha!

“always a few grains of common-sense in an ounce of miserliness”

Now I understand why Brooke is, so far, allowing this marriage – he’s a bit of a progressive, a liberal. He’s willing to let his daughters be free, up to a certain point. But maybe he’s like this out of being timid around strong women; probably why he’s a bachelor.

Funny book!

6% done with Middlemarch


Mr. Casaubon’s letter never once used the word love, though Dorothea’s letter says “I am very grateful to you for loving me” right at the start. He seems to want some sort of intellectual buddy or at least someone willing to devote themselves to him but not to lovingly return the sentiment.

Celia, of course, picks up on this immediately. “Oh, Dodo, I hope you will be happy.” she says quite lovingly.

3% done with Middlemarch


I’m always a little relieved when I read a story written by a woman who talks about how difficult it is to figure out other women. Weather that speaks to how simple us men are or how complicated women are is another debate.

I like Mr. Brooke, have an image of him as being rather robust but not intimidating. A lover of a good time, but smart, too.

I liked Celia’s admonishment of Dorothea; good for her!

2% done with Middlemarch


Celia is far more perceptive about people than Dorothea. Dorothea is all up about the people’s welfare, whereas Celia seems to actually know what’s in their heart. Dorothea is also very condescending about the people of her own class – reminds me of suburban high school kids complaining about their soccer moms, as if the parents were somehow ignorant of the world. Dorothea is very sheltered.

2% done with Middlemarch


Sir James embodies wanting what we can’t have. Having no idea how the book will turn out I’d say the good odds are on him and Dorothea marrying since they’re so opposite. Dorothea is also very full of herself and her beliefs, she comes off as haughty and not very much fun. She may have higher ideals, but she’s also being rude. The way Celia feels about Mr. Casaubon is how I feel about Dorothea right now.

Started Middlemarch

“Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.” Times have not changed at all, we do what everyone else is doing because we think it’s “normal”.

I suppose both Dorothea and Celia are both young (they haven’t been in society yet), but Dorothea seems to reject the life expected of her. Her religious convictions go against society’s idea of opinions.