Middlemarch by George Eliot

Even though I became rather bogged down around page 581, I’m awfully glad that Nymeth suggested a read of the novel Middlemarch. It’s the first time I’ve read anything by George Eliot, and it’s the first time I’ve opened Middlemarch‘s pages, although it’s one of my best friend’s favorite series on PBS. Indeed, reading this book was much like the experience I had watching the Austen series last winter: one of longing for times past and an afternoon tea with some of the more endearing characters.

Principal to the story are Dorothea Brooke, who made an unhappy marriage for herself in marrying Mr. Casaubon, and Lydgate who married the beautiful Rosamunde Vincy. Also appearing are Will Ladislaw, Casaubon’s cousin who falls in love with Dorothea, Fred Vincy who loves Mary Garth, and Caleb Garth, her father, whose integrity made him my favorite character of all.

I leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from this novel, as George Eliot filled it with philosophical insights and observations accompanying her plot:

“People were so ridiculous with their illusions, carrying their fool’s caps unawares, thinking their own lies opaque while everybody else’s were transparent, making themselves exceptions to everything, as if when all the world looked yellow under a lamp they alone were rosy.”

“He had also taken too much in the shape of muddy political talk, a stimulant dangerously disturbing to his farming conservatism, which consisted in holding that whatever is, is bad, and any change is likely to be worse.”

“The difficult task of knowing another soul is not for young gentlemen whose consciousness is chiefly made up of their own wishes.”

“This was one of the difficulties of moving in good Middlemarch society: it was dangerous to insist on knowledge as a qualification for any salaried office.”

“Marriage, which was to bring guidance into worthy and imperative occupation, had not yet freed her from the gentlewoman’s oppressive liberty: it had not even filled her leisure with the ruminant joy of unchecked tenderness.”

and my all time favorite, from Caleb Garth himself:

“You must be sure of two things: you must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. And the other is, you must not be ashamed of your work and think it would be more honourable to you to be doing something else. You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it well, and not be always saying there’s this and there’s that–if I had this or that to do, I might make something of it. No matter what a man is, I wouldn’t give twopence for him”–here Caleb’s mouth looked bitter, and he snapped his fingers–“whether he was the prime minister or the rick-thatcher if he didn’t do well what he undertook to do.”


18 thoughts on “Middlemarch by George Eliot”

  1. As always, fantastic selections chosen to establish the depth of the novel — and I've wanted to also pick up Middlemarch as well, so I must get over the intimidation that I feel. I just finished and reviewed Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, so I'm trying to get back into the classics. And quite honestly, I'm not sure why I am so afraid — every time I pick up a classic, I'm always nervous about it, and then once I'm thick into it, I love it.


  2. Bellezza, you've changed the look of your blog again, and once more, it is gorgeous!I enjoyed all of the quotes you chose to highlight, particularly the first and last one. 🙂


  3. Mark David, indeed it is, and not a sentiment I find too often. It reminded me a bit of Ayn Rand. Have you read anything by her?Coffee and a Book Chick, thanks for enjoying the quotes I post. I've not read anything by Edith Wharton (I know!) and I really want to. The classics never seem to disappoint us, do they?Suko, do you remember this photograph from a few years ago? I used it for my header in the Fall before I switched to WordPress, and it's one of my favorites. I took the photograph outside of our front door, where the child is contentedly reading. Anyway, glad you like it. The whole thing makes me feel very peaceful, and I think I'm onto something I'll keep.Glad you liked the quotes, too. They seemd the best way to indicate what I liked about a very lengthy novel!


  4. Oh I LOVE George Eliot. It has been awhile since I have read this one, but I remember loving it when I read it. I suggest The Mill on the Floss by her as well.


  5. Allie, I think she's an author I have to be in the mood for. While I enjoyed this, I didn't loveit, not like I've treasured others weighty volumes such as Anna Karenina or Jane Eyre. Somehow this seemed a bit trite; I kept wondering, "What's the point?" Besides a charming story, I mean…


  6. I haven't read this book. It's on the TBR 'one day' list. I've read Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner though. I really liked Silas Marner. I agree, you need to be in the mood for Eliot. I find her as a person, very interesting though.


  7. I've heard good things about Silas Marner; I'll have to read more by Eliot to fully grasp her as a writer. Still, the Russian novelists who write chunksters are more appealing to me at this point. 😉


  8. Bellezza, I do remember this photo from an earlier time. It is so peaceful and beautiful.The quotes you chose are wonderful, a sample of the book's quality.


  9. Well, well – the last quote here from Caleb on a man's work resonated. I was sitting here thinking "ugh, work tomorrow" and then read this. Ah, the work ethic. Always rears its end. But cool that this popped up at the same time as the "ugh." Yes, I'll go to the office and try not to "look over the edge" at play time to follow. Honestly, great literature is such a mind reader of sorts sometimes.And such a universal grabber, even over time.Thanks for this one!


  10. What a wonderful quotation about work. It reminds me again that despite it all, I wouldn't change what I do for anything. Yes, I wish the heat would break so I could be more productive and hence have more time for the things I love – reading and writing especially. But I have no shame about my work and when the conditions are right it's pure play – what could be better?!


  11. I remember this header! Love it!That final quote about work is excellent. I've never read anything by GE, but may have to give Middlemarch a try. I see someone mentioned Edith Wharton. Do give her a try. I love her writing.


  12. I love Eliot but I think all I've read of hers is Silas Marner. Definitely adding Middlemarch to my stacks now that I've seen so many good reviews.


  13. Oh, that Caleb Garth quote is so so wonderful! He was my favourite character, and I could easily have read 900 pages about him alone. Thank you for joining the readalong, Bellezza!


  14. Lovely review, Bellezza! I loved all your favourite quotes, especially the one by Caleb Garth – it was one of my favourites too and he was one of my most favourite characters in the book! I also liked the quote 'whatever is, is bad, and any change is likely to be worse.' – it made me think. You can find my review of 'Middlemarch' here – http://vishytheknight.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/book-review-no-20-middlemarch-by-george-eliot/I love your new header image – I remember seeing something else yesterday and today I am seeing a basket filled with juicy apples – beautiful!


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