Middlemarch Book I: What are siblings for?

Dorothea and Celia Brooke remind me of the Dashwood sisters Elinor and MariAnne. Like MaryAnne, Celia, being the younger, holds much respect and love for her older sister. Unlike the sisters in Austen’s novel however, here in Middlemarch so far, I just wonder who is Sense and who is Sensibility.

What are siblings for if not to act as a sounding board to test one’s opinion? This is a scene fit for a prime time TV comedy. Celia, just learned that Mr. Casaubon is the only guest coming to dinner––the setup to that special dinner she is totally oblivious––thus allowing her to speak her mind freely to Dorothea:


“I hope there is some one else. Then I shall not hear him eat his soup so.”
“What is there remarkable about his soup-eating?”
“Really, Dodo, can’t you hear how he scrapes his spoon? And he always blinks before he speaks. I don’t know whether Locke blinked, but I’m sure I am sorry for those who sat opposite to him if he did.”
“Celia,” said Dorothea, with emphatic gravity, “pray don’t make any more observations of that kind.”
“Why not? They are quite true,” returned Celia, who had her reasons for persevering, though she was beginning to be a little afraid.
“Many things are true which only the commonest minds observe.”
“Then I think the commonest minds must be rather useful. I think it is a pity Mr. Casaubon’s mother had not a commoner mind: she might have taught him better.” Celia was inwardly frightened, and ready to run away, now she had hurled this light javelin.


What follows of course is the bombshell that shatters the sounding board for any sense or sensibility.

Sibling Waxwings
I’ll just throw in this pair of Waxwings, they look like they’re siblings.


Another pair of siblings that makes a lively scene is Fred Vincy and his sister Rosamund. Talking about using the word “superior” to denote certain young men, Fred says:


“Oh, there are so many superior teas and sugars now. Superior is getting to be shopkeepers’ slang.”
“Are you beginning to dislike slang, then?” said Rosamond, with mild gravity.
“Only the wrong sort. All choice of words is slang. It marks a class.”
“There is correct English: that is not slang.”
“I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets.”
“You will say anything, Fred, to gain your point.”
“Well, tell me whether it is slang or poetry to call an ox a leg-plaiter.”
“Of course you can call it poetry if you like.”
“Aha, Miss Rosy, you don’t know Homer from slang. I shall invent a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on slips, and give them to you to separate.”
“Dear me, how amusing it is to hear young people talk!” said Mrs. Vincy, with cheerful admiration.


What are siblings for if not to act as target of javelin or indulgence for a doting mother.

How’s your reading coming along?


Some Middlemarch posts from our Read-Along participants:

Dolce Bellezza

Gladsome Lights 


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

19 thoughts on “Middlemarch Book I: What are siblings for?”

  1. Isn’t the dialogue the most wonderful?? I’m glad to have you draw my attention to the pairs of siblings, and love that you posted these conversations. I notice that I am able to enjoy all the characters at this stage of my life, and not worry so much about their foibles and even moral failures. Instead I am constantly in awe of Eliot’s ability to create a world of (it seems) living, breathing people whose motivations and behavior must all follow from some kind of private and mysterious logic – I say “must” because they are the most believable characters. They beg to be analyzed!


    1. Gretchen,

      Just wonder what it feels like for you this second time around. As you’ve already known the story and the eventual happening to the characters. You’re right, Eliot is so sharp with her descriptions and dialogues. One smart cookie. She could make one brilliant screenwriter too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been 14 years since I read it, aloud with my husband, and we didn’t really stop to discuss or anything. Back then I found it hard to keep straight all the kinship relations of everyone and how they factored into the subplots, and now that I’m encountering the information again I find I have to relearn it, but at least I have more liberty to slow down and absorb the facts. At this point I only have hazy memories of the stories and none of the ending.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Who is Sense and who is Sensibility indeed? It seems (as far as I’ve gotten) like a good thing that Dorothea has Celia in her life- she’s so focused on her ideals that she misses things right under her nose. (I loved the scene at the very beginning where Celia was just trying to ask if she could wear her mother’s jewelry, and how long it took Dorothea to realize her intent.) I’m interested to see how Celia’s character plays out.
    I haven’t made it to Fred and Rosamond yet, but from that dialogue they sound like a pair to look forward to!
    Thanks again for hosting this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The pleasure’s all mine. Thanks for reading together and coming by the Pond to throw in your two pebbles. Looks like you’re at the beginning. I’m really curious to know what you think after you finished Book I. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I just read Mary Garth’s description where she is out of doors with her little sister, and I was so surprised!! I had imagined her very other, except for personality wise. Not saying, in case others are not so far into the story yet. I am very much enjoying this book!


      1. Sounds like it. Retired here. Quiet evenings to read. I am finding it fun to go to another time, another place. Am reading Chirchill’s Aftermath also. Love his writing!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I am feeling quite distraught over Fred ratcheting up such debt, so irresponsibly, and am sometimes caught unawares by Rosamond’s naivety. Just read this great line last night: “Rosamond, for her part, had never enjoyed the days so much in her life before: she was sure of being admired by some one worth captivating, and she did not distinguish flirtation from love, either in herself or in another.” I am appalled at these siblings’ arrogance, which Eliot seems to convey as innocence in some degree, or perhaps youthful indescretion. At any rate, while the going is slow for me, the characters are interesting, and relevant to today in so many ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Other than sibling relationships, I’m amazed at how Eliot is so well versed in various subjects in her writing via her characters, theology, science, finance, literature, art… So much to see in the journey. 🙂


  5. So pleased I found your blog again I lost the link then when I was searching for Arti, I forgot your blog was ripple effects. I’m always getting my English corrected now I’m in London, my northern vowels and dropped consonents like haf for half must go, so hard to break the habits of a lifetime though hehe.
    I’ve listened to Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park in preparation for an opera in the summer, sad to say it’s the first Jane Austin novel i’ve read or listened to im sorry to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting that you make the connection between Austen and Middlemarch because I believe that George Eliot re-read all of Austen’s novels before writing it. It’s a great novel and I enjoyed reading your post.


    1. I didn’t know that. Thanks for the tidbit, Nicola. I just thought Eliot must have read through all JA’s works since she was such a wide reader and her knowledge in other fields just amazing. Thanks for stopping by the Pond. 🙂


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