Middlemarch Book II – IV: Inkblot Test

We’ve come to the midpoint of our tentative reading plan. Hard to believe one month’s gone by already. Instead of a review of all the chapters, how about a Middlemarch inkblot test?

What word comes to your mind when you see the following:

 

  • Dorothea 
  • Casaubon 
  • Ladislaw 
  • Fred 
  • Rosamond 
  • Lydgate 
  • Celia 
  • Mr. Brooke 
  • Mary Garth

 

I’ll just stop with these ones. Have your views about these characters changed from first you met them?

Any surprises in the storylines?

Which characters do you click ‘Like’?

What to do with the ones we don’t? Is Eliot having fun with Austen’s idea of creating characters whom no one would much like?

Favorite Quotes?

Here are some of mine, for various reasons, but mostly for Eliot’s power of association in her descriptions.

Will Ladislaw’s thought about Dorothea:

“To ask her to be less simple and direct would be like breathing on the crystal that you want to see the light through.”

About Dorothea’s predicament:

“I suppose it was that in courtship everything is regarded as provisional and preliminary, and the smallest sample of virtue or accomplishment is taken to guarantee delightful stores which the broad leisure of marriage will reveal. But the door-sill of marriage once crossed, expectation is concentrated on the present. Having once embarked on your marital voyage, it is impossible not to be aware that you make no way and that the sea is not within sight –– that, in fact, you are exploring an enclosed basin.”

And if Eliot were among us today, she would likely be vocal in the #Metoo and #Timesup movements:

“Society never made the preposterous demand that a man should think as much about his own qualifications for making a charming girl happy as he thinks of hers for making himself happy.”

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Your two pebbles?

Wood Duck.jpg

 

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Other posts from our Read-Along participants:

Men of Middlemarch

Middlemarch –– Ladislaw’s Force of Unreason

Middlemarch by George Eliot –– Completed today

 

Middlemarch in May: Let the Fun Begin!

A few quotes to set the stage for our Read-Along of Middlemarch by George Eliot.

BBC History Website:

“She used a male pen name to ensure her works were taken seriously in an era when female authors were usually associated with romantic novels.”

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From “George Eliot: A Celebration” by A. S. Byatt, as introduction to Modern Library’s edition of Middlemarch:

“She had no real heir as “novelist of ideas” in England… Her heirs are abroad—Proust in France, Mann in Germany. Which brings me to another reason for loving her: she was European, not little-English, her roots were Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Balzac, not just, as Leavis’s “Great Tradition” implies, Jane Austen. She opened gates which are still open.”

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From “Why Read George Eliot”, by Paula Marantz Cohen in American Scholar, Spring 2006:

“Eliot’s voice, in its assumption of a wiser, juster, more all-encompassing perspective, is the ligament of her novels. It elevates them from ingenious storytelling to divine comedy…

As Virginia Woolf observed, Eliot wrote novels for grown-up people. Our society and our relationships would be saner and better if more grownups read her.”

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Last but not least, let’s kick off Middlemarch in May with Henry James’s lively reflections on George Eliot, as quoted in Colm Tóibín’s article “Creating The Portrait of a Lady in The New York Review of Books, July 19, 2007 Issue:

“A specter haunted Henry James: it was the specter of George Eliot. He visited her first in 1869, when he was twenty-six, and wrote to his father:

‘I was immensely impressed, interested and pleased. To begin with, she is magnificently ugly—deliciously hideous…. Now in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a few minutes, steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end up as I ended, in falling in love with her. Yes behold me literally in love with this great horse-faced blue-stocking.’

Three years later, when Middlemarch appeared, James wrote from Rome to his friend Grace Norton:

A marvellous mind throbs in every page of Middlemarch. It raises the standard of what is to be expected of women—(by your leave!) We know all about the female heart; but apparently there is a female brain, too…. To produce some little exemplary works of art is my narrow and lowly dream. They are to have less “brain” than Middlemarch; but (I boldly proclaim it) they are to have more form.”

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Let the fun begin!

 

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Other posts from Read-Along participants:

Middlemarch Has Me Laughing So Soon by Gretchen at Gladsome Lights

 

My invite post:

Middlemarch in May Read-Along

My Middlemarch Review Posts:

Middlemarch Book I: What are siblings for?

Middlemarch Book II to IV: Inkblot Test

Middlemarch Wrap: You be the screenwriter

 

 

A Good Friday Trial

DSC_0280

“Then went the jury out, whose names were Mr. Blindman, Mr. Nogood, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. Heady, Mr. Highmind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr. Hate-light, Mr. Implacable, who everyone gave in his private verdict against him among themselves, and afterwards unanimously concluded to bring him in guilty before the judge. And first among themselves, Mr. Blindman, the foreman, said, I see clearly that this man is a heretic. Then said Mr. Nogood. way with such a fellow from the earth! Ay, said Mr. Malice, for I hate the very look of him. Then said Mr. Love-lust, I could never endure him. Nor I, said Mr. Live-loose; for he would be always condemning my way. Hang him, hang him, said Mr. Heady. A sorry scrub, said Mr. High-mind. My heart riseth against him, said Mr. Enmity. He is a rogue, said Mr. Liar. Hanging is too good for him, said Mr. Cruelty. Let us despatch him out of the way, said Mr. Hate-light. Then said Mr. Implacable, Might I have all the world given me, I could not be reconciled to him; let us forthwith bring him in guilty of death. And so they did; therefore he was presently condemned to be had from the place where he was, to the place from whence he came, and there to be put to the most cruel death that could be invented.”

–– John Bunyan
Pilgrim’s Progress

 

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A New England Fall Foliage Road Trip

Just came back from a ‘Thelma and Louise’ kinda road trip with my cousin to Northeastern United States. Kinda but not exactly, for obvious reason: I’ve come back, bearing photos and a foliage report that says it’s not too late to head out even now.

According to locals, due to the warm, extended summer days, foliage change has delayed by about a week. I started my drive in late September to the first week of October, and I’d say the foliage color change was from 10% to 40%, depending on the locale.

Here’s the itinerary of my travels:

Wayland, MA –> Portland, ME –> Rockport / Camden, ME –> N. Conway, NH –>
Stowe, VT –> Williamstown, MA –> Wayland, MA

I’ll be posting interesting sights I encountered during this trip. Here’s my first entry.

Walden Pond

I started from Wayland, MA, a suburb about 30 mins. drive west of Boston. Walden Pond is just 6.2 miles north of Wayland. In pursuit of solitude, to taste the bare essence and to ‘suck out the marrow of life’, Henry David Thoreau cleared some trees in the woodlands owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, built a 10′ x 15′ cabin and on July 4, 1845, began to live there by the Pond, an experience that lasted two years, two months and two days.

A stone-throw from the parking lot of the Walden Pond State Reservation is a replica of Thoreau’s cabin. A friendly ranger greeted me:

Thoreau's Cabin

Inside the cabin were the bare necessities, a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs: “one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”

Interior

As for the Pond, it was pure serenity. As for fall foliage, I could only see it in my mind’s eye:

Walden Pond

So you could imagine my surprise to see beaches and swimmers. But of course, this is now a National Park, and it’s summer still:

Swimmers at the beach

The day was September 28, the few autumn leaves reminded me that transition of the seasons was indeed happening, however slowly:

Autumn Leaves

As I walked around the lake, a sign pointed me to the actual site of Thoreau’s cabin in the woods:

Actual Site

And beside it, these famous words of his:

To live deliberately

But nowhere could I find a sign posting this other quote which I also admire, on the economy of work:

“For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the labor of my hands, and I found that, by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living.”

Don’t you just love his calculations?

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Follow my New England series:

Quotable Quotes from Downton Abbey Season 3

These are some of my favourite lines from Season 3. They remind me of why I enjoy Downton Abbey in the first place, the humor and subtext, and the superb cast that delivers every time.

Episode 1

The family must never be a topic of conversation. – Violet Crawley

Miss O’Brien, we are about to host a society wedding. I have no time for training young hobbledehoys. – Mr. Carson

Daisy: You’ve still kept me here with a dishonest representation.
Mrs. Patmore: Oh dear. Have you swallowed a dictionary?

Don’t worry about me. I’m an American. Have gun, will travel.  – Cora

Have gun will travel

Forgive, perhaps. Forget, never. – Violet

Come war and peace, Downton still stands and the Crawleys are still in it. – Martha Levinson

Mary, dearest Mary. Now, you tell me all of your wedding plans. I’ll see what I can do to improve them.  – Martha

Edith: There you are. I see you’ve said hello to Grandmama.
Violet: She is like a homing pigeon. She finds our underbelly every time.

I should hate to be predictable. – Mary to Matthew, at her wedding altar

Episode 2

Let me call you sweetheart...

Nothing succeeds like excess. – Violet

Are you not popular downstairs? – Robert to Thomas

Some animals adapt to new surroundings. It seems a better choice than extinction. – Martha to Robert

Well, in my opinion, to misquote Dr. Johnson, if you’re tired of style, you are tired of life. – Mr. Carson

Episode 3

At my age, one must ration one’s excitement.  – Violet

Let him go, let him go. You know he’s right. Don’t stop him doing the only sensible thing he’s come up with in months. – Violet to Edith at the altar

Being tested only makes you stronger. – Cora to Edith

If the poor don’t want it, you can bring it over to me. – Violet to Carson re. the wedding food.

Wedding gourmet for downstairs

And the food? Here it is… probably the best quote of the Episode. In answering Alfred’s remark of: Is this all we’re getting? Just these picketty bits:

These are canapés, Alfred. For your first course, some truffled egg on toast, perhaps? Some oysters a la Russe? There’s lobster rissoles in Mousseline sauce or Calvados-glazed duckling, or do you fancy a little asparagus salad with Champagne-saffron vinaigrette? – Thomas and Mrs. Patmore

Episode 4

Robert: What a harsh world you live in.
Tom: We all live in a harsh world. But at least I know I do.

Carson: But Alfred is very good, you know. He’s very willing. Even if he is Miss O’Brien’s nephew.
Matthew: Clearly, nothing worse could be said of any man.
 

Episode 5

Cora: Sir Philip mustn’t bully him into silence.
Robert: My dear, this is just Clarkson’s professional pride like barbers asking, “Who last cut your hair?”

A woman of my age can face reality far better than most men. – Violet

Sybil, Tom & baby

Edith: She was the only person living who always thought you and I were such nice people. Oh Mary… Do you think we might get along a little better in the future?
Mary: I doubt it. But since this is the last time we three will all be together in this life, let’s love each other now, as sisters should.

Episode 6

There hasn’t been a Catholic Crawley since the Reformation. – Robert

Anyone who has use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse. – Mrs. Patmore

You know the trouble with you lot? You’re all in love with the wrong people. Now take those upstairs! – Mrs. Patmore

Robert: I’m flabbergasted.
Cora: You’re always flabbergasted by the unconventional.

Dr. Clarkson: So you want me to lie to them and say there was no chance at all?
Violet: Lie… is so unmusical a word. I want you to review the evidence honestly and without bias.
Clarkson: Even to ease suffering, I could never justify telling an outright lie.
Violet: Have we nothing in common?

Episode 7

Bates and Anna

But in the meantime, you just rest. Stay in bed, read books. – Robert to Bates

Convince me again. – Matthew to Mary

I do think a woman’s place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there. – Violet

What is The Scarlet Letter? – Violet

Robert: Second [condition], you will both admit it when you realize you were wrong.
Violet: Oh, well that is an easy caveat to accept because I’m never wrong.

What’s the matter, Robert? Are you afraid you’ll be converted while you’re not looking? – Cora

Episode 8

Cricket Match

Matthew: Bates must count himself lucky to be out of it [cricket match].
Anna: I think he’d like to walk normally, sir, even if playing cricket was the price he had to pay.

She hates London, so she’s coming to a great-aunt in Yorkshire to have a good time. How original. –Isobel to Violet re. Rose

Isobel: Of course, if you had had to sell Charlie to the butcher to be chopped up as stew to achieve the same ends, you would have done so.
Violet: Happily, it was not needed.

Episode 9 Finale

Edna: He’s nice looking, I give him that.
Mrs. Hughes: I don’t think you’re required to give him anything.

Don’t dislike him before you know him. That’s the hallmark of our parents’ generation, and I forbid it.  – Matthew to Mary, re. Gregson.

What I want is for her [Rose] to know that family can be a loving thing… Love is like riding or speaking French. If you don’t learn it young, it’s hard to get the trick of it later.  – Shrimpie

Matthew: I fall more in love with you every day that passes.
Mary: I’ll remind you of that next time I scratch the car.

Downton Abbey Christmas Special

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Oh, but it’s more than just a scratch in the car. We’ll forgive, but not forget. – Arti

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CLICK HERE to Quotable Quotes from Downton Abbey Season 1 and 2

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