Middlemarch Revisted III


And here I must vindicate a claim to philosophical reflectiveness, by remarking that Mr. Brooke on this occasion little thought of the Radical speech which, at a later period, he was led to make on the incomes of the bishops. What elegant historian would neglect a striking opportunity for pointing out that his heroes did not foresee the history of the world, or even their own actions?--For example, that Henry of Navarre, when a Protestant baby, little thought of being a Catholic monarch; or that Alfred the Great, when he measured his laborious nights with burning candles, had no idea of future gentlemen measuring their idle days with watches. Here is a mine of truth, which, however vigorously it may be worked, is likely to outlast our coal.

[And, a bit later on another subject]

"What? meaning to stand?" said Mr. Cadwallader, going on with the
arrangement of the reels which he had just been turning. "I hardly think he
means it. But where's the harm, if he likes it? Any one who objects to
Whiggery should be glad when the Whigs don't put up the strongest
fellow. They won't overturn the Constitution with our friend Brooke's head
for a battering ram."

[And, finally, here's one for the annals of put-down exchanges--almost no character is left unscathed.]

"In the first place," said the Rector, looking rather grave, "it would
be nonsensical to expect that I could convince Brooke, and make him act
accordingly. Brooke is a very good fellow, but pulpy; he will run into
any mould, but he won't keep shape." . . .

"Humphrey! I have no patience with you. You know you would rather
dine under the hedge than with Casaubon alone. You have nothing to say to
each other."

"What has that to do with Miss Brooke's marrying him? She does not do
it for my amusement."

"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.

"Why does he not bring out his book, instead of marrying," said Sir
James, with a disgust which he held warranted by the sound feeling of an
English layman.

"Oh, he dreams footnotes, and they run away with all his brains. They
say, when he was a little boy, he made an abstract of `Hop o' my Thumb,'
and he has been making abstracts ever since. Ugh! And that is the man
Humphrey goes on saying that a woman may be happy with."

The story may be ultimately sad, but how can one not see the sparkle in such asides?

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 13, 2006 1:10 PM.

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