October 24, 2008

Falling from Grace

From JBJ at 'The Salt-Box': "Any time I teach Middlemarch, I can’t help but think that reading other writers is a kind of fall from grace." I hear you...and I'm sad not to be teaching it in any of my courses this year. Luckily I have a whole graduate seminar on George Eliot to look forward to next year. That course is always a humbling experience, because George Eliot and her novels are so much smarter than I am. But a reader's reach must exceed her grasp, or what's this whole business about, after all? JBJ quotes Mr Brooke on pigeon holes (lovely). As small compensation for having no better reason to quote from the novel right now, here's another nice bit from not much further along, in which Celia shares the news of her sister's engagement with the inimitable Mrs Cadwallader:
"My dear child, what is this? -- this about your sister's engagement?" said Mrs. Cadwallader.

"She is engaged to marry Mr. Casaubon," said Celia, resorting, as usual, to the simplest statement of fact, and enjoying this opportunity of speaking to the Rector's wife alone.

"This is frightful. How long has it been going on?"

"I only knew of it yesterday. They are to be married in six weeks."

"Well, my dear, I wish you joy of your brother-in-law."

"I am so sorry for Dorothea."

"Sorry! It is her doing, I suppose."

"Yes; she says Mr. Casaubon has a great soul."

"With all my heart."

"Oh, Mrs. Cadwallader, I don't think it can be nice to marry a man with a great soul."

"Well, my dear, take warning. You know the look of one now; when the next comes and wants to marry you, don't you accept him. . . . However, Casaubon has money enough; I must do him that justice. As to his blood, I suppose the family quarterings are three cuttle-fish sable, and a commentator rampant."

George Eliot, comedian.

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