I’ve had a personal triumph of late. I managed to read all of Middlemarch by George Eliot. I’m still not entirely sure what I think of this classic, still mulling it over. I found it to be overall rather dry, but there were some extremely poignant moments. Here are a few of my favourite quotes from this book.
On Losing Confidence
And by a sad contradiction Dorothea’s ideas and resolves seemed like melting ice floating and lost in the warm flood of which they had been but another form. She was humiliated to find herself a mere victim of feeling, as if she could know nothing except through that medium: all her strength was scattered in fits of agitation, of struggle, of despondency, and then again in visions of more complete renunciation, transforming all hard conditions into duty. Poor Dorothea! She was certainly troublesome–to herself chiefly; but this morning for the first time she had been troublesome to Mr. Casaubon.
On a Room of One’s Own*
Any private hours in her day were usually spent in her blue-green boudoir, and she had come to be very fond of its pallid quaintness. Nothing had been outwardly altered there; but while the summer had gradually advanced over the western fields beyond the avenue of elms, the bare room had gathered within it those memories of an inward life which fill the air as with a cloud of good or bad angels, the invisible yet active forms of our spiritual triumphs or our spiritual falls. She had been so used to struggle for and to find resolve in looking along the avenue towards the arch of western light that the vision itself had gained a communicating power.
*Incidentally, Virginia Woolf loved this book.
On Defining Religion
“But I have a belief of my own, and it comforts me.”
“What is that?,” said Will, rather jealous of the belief.
“That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don’t quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil – widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower.”
“That is a beautiful mysticism- it is a-”
“Please do not call it by any name,” said Dorothea, putting our her hands entreatingly. “You will say it is Persian, or something else geographical. It is my life. I have found it out, and cannot part with it. I have always been finding out my religion since I was a little girl. I used to pray so much – now I hardly ever pray. I try not to have desires merely for myself, because they may not be good for others, and I have too much already.”
Pro Tip: A big part of why I was able to get through a long, at time monotonous work, was by reading on my commute to work. I was really able to settle in and read, two hours a day, five days a week. I’m really lucky to be able to read on moving transit, and its definitely why I’ve already read nearly 20 books in 2016.
“But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.”
On Work & a Job Well Done
“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.”
Above: Every so often on my instagram I post a pic of what I’ve read lately. Check it out here.
On Making History
Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, liek that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
Pro Tip 2: Looking to read Middlemarch yourself? The Toast did a four-part Middlemarch book club a while ago that can help guide your reading.