Monday, June 14, 2010

Home from Ann Arbor

It was bliss, spending four intense days in a world where everybody loves what I love and knows so much about it and can discuss it in such insightful ways. I attended papers on children's literature in Russia, Poland, Taiwan, and India; I attended a stunning paper on Kipling's philosophy of history as echoed in Rosemary Sutcliff's novel The Shining Company, and another stunning paper on how various illustrators have handled the arguably problematic ending of The Secret Garden, in which Mary seemingly slips out of focus in favor of authorial emphasis only on the character of Colin.

And this is a world in which EVERYBODY has read Middlemarch! And practically knows it by heart. (When they're not teaching and writing about children's literature, many of them are teaching and writing about Victorian literature.) So given that I had finished Middlemarch, all glorious 838 pages of it, on the plane en route to Detroit/Ann Arbor, you can imagine how lovely it was to race into my hotel room and immediately accost my two suite mates with the news, "I just finished reading Middlemarch!"

They even let me read aloud to them my favorite lines from Middlemarch that I had written down in my little notebook as I was reading. Here are some of them:

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

From Mrs. Cadwallader re this same allegedly great-souled man, Mr. Casaubon: "Somebody put a drop [of his blood] under a magnifying glass, and it was all semicolons and parentheses."

From Mary: "I think any hardship is better than pretending to do what one is paid for, and never really doing it."

From Will: "The best piety is to enjoy - when you can. You are doing the most then to spare the earth's character as an agreeable planet. And enjoyment radiates. It is of no use to try and take care of all the world; that is being taken care of when you feel delight - in art or in anything else."

From our narrator: "There is no general doctrine which is not capable of eating out morality if unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct fellow feeling with individual fellow men."

And last, from Dorothea: "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 against darkness narrower."

This makes me want to be good. The whole book made me desperately want to be good. Don't even these isolated quotes, taken out of context, make you want to be good?


  1. I love the quotes - I added some to my Quotes of the Moment on my blog.

  2. The quote from Mary makes me think of me at my job. :(