A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Middlemarch

George Eliot
I enjoyed an excellent article by Rebecca Mead about Middlemarch in yesterday's Guardian Review:

. . . A compensation of getting older is an increasing ability to see the comedy of human relations, which can be obscured by the tempests of youthful emotion . . .

. . . The ending is happy for some characters and disappointing for others. And for this reader, at least, the conclusion of the novel has always been irresistibly melancholy.

But in revisiting Middlemarch in middle age, the melancholy I experience in reading its final pages is augmented by a strange glimmer of hope, even optimism. I see in it now what I could not see as a young person: that wisdom is always being acquired, and is never fully accomplished; that love can arrive in unimagined ways, and may be found where we least expect it. 'Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending,' Eliot writes at the end of Middlemarch. Our own limited lives might also contain the possibility of renewal. Only a child believes a grownup has stopped growing.

REBECCA MEAD

Rebecca Mead's book, The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot, is published this week by Granta.

9 comments:

George said...

I love this very insightful post, Robert, and agree entirely with the quotes from Mead and Eliot. As one gets older, it would be difficult to get through the day if we did not finally appreciate "the comedy of human relations," and Mead is especially on point when she notes that "wisdom is always being acquired, and is never fully accomplished." As for that last line — "Only a child believes a grownup has stopped growing" — I think I will have it carved in wood and sent to each of my three grandchildren.

Bouncing Bertie said...

Yes I too enjoyed that Guardian article. And is there a novel that better examines life's complexities and compromises? Truly it is a book for grown-ups.
Cheers, Gail.

Friko said...

Middlemarch is not for nothing considered the greatest novel in the English language. As you found out for yourself: each re-reading brings another, previously unregarded, aspect to life.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I like this Robert and I largely agree with your interpretation. I found the ending very sad when I read it when young but now I see it in quite a different light.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for all these much-appreciated comments. Just to be clear: all the highlighted quotes were from Rebecca Mead's own Guardian article/book.

am said...

You've got me wanting to read Middlemarch again. I read it about the same time I read Tess while studying English literature when I went back to finish college when I was 30 years old.

The Solitary Walker said...

Two of the great novels, Am.

dritanje said...

"that wisdom is always being acquired, and is never fully accomplished; that love can arrive in unimagined ways, and may be found where we least expect it." These are helpful and inspiring words, as well as the idea of the possibility of renewal. I know I sometimes have the most amazing experiences in dreams and have to smile at the contrast between that and my devoid-of-events (though tongue slightly in cheek) waking life.

The Solitary Walker said...

Truly inspiring words, I agree, Dritanje!