Middlemarch by George Eliot
A lot happened while I walked leisurely and longly through the pastures of Middlemarch. I wrote this inside the front cover of my copy:
This book was in my suitcase while I experienced weightlessness above Las Vegas.
It traveled in my backpack to the Havasupai Indian Reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
I turned 30 somewhere halfway through it.
Then Rolf and I got two cats together.
I was almost finished reading it when Ryan died.
Middlemarch was such an appropriate book to read while that much life was happening. Virginia Woolf described it as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people” and this is absolutely a novel for and about adulthood. Eliot’s choice words drill so far down into the core of being a human adult that her passages are timeless.
It is a little too trying to human flesh to be conscious of expressing one’s self better than others and never to have it noticed.
She herself was accustomed to think that entire freedom from the necessity of behaving agreeably was included in the Almighty’s intentions about families.
For in the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little. The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross is hardly ever told even in their consciousness; for perhaps their ardour in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardour of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly.
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.