Books and Baked Goods 8

Right now, my feelings about this project resemble Frodo’s towards the ring on one of the steeper trails up Mt. Doom.

I will finish this. I must.

And be you Gollums or Sams, you are welcome to plod up the summit with me. In place of Lembas, I offer you Smitten Kitchen’s cream scones. I made these once with yogurt, once with cream. The yogurt ones were more second breakfast, the cream version a decadent afternoon tea treat. I also added approximately an extra half to full tablespoon of butter, because why not? Substitute tiny pieces of chopped up apples, add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter, and swap some of the sugar for maple syrup if you, like me, insist that all your baked goods from September to Christmas scream autumn in the most predictable of ways.

Chapters 50 to 59!

It seemed that where there was a baby, things were right enough, and that error, in general, was a mere lack of that central poising force.

I love the impersonal universality of this axiom.

Dorothea’s terrible shock at realizing someone she trusted had “hidden thoughts” from and about her is probably familiar to a lot of people; I think this discovery is one of the most agonizing blows to a friendship possible.

Dorothea also just seems to have awakened to Will’s erotic potential. Well, this should be interesting.

But Will is an Italian with white mice, and he might as well be in Rome. Dorothea is an uncomfortable and misplaced product of Victorian Protestant England, and Will is a disruptive, sensual, and suspect foreigner. But Will’s  rootless disruptiveness can be channeled politically into a useful engine of reform–what happens to Dorothea?

“But if you are to wait till we get a logical Bill, you must put yourself forward as a revolutionist, and then Middlemarch would not elect you, I fancy.”

Indeed.

Also

“But as to one family, there’s creditor and debtor, I hope; they’re not going to reform that away; else I should vote for things staying as they are.”

Farebrother is finally getting his due! I’m so glad. He is so very lovable in these chapters. The scene wherein he pleads Fred Vincy’s case to the woman he himself loves, particularly.

The English evangelicalism of this period is fascinating, especially since we’re mostly used to think of revivals et al. as American phenomena.

I think the most realistic touch Eliot gives Bulstrode is his sincerity; he really does think he is a humble servant endowed by the Lord with a mission to prosper. But now he has Raffles jamming up the works! Secrets and scandal! Bulstrode’s apparent relation to Ladislaw reminds me of a Dickens story, where each character is intricately tangled up in another, sometimes by roots that remain subterranean for most of the novel.

“to sit like a model for Saint Catherine looking rapturously at Celia’s baby would not do for many hours in the day, and to remain in that momentous babe’s presence with persistent disregard was a course that could not have been tolerated in a childless sister.”

This sounds…familiar.

James and Celia’s worries over Dorothea being lonely are loving and innocuous, but we see the general determination to keep her docile in Mrs. Cadwallader’s warnings against “seeing visions.”

“But I see clearly a husband is the right thing to keep her in order.”

But it’s not as though Dorothea’s non-conformity is unambiguously valorized, either. Rather, much of it seems her poor-woman’s negative substitute for greatness of action and leadership.  Although now, it seems, she’s planning to build some kind of commune.

Will and Dorothea’s awkward fumbling around each other feels surprisingly possible and relatable, despite the ostensibly Victorian obstacles separating them.

The railroad is cutting its way through Lowick, the the disapproval of the workmen, who see only rich owners turning a profit from the disruption of their lives.

And Rosamund has suffered a miscarriage. It’s only mentioned in passing dialogue, given much less time and attention than any other events of these chapters. What does this mean to her? We get no peek into an interior world where loss and grief exist.

“…Mary always desired to be clear that she loved Fred best.”

This seems like the root of fidelity.

Lydgate’s belief in Rosamund’s innate submissiveness and adoring deference crumbling, he has no way of being married beyond alienation and sterility. He never saw her as one with real agendas and desires of her own, so he can’t ask her to give them up in loving mutual sacrifice. She can’t help and suffer with him in his struggles, because she was never to take an “unwomanly” interest in his work, never to be his partner in any real sense.

And she wouldn’t recognize the call to that kind of heroism; nor can she ask him to enter into her own projects. She has only learned how to gently thwart others’ plans for her. It’s a damning look at a dynamic that’s sometimes romanticized.

And then he compares her to Laure, with his “It is the way with all women.” I had almost forgotten about Laure; poor foolish Lydgate.

He also remembers Dorothea, and I’m still not sure the poor chump’s wrapped his around the fact that Dorothea’s absolute loyalty to her husband is not some natural feminine clinging but active, struggling virtue.

But now Will knows about the codicil! What will happen next? Tune in next time for the surprising adventures of me, Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar, I mean, uh….Middlemarch.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s