Why I Love George Elliot's Middlemarch

 Middlemarch - George Elliot's Writing Style, Humor, Wisdom, and Storytelling

"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence."
- George Elliot


I love George Elliot's writing in her masterpiece novel Middlemarch as it reflects her timeless wisdom, subtle humor and satire, knowledge of human behavior with complex characters, and insights into historical events of her time and before in England. 

 George Elliot was Mary Ann Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880.) "Although female authors were published under their names during her lifetime, she wanted to escape the stereotype of women's writing being limited to lighthearted romances or other lighter fare not to be taken very seriously. She also wanted to have her fiction judged separately from her already extensive and widely known work as a translator, editor, and critic." - Wikipedia 

 


I had heard of Middlemarch, her masterpiece, before and dismissed it initially based on some comments in a Facebook group, as well as the length. Then after joining a book club that focuses on classics and with a deep dive analysis of the great books, I decided to start listening to Middlemarch as an audiobook, my preferred method of experiencing storytelling. 


There is an excellent introduction video on Middlemarch. Benjamin McEvoy is an expert in classics and he has ten tips in this video on how to enjoy this book, considered one of the best novels written in English. 


 

The prelude to Middlemarch is profound. It captured my attention as it refers to a Spanish mystic Saint Theresa who is well known, and whose life is relevant to the story as well as here and now. I knew from the prelude that I would enjoy this book.

 

Her writing is dense with the wisdom of human nature, humor, irony, history, and sublime storytelling. It is not only an enjoyable experience of the story, but a confirmation of her ability to engage me between the lines and have a deep effect on my soul. The audiobook of the famous classic Middlemarch is narrated masterfully by Juliet Stevenson.

 

  The prelude is quoted here in full:

 

"Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled from rugged Avila, wide-eyed and helpless-looking as two fawns, but with human hearts, already beating to a national idea; until domestic reality met them in the shape of uncles, and turned them back from their great resolve. That child pilgrimage was a fit beginning. Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self-despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in the reform of a religious order.  

 

That Spanish woman who lived three hundred years ago was certainly not the last of her kind. Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion. With dim lights and tangled circumstances, they tried to shape their thought and deed in noble agreement; but after all, to common eyes, their struggles seemed mere inconsistency and formlessness; for these later-born Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which could perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul. Their ardor alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning of womanhood; so that the one was disapproved as extravagance, and the other condemned as a lapse. 

 

Some have felt that these blundering lives are due to the inconvenient indefiniteness with which the Supreme Power has fashioned the natures of women: if there were one level of feminine incompetence as strict aTs the ability to count three and no more, a social lot of women might be treated with scientific certitude. Meanwhile, the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation are much wider than anyone would imagine from the sameness of women's coiffure and the favorite love stories in prose and verse. Here and there a cygnet is reared uneasily among the ducklings in the brown pond and never finds the living stream in fellowship with its oary-footed kind. Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heartbeats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering in some long-recognizable deed."

 

At the time of this writing, I have completed 12 hours of this 35-hour, 38 minute audiobook. I have been so inspired by both the story and the narration by Juliet Stevenson that I needed to post this on this blog, and briefly describe why I love George Elliot for her gift of writing and inspiration for life, with all of its flaws. 

 

If you want to be inspired by great art in the form of this novel, and as recommended as an audiobook to experience the storytelling with Juliet Stevenson, then try a free trial with Audible and get the book as a free download. If you cancel you can keep the book. Link below. Enjoy.

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