I started reading Middlemarch over the holidays. I planned to read it all but I stalled. I had just read Frédéric Beigbeder’s A French Novel, and his style was – I don’t know, too something – for you to leave it for George Eliot – because Eliot – she just writes too much.
The set-up is this: a young woman throws herself at the feet of a dry old stick called Casaubon, a man of about fifty who is writing a great work, a Key to All Mythologies, and it’s going to be a disastrous mistake.
This young woman, Dorothea, has a younger sister, Celia, and Celia can see that Casaubon is a dry old stick. She can see that he scrapes his spoon when eating soup, and blinks before he speaks – terrible habits, you know. When Celia learns that Dorothea is going to marry this guy she feels “shame mingled with the ludicrous”. We all do, and we know: you’re making a Big Mistake. You know that after fifty pages, and seventy pages, and a hundred pages – you’re shouting at Eliot by this stage, and praying that somehow, Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy could edit it for her.
I thought Middlemarch would be full of lines like this: “For we all of us…get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them.” There are lines like that, but not enough – not enough to balance the over-writing.
Am I wrong on that? Maybe I am but I bought Love Lasts Three Years and started reading that instead.