Quotes from Middlemarch by George Eliot

Middlemarch by George Eliot

George Eliot, the chosen pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819 –1880), was an esteemed British author of Victorian-era novels. Her writing was political and inventive, inspired by art, psychology, and current events. The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Romola, and Middlemarch are considered some of the finest and most important literary works in British literature. In addition to these and other novels, George Eliot also wrote poems, short stories, translations, and essays.

Middlemarch (1871) follows the tale of Dorothea Brooke and Tertius Lydgate, two characters destined to enter marriages that are not only unfulfilling, but also conflict with their personal aspirations. George Eliot scrupulously builds a richly textured picture of a provincial Victorian town, populating it with people whose struggles with love, relationships, and their own ambitions are instantly recognizable. Following are some classic quotes from Middlemarch, a novel that remains one of the great works of world literature: 

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”

“It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted.”

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: 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.”

“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.”

“And, of course men know best about everything, except what women know better.”

“We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, “Oh, nothing!” Pride helps; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our hurts— not to hurt others.”

“What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?”

“And certainly, the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.”

Middlemarch by George Eliot


Middlemarch by George Eliot on Amazon

“People are almost always better than their neighbors think they are.”

“But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.”

“One can begin so many things with a new person! — even begin to be a better man.”

“To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern, that no shade of quality escapes it, and so quick to feel, that discernment is but a hand playing with finely-ordered variety on the chords of emotion–a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge.”

“Confound you handsome young fellows! You think of having it all your own way in the world. You don’t understand women. They don’t admire you half so much as you admire yourselves.”

George Eliot

See also: The Literary Friendship of George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Our deeds still travel with us from afar/And what we have been makes us what we are.

“We are all humiliated by the sudden discovery of a fact which has existed very comfortably and perhaps been staring at us in private while we have been making up our world entirely without it.”

“If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new. We are told that the oldest inhabitants in Peru do not cease to be agitated by the earthquakes, but they probably see beyond each shock, and reflect that there are plenty more to come.”

“For pain must enter into its glorified life of memory before it can turn into compassion.”

“Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.”

“The troublesome ones in a family are usually either the wits or the idiots.”

“It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self—never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted.”

Silly Novels by Lady Novelists by George Eliot

You may also enjoy: Silly Novels by Lady Novelists: An Essay by George Eliot (1856)

“That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. 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. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.”

“Blameless people are always the most exasperating.”

“When a man has seen the woman whom he would have chosen if he had intended to marry speedily, his remaining a bachelor will usually depend on her resolution rather than on his.”

“After all, the true seeing is within.”

“Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts—not to hurt others.”

“Certainly the determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and novel impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion.”

“Character is not cut in marble – it is not something solid and unalterable. It is something living and changing, and may become diseased as our bodies do.”

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