An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Winter 2014

The Power of Middlemarch

Patricia Meyer Spacks
View PDF

PATRICIA MEYER SPACKS, a Fellow of the American Academy since 1994, is the Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English, Emerita, at the University of Virginia. Her recent books include On Rereading (2011), Reading Eighteenth-Century Poetry (2009), and Novel Beginnings: Experiments in Eighteenth-Century English Fiction (2006). She has also recently prepared annotated editions of the Jane Austen novels Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

Dorothea’s eyes followed her husband anxiously, while he sank down wearily at the end of a sofa, and resting his elbow supported his head and looked on the floor. A little flushed, and with bright eyes, she seated herself beside him, and said–

“Forgive me for speaking so hastily to you this morning. I was wrong. I fear I hurt you and made the day more burdensome.”

“I am glad that you feel that, my dear,” said Mr. Casaubon. He spoke quietly and bowed his head a little, but there was still an uneasy feeling in his eyes as he looked at her.

“But you do forgive me?” said Dorothea, with a quick sob. In her need for some manifestation of feeling she was ready to exaggerate her own fault. Would not love see returning penitence afar off, and fall on its neck and kiss it?

“My dear Dorothea–‘who with repentance is not satisfied, is not of heaven nor earth:’–you do not think me worthy to be banished by that severe sentence,” said Mr. Casaubon, exerting himself to make a strong statement, and also to smile faintly.

Dorothea was silent, but a tear which had come up with the sob would insist on falling.

“You are excited, my dear. And I also am feeling some unpleasant consequences of too much mental disturbance,” said Mr. Casaubon. In fact, he had it in his thought to tell her that she ought not to have received young Ladislaw in his absence: but he abstained, partly from the sense that it would be ungracious to bring a new complaint in the moment . . .

[See PDF for complete essay]