Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Mary's Words.

I’d never read any George Eliot until a couple of weeks ago, but thought I should because she has a connection with the area where I live (her paternal ancestors lived about a mile up the hill from here and are buried in the local church.) I thought I’d start with her first novel, Adam Bede, and tonight she had this to say about those who are a bit different from the norm:

…and we must learn to accommodate ourselves to the discovery that some of those cunningly fashioned instruments called human souls have only a very limited range of music, and will not vibrate in the least under a touch that fills others with tremulous rapture or quivering agony.

I keep telling people this, you know, I do. But they never get it. Oh, they understand the principle well enough, but utterly fail to apply it when confronted with the spectre of the tremulous and the quivering.

I think I would have got on with George Eliot, and have cause to be confident that she would have allowed me to call her Mary. As well as being very expert at both observing and describing human nature and characteristics, her words betray a sense of humour that was both dry and a little sly, in consequence of which she makes me smile a lot. And she has one of her leading female characters say this about the folly of an intelligent woman marrying a stupid man:

I allays say I’d never marry a man as had got no brains; for where’s the use of a woman having brains of her own if she’s shackled to a geek as everybody’s a-laughing at? She might as well dress herself fine to sit back’ards on a donkey.*

For my own part, I find it irritating that I make a habit of becoming enthralled by women writers who died before my granddad was born.

Mary Anne Evans

Edited to add:

I think it wouldn't go amiss to offer the suggestion that the final sentence performs two functions. On the surface it's an amusing little parable describing the folly inherent in being an intelligent woman who marries a stupid man. At a deeper level, it's also a pithy summing up of one of the principles at the core of the fight for female emancipation. Whether she intended it to perform that function I wouldn't know, but it fits the bill nicely.

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