The Novel pp 147-172 | Cite as

Quoted in Slang

George Eliot: Middlemarch


For all its preoccupation with trivia and with the business of what is traditionally regarded as ‘realism’, the opening passage of Middlemarch is a remarkable revelation of the structures and concerns of the whole massive novel that is to follow. And from the outset there is a subtle but significant awareness of the functioning of language in the kind of narrative Eliot handles with such consummate skill:

Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress. Her hand and wrist were so finely formed that she could wear sleeves not less bare of style than those in which the Blessed Virgin appeared to Italian painters; and her profile as well as her stature and bearing seemed to gain the more dignity from her plain garments, which by the side of provincial fashion gave her the impressiveness of a fine quotation from the Bible — or from one of our elder poets, — in a paragraph of today’s newspaper. She was usually spoken of as being remarkably clever, but with the addition that her sister Celia had more common-sense. Nevertheless, Celia wore scarcely more trimmings; and it was only to close observers that her dress differed from her sister’s. (p. 29)1


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© André Brink 1998

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