Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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George Eliot

(Mary Anne Evans)

1819 – 1880 CE

Pioneering literary outsider

Poet, journalist, translator, novelist, agnostic humanist, political agitator, and courageous follower of her own path; George Eliot wrote what some consider the best novel ever written in the English language (Middlemarch). Known for their psychological insight, her novels reflected her personal experience on the edges of the social, religious, and political fringe. Using a male pen name to escape the strong, feminine stereotypes of her era, this strategy also helped shield her from personal life scandals arising from norm-breaking situations like her adulterous relationship with philosopher George Henry Lewes and her marriage to John Cross who was 21 years younger. Her father didn't consider her beautiful enough to ever find a husband but clearly saw her high intelligence and financed a classical education for her far beyond what was normally available for women. Her father's wealth and high social status also gave her a clear perception of the extreme contrasts between the rich landowners and impoverished people living on those estates. This became a frequent theme in her books.

Eras

Sources

Middlemarch

Unlisted Sources

Adam Bede​

Daneil Deronda (1876)​

Daniel Deronda​

Impressions of Theophrastus Such​

Romola (1863)​

The George Eliot Letters, 1954​

The Mill on the Floss (1860)​

Quotes by George Eliot (104 quotes)

“Marriage must be a relation either of sympathy or of conquest... A woman dictates before marriage in order that she may have an appetite for submission afterwards.”

from Romola (1863)​

Themes: Marriage

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“The happiest women—like the happiest nations—have no history.”

from The Mill on the Floss (1860)​

Themes: History Forget

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“The Jews are among the aristocracy of every land; if a literature is called rich in possession of a few classic tragedies, what shall we say of a national tragedy lasting for 1500 years in which the poets and actors were also the heroes?”

from Daneil Deronda (1876)​

Themes: Judaism

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“To fear the examination of any proposition appears to me an intellectual and a moral palsy that will ever hinder the firm grasping of any substance whatever.”

from The George Eliot Letters, 1954​

Themes: Curiosity

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“There is a mercy which is weakness, and even treason against the common good.”

from Romola (1863)​

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“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”

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“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

Themes: Confidence

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“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”

Themes: Golden Rule

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“More helpful than all wisdom is one draught of simple human pity that will not forsake us.”

Themes: Compassion

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“What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?”

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“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”

Themes: Free Will

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“Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”

Themes: Friendship

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“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”

Themes: Forget

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“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”

from Impressions of Theophrastus Such​

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Mind

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“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?”

from Adam Bede​

Themes: Marriage

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“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.”

Themes: Humility

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“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.”

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

from Middlemarch

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“we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them”

from Middlemarch

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“with that solid, imperturbable ease and good-humor which is infections, and—like great grassy hills in the sunshine—quiets even an irritated egotism, and makes it rather ashamed of itself”

from Middlemarch

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“When a woman is not contradicted, she has no motive for obstinacy in her absurdities”

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

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“Notions and scruples are like split needles, making one afraid of treading, or sitting down, or even eating.”

from Middlemarch

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“so much subtler is a human mind than the outside tissues which make a sort of blazonry or clock-face for it”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Mind

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“all men needed the bridle of religion, which, properly speaking, was the dread of a Hereafter”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Religion

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“Signs are small measurable things, but interpretations are illimitable, and in girls of sweet, ardent nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief vast as a sky, and colored by but a diffused thimbleful of knowledge”

from Middlemarch

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“any hardship is better than pretending to do what one is paid for, and never really doing it.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Business

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“Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Mistakes

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“Genius is necessarily intolerant of fetters: on the one hand it must have the utmost play for its spontaneity; on the other, it may confidently await those messages from the universe which summon it to its peculiar work”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Openness

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“What believer sees a disturbing omission or infelicity? The text, whether of prophet or of poet, expands for whatever we can put into it and even his bad grammar is sublime.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Fanaticism

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“a girl who would have been requiring you to see the stars by daylight”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Deception

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“Celia, whose mind had never been thought too powerful, saw the emptiness of other people's pretensions much more readily. To have in general but little feeling, seems to be the only security against feeling too much on any particular occasion.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Delusion

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“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”

Themes: Gardening

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Music Poetry

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“No evil dooms us hopelessly except the evil we love, and desire to continue in, and make no effort to escape from.”

from Daniel Deronda​

Themes: Evil

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“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.”

Themes: Travel Anonymity

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“You can't judge a book by its cover.”

from The Mill on the Floss (1860)​

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“The best piety is to enjoy—when you can. You are doing the most then to save the earth's character as an agreeable planet. And enjoyment radiates.”

from Middlemarch

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“I should like to make life beautiful—I mean everybody's life... It spoils my enjoyment of anything when I am made to think that most people are shut out from it.”

from Middlemarch

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“men whose names were good for anything were usually pessimists, indisposed to believe that the universal order of things would necessarily be agreeable to an agreeable young gentleman.”

from Middlemarch

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“She had been led through the best galleries, had been taken to the chief points of view, had been shown the grandest ruins and the most glorious churches, and she had ended by oftenest choosing to drive out to where she could feel alone with the earth and sky, away from the oppressive masquerade of ages, in which her own life too seemed to become a masque with enigmatical costumes.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Travel

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“Her blooming, full-pulsed youth stood there in a moral imprisonment which made itself one with the chill, colorless, narrowed landscape, with the shrunken furniture, the never-read-books, and the ghastly stag in a pale, fantastic world that seemed to be vanishing from the daylight.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Golden Chains

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“...the imagination that reveals subtle actions inaccessible by any sort of lens, but tracked in that outer darkness through long pathways of necessary sequence by the inward light which is the last refinement of energy, capable of bathing even the etheral atoms in its ideally illuminated space.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Imagination

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“Time, like money, is measured by our needs.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Time Money

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“... a man may be puffed and belauded, envied, ridiculed, counted upon as a tool and fallen in love with, or at least selected as a future husband, and yet remain virtually unknown—known merely as a cluster of signs for his neighbors' false suppositions.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Projection

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“the majority of us scarcely see more distinctly the faultiness of our own conduct than the faultiness of our own arguments or the dullness of our own jokes... by dint of admitting to himself that he was too much as other men were, he had become remarkably unlike them”

from Middlemarch

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“Romanticism, which has helped to fill some dull blanks with love and knowledge, had not yet penetrated the times with its leaven and entered into everybody's food; it was fermenting still as a distinguishable, vigorous enthusiasm in certain long-haired German artists at Rome, and the youth of other nations who worked or idled near them were sometimes caught in the spreading movement”

from Middlemarch

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“Art is an old language with a great many artificial, affected styles, and sometimes the chief pleasure one gets out of knowing them is the mere sense of knowing.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Art

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“You will hardly demand that his confidence should have a basis in external facts... it is a comfortable disposition leading us to expect that the wisdom of providence or the folly of our friends, the mysteries of luck or the still greater mystery of our high individual value in the universe, will bring about agreeable issues.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Confidence

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“Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Failure

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“the crystallizing feather-touch shook flirtation into love... In half an hour he left the house an engaged man, whose soul was not his own, but the woman's to whom he had bound himself.”

from Middlemarch

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“She had that rare sense which discerns what is unalterable and submits to it without murmuring.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Letting Go

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“To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern that no shade or quality escapes it... a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back to a new organ of knowledge... You are a poem, and that is the best part of a poet”

from Middlemarch

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“such originality as we all share with the morning and the springtime and other endless renewals.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Creativity

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“but prejudices, like odorous bodies, have a double existence both solid and subtle—as solid as the pyramids, subtle as the twentieth echo of an echo or as the memory of hyacinths which once scented the darkness.”

from Middlemarch

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“When the commonplace 'We all must die' transforms itself suddenly into the acute consciousness 'I must die—and soon,' then death grapples us, and his fingers are cruel; afterwards, he may come to fold us in his arms as our mother did, and our last moment of dim earthly discerning may be like the first.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Death and Dying

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“it is in these acts called trivialities that the seeds of joy are forever wasted until men and women look round with haggard faces at the devastation their own waste has made and say the earth bears no harvest of sweetness—calling their denial knowledge.”

from Middlemarch

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“There's no sort of work that could ever be done well if you minded what fools say. You must have it inside you that your plan is right, and that plan you must follow.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Wu Wei

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“the soul of man, when it gets fairly rotten, will bear you all sorts of poisonous toad-stools, and no eye can see whence came the seed thereof.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Evil

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“definition of a philanthropist: a man whose charity increases directly as the square of the distance.”

from Middlemarch

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“Young love-making—that gossamer web! Even the points it clings to—the things whence its subtle interfacings are swung—are scarcely perceptible: momentary touches of finger tips, meetings of rays from blue and dark orbs, unfinished phrases, lightest changes of cheek and lip, faintest tremors. The web itself is made of spontaneous beliefs and indefinable joys, yearnings of one life towards another, visions of completeness, indefinite trust.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Sex

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“That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know what it is and cannot do what we would we are part of the Divine power against evil—widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower.”

from Middlemarch

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“Her anger said, as anger is apt to say, that God was with her, that all heaven, though it were crowded with spirits watching them, must be on her side.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Anger

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“Let the wise be warned against too great a readiness at explanation: it multiplies the sources of mistake, lengthening the sum for reckoners sure to go wrong.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Discipline

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“the fullness of contemplative thought—the mind not searching, but beholding, and the glance seeming to be filled with what is behind it”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Contemplation

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“A task too strong for wizard spells
This squire has brought about;
'Tis easy dropping stones in wells,
But who shall get them out?”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Karma

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“but he has his enemies too; there are always people who can't forgive an able man for differing from them.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Enemy

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Hope

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“Men outlive their love, but they don't outlive the consequences of their recklessness.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Obstacles

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“The memory has as many moods as the temper and shifts its scenery like a diorama.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Memory

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“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.”

from Middlemarch

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“To do a good day's work and do it well he held to be part of their welfare, as it was the chief part of his own happiness”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Livelihood

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“brief phrases which seemed pregnant to him because he had many thoughts lying under them, like the abundant roots of a plant that just manages to peep above the water.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Water Inscrutable

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“You must be sure of two things: you must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin... You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it well”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Skillful Means

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“oppressed by ennui and by that dissatisfaction which in women's minds is continually turning into a trivial jealousy, referring to no real claims, springs from no deeper passions than the vague exactingness of egoism, and yet capable of impelling action as well as speech.”

from Middlemarch

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“religion can only change when the emotions which fill it are changed, and the religion of personal fear remains nearly at the level of the savage.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Fear Change

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“It was not confusion that kept them silent... consciousness was over-flowed by something that suppressed utterance.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: No Trace

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“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”

from Impressions of Theophrastus Such

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“It's rather a strong check to one's self-complacency to find how much of one's right doing depends on not being in want of money.”

from Middlemarch

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“It was not simply that beneficent harness of routine which enables silly men to live respectably and unhappy men to live calmly; it was a perpetual claim on the immediate fresh application of thought and on the consideration of another's need”

from Middlemarch

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“He had begun... to sink into the hideous fettering of domestic hate... to have an alarmed foresight of her irrevocable loss of love for him and the consequent dreariness of their life.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Hate

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“many of these misdeeds were like the subtle muscular movements which are not taken account of in the consciousness, though they bring about the end that we fix our mind on and desire And it is only what we are vividly conscious of that we can vividly imagine to be seen by omniscience.”

from Middlemarch

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“Who can know how much of his most inward life is made up of the thoughts he believes other men to have about him, until the fabric of opinion is threatened with ruin?”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Opinion

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“It was more bearable to do without tenderness for himself than to see that his own tenderness could make no amends for the lack of other things to her.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Materialism

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Karma

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“The presence of a noble nature, generous in its wishes, ardent in its charity, changes the lights for us: we begin to see thing again in their larger, quiter masses and to believe that we too an be seen and judged in te wholeness of our character.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Inspiration

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“Trouble is so hard to bear, is it not? How can we live and think that anyone has trouble—piercing trouble—and we could help them, and never try.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Suffering

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“what I should most rejoice at would be to have something good to do with my money”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Meaningfulness

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“I believe that people are almost always better than their neighbors think they are.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Basic Goodness

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“People glorify all sorts of bravery except the bravery they might show on behalf of their nearest neighbors.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Courage

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“He was simply a man whose desires had been stronger than is theoretic beliefs and who had gradually explained the gratification of his desire sinto satisfactory agreement with those beliefs.”

from Middlemarch

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“Everybody liked better to conjecture how the thing was than simply to know it, for conjecture soon became more confident than knowledge and had a more liberal allowance for the incompatible.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Opinion

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“Science is properly more scrupulous than dogma. Dogma gives a charter to mistake, but the very breath of science is a contest with mistake and must keep the conscience alive. But Alas! The scientific conscience had got into the debasing company of money obligation and selfish respects.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Science

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“to see how an effect may be produced is often to see possible missings and checks; but to see nothing except the desired cause and close upon it the desirable effect rids us of doubt and makes our minds strongly intuitive.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Doubt

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Memory

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“Marriage is so unlike everything else. There is something even awful in the nearness it brings. Even if we loved someone else better than—better than those we were married to, it would be no use... marriage drinks up all our power of giving or getting any blessedness in that sort of love... it may very dear, but it murders our marriage, and then the marriage stays with us like a murder, and everything else is gone”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Prostitution

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“Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending... Marriage, which has been the bourne of so many narratives, is still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in Eden but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic—the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which makes the advancing years a climax and age the harvest of sweet memories in common.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Old Age Family

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“young and noble 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. For there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it.”

from Middlemarch

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“the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive, for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic 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.”

from Middlemarch

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“A man vows, and yet will not cast away the means of breaking his vow. Is it that he distinctly means to break it? Not at all, but the desires which tend to break it are at work in him dimly and make their way into his imagination and relax his muscles in the very moments when he is telling himself over again the reasons for his vow.”

from Middlemarch

Themes: Perseverance

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“Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel... She found her epos in the reform of a religious orer.”

from Middlemarch

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“Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heartbeats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances instead of centering in some long recognizable deed.”

from Middlemarch

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“if you are fond of looking stonily at smiling persons, the persons must be there and they must smile.”

Themes: Ambition

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Quotes about George Eliot (2 quotes)

“Of course, the sexual liberation of women like... George Eliot didn't immediately usher in an era of women on top. It was the early beginnings of a long period of social struggle and cultural change”

Roman Krznaric 1
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

from Carpe Diem Regained

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“one of the few English novels written for grown-up people [Middlemarch]”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

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