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Chapter 7
"Piacer e popone
Vuol la sua stagione."
--Italian Proverb.
Mr. Casaubon, as might be expected, spent a great deal of his time at the
Grange in these weeks, and the hindrance which courtship occasioned to the
progress of his great work--the Key to all Mythologies--naturally made him look
forward the more eagerly to the happy termination of courtship. But he had
deliberately incurred the hindrance, having made up his mind that it was now
time for him to adorn his life with the graces of female companionship, to irradiate
the gloom which fatigue was apt to hang over the intervals of studious labor with
the play of female fancy, and to secure in this, his culminating age, the solace of
female tendance for his declining years. Hence he determined to abandon
himself to the stream of feeling, and perhaps was surprised to find what an
exceedingly shallow rill it was. As in droughty regions baptism by immersion
could only be performed symbolically, Mr. Casaubon found that sprinkling was
the utmost approach to a plunge which his stream would afford him; and he
concluded that the poets had much exaggerated the force of masculine passion.
Nevertheless, he observed with pleasure that Miss Brooke showed an ardent
submissive affection which promised to fulfil his most agreeable previsions of
marriage. It had once or twice crossed his mind that possibly there, was some
deficiency in Dorothea to account for the moderation of his abandonment; but he
was unable to discern the deficiency, or to figure to himself a woman who would
have pleased him better; so that there was clearly no reason to fall back upon but
the exaggerations of human tradition.
"Could I not be preparing myself now to be more useful?" said Dorothea to him,
one morning, early in the time of courtship; "could I not learn to read Latin and
Greek aloud to you, as Milton's daughters did to their father, without
understanding what they read?"
"I fear that would be wearisome to you," said Mr. Casaubon, smiling; "and,
indeed, if I remember rightly, the young women you have mentioned regarded
that exercise in unknown tongues as a ground for rebellion against the poet."
"Yes; but in the first place they were very naughty girls, else they would have
been proud to minister to such a father; and in the second place they might have
studied privately and taught themselves to understand what they read, and then
it would have been interesting. I hope you don't expect me to be naughty and
"I expect you to be all that an exquisite young lady can be in every possible
relation of life. Certainly it might be a great advantage if you were able to copy
the Greek character, and to that end it were well to begin with a little reading."
Dorothea seized this as a precious permission. She would not have asked Mr.
Casaubon at once to teach her the languages, dreading of all things to be
tiresome instead of helpful; but it was not entirely out of devotion to her future
husband that she wished to know Latin and Creek. Those provinces of masculine