Daniel Deronda HTML version

Chapter 19
"I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba, and say, 'Tis all barren':
and so it is: and so is all the world to him who will not cultivate the fruits it offers."-
-STERNE: Sentimental Journey.
To say that Deronda was romantic would be to misrepresent him; but under his
calm and somewhat self-repressed exterior there was a fervor which made him
easily find poetry and romance among the events of every-day life. And perhaps
poetry and romance are as plentiful as ever in the world except for those
phlegmatic natures who I suspect would in any age have regarded them as a dull
form of erroneous thinking. They exist very easily in the same room with the
microscope and even in railway carriages: what banishes them in the vacuum in
gentlemen and lady passengers. How should all the apparatus of heaven and
earth, from the farthest firmament to the tender bosom of the mother who
nourished us, make poetry for a mind that had no movements of awe and
tenderness, no sense of fellowship which thrills from the near to the distant, and
back again from the distant to the near?
To Deronda this event of finding Mirah was as heart-stirring as anything that
befell Orestes or Rinaldo. He sat up half the night, living again through the
moments since he had first discerned Mirah on the river-brink, with the fresh and
fresh vividness which belongs to emotive memory. When he took up a book to try
and dull this urgency of inward vision, the printed words were no more than a
network through which he saw and heard everything as clearly as before--saw
not only the actual events of two hours, but possibilities of what had been and
what might be which those events were enough to feed with the warm blood of
passionate hope and fear. Something in his own experience caused Mirah's
search after her mother to lay hold with peculiar force on his imagination. The
first prompting of sympathy was to aid her in her search: if given persons were
extant in London there were ways of finding them, as subtle as scientific
experiment, the right machinery being set at work. But here the mixed feelings
which belonged to Deronda's kindred experience naturally transfused themselves
into his anxiety on behalf of Mirah.
The desire to know his own mother, or to know about her, was constantly
haunted with dread; and in imagining what might befall Mirah it quickly occurred
to him that finding the mother and brother from whom she had been parted when
she was a little one might turn out to be a calamity. When she was in the boat
she said that her mother and brother were good; but the goodness might have
been chiefly in her own ignorant innocence and yearning memory, and the ten or
twelve years since the parting had been time enough for much worsening. Spite
of his strong tendency to side with the objects of prejudice, and in general with
those who got the worst of it, his interest had never been practically drawn