Daniel Deronda HTML version

Chapter 41
"This, too is probable, according to that saying of Agathon: 'It is a part of
probability that many improbable things will happen.'" --ARISTOTLE: Poetics.
Imagine the conflict in a mind like Deronda's given not only to feel strongly but to
question actively, on the evening after the interview with Mordecai. To a young
man of much duller susceptibilities the adventure might have seemed enough out
of the common way to divide his thoughts; but it had stirred Deronda so deeply,
that with the usual reaction of his intellect he began to examine the grounds of
his emotion, and consider how far he must resist its guidance. The
consciousness that he was half dominated by Mordecai's energetic certitude, and
still more by his fervent trust, roused his alarm. It was his characteristic bias to
shrink from the moral stupidity of valuing lightly what had come close to him, and
of missing blindly in his own life of to-day the crisis which he recognized as
momentous and sacred in the historic life of men. If he had read of this incident
as having happened centuries ago in Rome, Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine,
Cairo, to some man young as himself, dissatisfied with his neutral life, and
wanting some closer fellowship, some more special duty to give him ardor for the
possible consequences of his work, it would have appeared to him quite natural
that the incident should have created a deep impression on that far-off man,
whose clothing and action would have been seen in his imagination as part of an
age chiefly known to us through its more serious effects. Why should he be
ashamed of his own agitated feeling merely because he dressed for dinner, wore
a white tie, and lived among people who might laugh at his owning any
conscience in the matter, as the solemn folly of taking himself to seriously?--that
bugbear of circles in which the lack of grave emotion passes for wit. From such
cowardice before modish ignorance and obtuseness, Deronda shrank. But he
also shrank from having his course determined by mere contagion, without
consent of reason; or from allowing a reverential pity for spiritual struggle to hurry
him along a dimly-seen path.
What, after all, had really happened? He knew quite accurately the answer Sir
Hugo would have given: "A consumptive Jew, possessed by a fanaticism which
obstacles and hastening death intensified, had fixed on Deronda as the antitype
of some visionary image, the offspring of wedded hope and despair: despair of
his own life, irrepressible hope in the propagation of his fanatical beliefs. The
instance was perhaps odd, exceptional in its form, but substantially it was not
rare. Fanaticism was not so common as bankruptcy, but taken in all its aspects it
was abundant enough. While Mordecai was waiting on the bridge for the
fulfillment of his visions, another man was convinced that he had the
mathematical key of the universe which would supersede Newton, and regarded
all known physicists as conspiring to stifle his discovery and keep the universe
locked; another, that he had the metaphysical key, with just that hair's-breadth of