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Chapter 15
"Black eyes you have left, you say,
Blue eyes fail to draw you;
Yet you seem more rapt to-day,
Than of old we saw you.
"Oh, I track the fairest fair
Through new haunts of pleasure;
Footprints here and echoes there
Guide me to my treasure:
"Lo! she turns--immortal youth
Wrought to mortal stature,
Fresh as starlight's aged truth--
Many-named Nature!"
A great historian, as he insisted on calling himself, who had the happiness to be
dead a hundred and twenty years ago, and so to take his place among the
colossi whose huge legs our living pettiness is observed to walk under, glories in
his copious remarks and digressions as the least imitable part of his work, and
especially in those initial chapters to the successive books of his history, where
he seems to bring his armchair to the proscenium and chat with us in all the lusty
ease of his fine English. But Fielding lived when the days were longer (for time,
like money, is measured by our needs), when summer afternoons were spacious,
and the clock ticked slowly in the winter evenings. We belated historians must
not linger after his example; and if we did so, it is probable that our chat would be
thin and eager, as if delivered from a campstool in a parrot-house. I at least have
so much to do in unraveling certain human lots, and seeing how they were
woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on
this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies
called the universe.
At present I have to make the new settler Lydgate better known to any one
interested in him than he could possibly be even to those who had seen the most
of him since his arrival in Middlemarch. For surely all must admit that 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. There was a general impression, however, that Lydgate was not
altogether a common country doctor, and in Middlemarch at that time such an
impression was significant of great things being expected from him. For
everybody's family doctor was remarkably clever, and was understood to have
immeasurable skill in the management and training of the most skittish or vicious
diseases. The evidence of his cleverness was of the higher intuitive order, lying
in his lady-patients' immovable conviction, and was unassailable by any objection
except that their intuitions were opposed by others equally strong; each lady who
saw medical truth in Wrench and "the strengthening treatment" regarding Toller
and "the lowering system" as medical perdition. For the heroic times of copious