Middlemarch HTML version
"Say, goddess, what ensued, when Raphael,
The affable archangel . . .
The story heard attentive, and was filled
With admiration, and deep muse, to hear
Of things so high and strange."
--Paradise Lost, B. vii.
If it had really occurred to Mr. Casaubon to think of Miss Brooke as a suitable
wife for him, the reasons that might induce her to accept him were already
planted in her mind, and by the evening of the next day the reasons had budded
and bloomed. For they had had a long conversation in the morning, while Celia,
who did not like the company of Mr. Casaubon's moles and sallowness, had
escaped to the vicarage to play with the curate's ill-shod but merry children.
Dorothea by this time had looked deep into the ungauged reservoir of Mr.
Casaubon's mind, seeing reflected there in vague labyrinthine extension every
quality she herself brought; had opened much of her own experience to him, and
had understood from him the scope of his great work, also of attractively
labyrinthine extent. For he had been as instructive as Milton's "affable
archangel;" and with something of the archangelic manner he told her how he
had undertaken to show (what indeed had been attempted before, but not with
that thoroughness, justice of comparison, and effectiveness of arrangement at
which Mr. Casaubon aimed) that all the mythical systems or erratic mythical
fragments in the world were corruptions of a tradition originally revealed. Having
once mastered the true position and taken a firm footing there, the vast field of
mythical constructions became intelligible, nay, luminous with the reflected light
of correspondences. But to gather in this great harvest of truth was no light or
speedy work. His notes already made a formidable range of volumes, but the
crowning task would be to condense these voluminous still-accumulating results
and bring them, like the earlier vintage of Hippocratic books, to fit a little shelf. In
explaining this to Dorothea, Mr. Casaubon expressed himself nearly as he would
have done to a fellow-student, for he had not two styles of talking at command: it
is true that when he used a Greek or Latin phrase he always gave the English
with scrupulous care, but he would probably have done this in any case. A
learned provincial clergyman is accustomed to think of his acquaintances as of
"lords, knyghtes, and other noble and worthi men, that conne Latyn but lytille."
Dorothea was altogether captivated by the wide embrace of this conception.
Here was something beyond the shallows of ladies' school literature: here was a
living Bossuet, whose work would reconcile complete knowledge with devoted
piety; here was a modern Augustine who united the glories of doctor and saint.
The sanctity seemed no less clearly marked than the learning, for when Dorothea
was impelled to open her mind on certain themes which she could speak of to no
one whom she had before seen at Tipton, especially on the secondary
importance of ecclesiastical forms and articles of belief compared with that
spiritual religion, that submergence of self in communion with Divine perfection