i read it the first time sometime during my first year of grad school. and this was a coincidence; i didn’t know what the plot was. i didn’t know about The Key to All Mythologies. i had no idea philology was even involved.
of course it is immediately involved. dorothea (poor dorothea!) can’t even think about men without thinking about philology! her whole Orientation is philological.
Dorothea, with all her eagerness to know the truths of life, retained very childlike ideas about marriage. She felt sure that she would have accepted the judicious Hooker, if she had been born in time to save him from that wretched mistake he made in matrimony; or John Milton when his blindness had come on; or any of the other great men whose odd habits it would have been glorious piety to endure; but an amiable handsome baronet, who said “Exactly” to her remarks even when she expressed uncertainty,–how could he affect her as a lover? The really delightful marriage must be that where your husband was a sort of father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it.
i have certainly read and reread the first chapters many times—many times with wringing of hands and saying ‘oh God what have i done?!’—and i have certainly wallowed in the miniseries, thank you netflix*—but i’ve never actually had a straight rereading. partially this is because the episode with mary garth and the will stresses me out to extremity. i get anxious just getting near it. it’s too scrupulously close to home, i guess. (and of course it is damn good powerful grown-up writing.)
but i’m way beyond the will now—good old fred is straightening up and flying right—rosamond and lydgate’s lives are imploding and they are trapped in a mutual siamese hell marriage with each other; their furniture is being repossessed and i can’t get enough. it’s kind of the best part, i think. because i just hate lydgate. i am pretty sure you are not supposed to—pretty sure you are at least supposed to hate rosamond more—but lydgate is much more real and thus much more annoying. i don’t remember if i hated him so much the first time. i think i did but i was in denial about it. but there’s no denying it now! i am taking almost obscene pleasure in his punishment. i’m so glad it is so meticulously described. ah. when george eliot smites a character, that character is smitten.
* i tried but i never ‘got’ ladislaw. to me he’s a very vague guy. in the BBC production he is rufus sewell (c. 1994) and this helps a lot.