One Saturday evening Will Ladislaw is thinking about the foolishness of his current situation, in which he has taken work in the town near to where our heroine Mrs. Casaubon lives, because of his feelings for that woman “for ever enthroned in his soul.” But he has been forbidden by Dorothea’s jealous husband to visit their home. So, “he could hardly ever see her.”
His thoughts are going irritably round and round on this subject when, “suddenly reflecting that the morrow would be Sunday, he determined to go to Lowick Church to see her.” It’s not his parish, and his presence would annoy Casaubon certainly, but he reasons,
“It is not true that I go to annoy him, and why should I not go to see Dorothea? Is he to have everything to himself and be always comfortable? Let him smart a little, as other people are obliged to do. I have always liked the quaintness of the church and congregation; besides, I know the Tuckers. I shall go into their pew.”
Having silenced Objection by force of unreason, Will walked to Lowick as if he had been on the way to Paradise, crossing Halsell Common and skirting the woods, where the sunlight fell broadly under the budding boughs, bringing out the beauties of moss and lichen, and fresh green growths piercing the brown. Everything seemed to know that it was Sunday, and to approve of his going to Lowick Church. Will easily felt happy when nothing crossed his humour, and by this time the thought of vexing Mr. Casaubon had become rather amusing to him, making his face break into its merry smile, pleasant to see as the breaking of sunshine on the water — though the occasion was not exemplary…. Will went along… chanting a little, as he made scenes of what would happen in church and coming out….The words were not exactly a hymn, but they certainly fitted his Sunday experience….
…. Sometimes, when he took off his hat, shaking his head backward, and showing his delicate throat as he sang, he looked like an incarnation of the spring whose spirit filled the air — a bright creature, abundant in uncertain promises.
This is one of a thousand passages in Middlemarch that so delightfully convey the personality and the feelings of one of the characters. I wish that I could transcribe a score of them just because I admire so much Eliot’s art. In this case Will is to himself in happy concord with even the weather and the season, and with the landscape that the author paints with a few perfect phrases. I think that Eliot is a little bit in love with Will Ladislaw, for how else could she make me fall in love with him?
The last phrase, though, comparing Will and springtime, is suddenly ominous, because, as we all know, the weather is unpredictable at this time of year. And the spirit of spring — I am as susceptible to its easy promises as anyone.
I did read this novel aloud with my husband 15 years ago, an acquaintance that was too shallow and distant for me to retain more than vague impressions. This time, on my own, I’m more engaged and enraptured, but still, I don’t want to take a year to read as thoroughly and meditatively as this book seems to warrant. So I’m glad Arti proposed two months, and I look forward to the remaining weeks and stories.
photo credit: Pippin