The best character in George Eliot’s Middlemarch is Mr. Brooke—the long winded, doddering uncle of Dorothea. He airs his opinions and experiences openly, but always gives in to the ideas and direction of others.
When his new assistant Will Ladislaw contradicts him during a political argument he doesn’t bristle. Instead he responds, “That is fine, Ladislaw: that is the way to put it. Write that down, now. We must begin to get documents about the feeling of this country.”
In a later scene Mr. Brooke explains the best way to build political momentum: “You know there are tactics in these things…meeting people half-way—tempering your ideas---saying, ‘Well now, there’s something in that,’ and so on.”
When Mr. Brooke campaigns in Middlemarch he stands before his neighbors without a prepared speech and rambles thusly, “I am a close neighbor of yours, my good friends…I’ve always gone a good deal into public questions—machinery, now, and machine breaking—you’re many of you concerned with machinery, and I’ve been going into that lately. It won’t do, you know, breaking machines.” Mr. Brooke gets eggs thrown at him for his troubles.
I’ve also enjoyed the following passages:
“There is no human being who having both passions and thoughts does not think in consequence of his passions—does not find images rising in his mind which soothe the passion with hope or sting it with dread.”
“The troublesome ones in a family are usually either the wits of the idiots.”
“But to most mortals there is a stupidity which is unendurable and a stupidity which is altogether acceptable.”
“But indefinite visions of ambition are weak against the ease of doing what is habitual or beguilingly agreeable.”
“Where women love each other, men learn to smother their mutual dislike.”
“Everything seemed to know it was Sunday.”
And who hasn’t felt this? “He threw down his book…in that agreeable after-glow of excitement when thought lapses from examination of a specific object into a suffuse sense of its connexions [sic].”