Recently I've finally started reading Middlemarch. The two people I love best in all the world, Jos and Nicole, are both big ol' proponents of the middlest of Marches, Middlemarch, but for one reason or another I've never gotten round to reading it (nor any George Eliot whatsoever, until Jos sent me a PDF of that bonkers short story she wrote about candymaking and slavery and guilt last year). There's a big old Victorian gap in my reading history, where I just sort of BLOOP over most of Trollope and Thackeray and Shaw, and confine myself mainly to yelling about hating Lord Alfred Douglas over and over. I like MacDonald, OBVIOUSLY, Rose La Touche aside, and I've always given Hardy a dodge, probably unfairly, because I assume he's going to be a massive bummer, so I've really just coasted on a little bit of Shaw and Haggard and the ordinary-public-school Dickens and Gaskell and the so-obvious-they-hardly-bear-mentioning Brontës.
I kind of forgot George Eliot was a person, to be honest. Probably, at some point, I heard something about Martin Amis being a fan, and Martin Amis and I are locked into a completely one-sided rivalry, inasmuch as I hate him so much and he is dead and has never heard of me, and decided to ignore George Eliot as a proxy. This was wrong of me, and I apologize (NOT TO MARTIN, OBVIOUSLY). Because Middlemarch is amazing, and I love everyone in it so far, and I'm having the best time with these goth monsters, all pretending to hate beautiful jewels and starting dinner parties by announcing "I LIVE WITH THE DEAD."
(The title also often puts me in mind of that wonderful throwaway gag from the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode where the PTA holds a meeting to discuss the recent calendar misprint and Homer stamps his feet, shivers, and casts a burning glance at the date before muttering, "Lousy Smarch weather." It also leads me to sometimes, joyfully, whisper "Middlesmarch" to myself, and that is the purest possible good.)
Anyhow, I'm only about 40 pages in, so I'm really getting ahead of myself, but the only way I think I could love Middlemarch ("Middlesmarch" – Me) more is if Casaubon's passion project was not about the history of Christian syncretism but werewolves. (You must know I have also recently begun watching Teen Wolf, and the effect this has had on my overall disposition cannot be overstated.) I don't necessarily want anyone in Middlemarch to BECOME a werewolf, or reveal themselves as a SECRET WEREWOLF at some point around page 200, although you will certainly not catch me complaining if that happens. I just want Casaubon to be deeply, profoundly invested in proving that Werewolves Are Real, and for Dorothea to act as his stalwart champion and lamplighter for the rest of her werewolf-believing life.
A few suggestions for the next edition:
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 Bisclavret and articles of transformation compared with that spiritual religion, that submergence of man-self in communion with Lycanthropic perfection which seemed to her to be expressed in the best therianthropic and shapeshifting books of widely distant ages, she found in Mr. Casaubon a listener who understood her at once, who could assure her of his own agreement with that view when duly tempered with wise conformity, and could mention historical examples before unknown to her.
"He thinks with me," said Dorothea to herself, "or rather, he thinks a whole world of werewolves of which my thought is but a poor twopenny mirror. And his feelings too, his whole experience with werewolves—what a lake compared with my little pool (of werewolves)!"
When the two girls were in the drawing-room alone, Celia said—
"How very ugly Mr. Casaubon is!"
"Celia! He is one of the most distinguished-looking men I ever saw. He is remarkably like the portrait of Lycaeon from Ovid's Metamorphoses. He has the same deep eye-sockets characteristic of a man who has stayed up all night reading about people turning into wolves, and then turn back into people again a little later."
"Had Lycaeon those two white moles with hairs on them?"
"Oh, I dare say! when people of a certain sort looked at him," said Dorothea, walking away a little.
"Mr. Casaubon is so sallow."
"All the better. I suppose you admire a man with the complexion of a bear, or who sometimes turns into a bear, like some sort of bearwolf."
"Dodo!" exclaimed Celia, looking after her in surprise. "I never heard you make such a comparison before. And it would be werebear, I should think, rather than bearwolf. Bearwolf would suggest that there was some sort of bear that could turn into a wolf, which would be ridiculous."
"Why should I make it before the occasion came? It is a good comparison: the match is perfect. And bearwolf rhymes more perfectly with werewolf, and besides, you understood perfectly what I meant by it. Don't be obtuse."
Miss Brooke was clearly forgetting herself, and Celia thought so. "I wonder you show temper, Dorothea. One might wonder if you were about to turn into a werewolf yourself."
"It is so painful in you, Celia, that you will look at human beings as if they were merely creatures who never turned into wolves at all, and never see the great soul of the full moon in a man's face."
"Has Mr. Casaubon a great soul, touched by the full moon?" Celia was not without a touch of naive malice.
"Yes, I believe he has," said Dorothea, with the full voice of decision. "Everything I see in him corresponds to his pamphlet on Biblical Lycanthropy."
"He talks very little," said Celia
"There is no one for him to talk to. Also, werewolves do not speak, on account of their mouth being so crowded with wolf-teeth, so I imagine he keeps silent out of sympathy and solidarity more often than not."
Then Dorothea turned into a wolf. She was a werewolf.
Mr. Casaubon, as might be expected, spent a great deal of his time at the Grange in these weeks, and the hindrance which courtship occasioned to the progress of his great work—the Key to all Lycanthropies—naturally made him look forward the more eagerly to the happy termination of courtship. But he had deliberately incurred the hindrance, having made up his mind that it was now time for him to adorn his life with the graces of female companionship, to irradiate the gloom which fatigue was apt to hang over the intervals of studious labor with the play of female fancy, and to secure in this, his culminating age, the solace of female tendance for his declining years, and also to have someone restrain him during the full moon, and keep him from eating peasants, and so on. Hence he determined to abandon himself to the stream of feeling, and perhaps was surprised to find what an exceedingly shallow rill it was. As in droughty regions baptism by immersion could only be performed symbolically, Mr. Casaubon found that sprinkling was the utmost approach to a plunge which his stream would afford him; and he concluded that the poets had much exaggerated the force of masculine passion. "It would all be a great deal more sensible," he was often given to remark, "if one could simply scent-mark a likely-looking female, as wolves do, and offer her a den of sorts, and one's advances were acceptable, she might come and build a nest for herself therein, and scent-mark one in return, about the neck and throat."
Nevertheless, he observed with pleasure that Miss Brooke showed an ardent submissive affection which promised to fulfil his most agreeable previsions of marriage. It had once or twice crossed his mind that possibly there was some deficiency in Dorothea to account for the moderation of his abandonment; but he was unable to discern the deficiency, or to figure to himself a woman who would have pleased him better; so that there was clearly no reason to fall back upon but the exaggerations of human tradition. He decided against scent-marking her, being unsure whether young ladies of quality considered it quite correct before marriage.
"Could I not be preparing myself now to be more useful?" said Dorothea to him, one morning, early in the time of courtship; "could I not learn to read Latin and Greek aloud to you, as Milton's daughters did to their father, without understanding what they read? At the very least I might begin with the Völsunga saga, and learn the tongue of the Úlfhednar, should you ever need me to translate for you during a pack meeting, were we ever to meet a werewolf and be invited to one."
"I fear that would be wearisome to you," said Mr. Casaubon, smiling; "and, indeed, if I remember rightly, the young women you have mentioned regarded that exercise in unknown tongues as a ground for rebellion against the poet."
"Yes; but in the first place they were very naughty girls, else they would have been proud to minister to such a father; and in the second place they might have studied privately and taught themselves to understand what they read, and then it would have been interesting. I hope you don't expect me to be naughty and stupid? I have read extensively of the Tumblr essays on whether knotting is a common practice among werewolves, and to what degree our substantial knowledge of canine sexual behavior can be extrapolated to make secure predictions about our half-man, half-wolf brethren."
"Pray do not speak to me of knotting," Casaubon explained, reddening clean up to his ears. "I expect you to be all that an exquisite young lady can be in every possible relation of life. Certainly it might be a great advantage if you were able to copy the Old Eastern Slavic character, and to that end it were well to begin with a little reading."
"Vseslav the prince judged men," recited Dorothea in perfect Old Eastern Slavic. "As prince he ruled towns; but at night he prowled in the guise of a wolf. From Kiev, prowling, he reached, before the cocks crew, Tmutorokan. The path of Great Sun, as a wolf, prowling, he crossed. For him in Polotsk they rang for matins early at St. Sophia the bells, but he heard the ringing in Kiev."
"I will send you some of those articles about knotting," she said after a moment of continued silence and increasing redness. "They are quite informative."
Was Casaubon a werewolf??