Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion. With dim lights and tangled circumstance they tried to shape their thought and deed in noble agreement; but after all, to common eyes their struggles seemed mere inconsistency and formlessness; for these later-born Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which could perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul. Their ardor alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning of womanhood; so that the one was disapproved as extravagance, and the other condemned as a lapse.
From the Prelude to Middlemarch. As far as I've read. Couldn't find the Elizabeth Hand book at the library, although I knew a girl by that name, so in the meantime...


Enbrethiliel said...


I bought my copy of Middlemarch years ago because of the prologue about St. Teresa and all the other Teresas of the world! And I think the explicit comparison made between St. Teresa and Dorothea is the reason I've always loved Dorothea, although most other Middlemarch readers I know can't stand her.

Melanie B said...

I think the idea of a "coherent social faith and order which could perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul" is an interesting line of thought. And yet I'm not sure if I agree. Maybe I'm misreading the passage but it seems to implies that sanctity is the product of being within a certain cultural construct. And yet a latter day Theresa comes to mind: Edith Stein who had all the cards stacked against her as a Jew by birth and then an atheist by choice and yet ended as a Carmelite nun and martyr. Grace can overcome any number of obstacles. Yeah, I'm totally misreading the passage; but it's where I keep going with it.