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A Victorianist Looks Back: Fluidity vs. Fragmentation

  • U. C. Knoepflmacher
Extract

In Middlemarch, when Mr. Brooke asks Edward Casaubon how he arranges his documents, the pedantic would-be author of “The Key to All Mythologies” replies with a “startled air of effort” that he puts them into “pigeon-holes mostly.” Dorothea's uncle is baffled. He complains that his own scattered gatherings became much too “mixed in pigeon-holes: I never know whether a paper is in A or Z.” Embarrassed, his niece volunteers to sort out his papers: “I would letter them all, and then make a list of subjects under each letter.” Her offer catches Mr. Casaubon's attention. Commending Mr. Brooke for having such “an excellent secretary at hand,” he gravely smiles his approval. But the befuddled gentleman whose mind remains full of disconnected “fragments” bluntly rejects Dorothea's offer: “‘No, no,’ said Mr. Brooke: ‘I cannot let young ladies meddle with my documents. Young ladies are too flighty.’”

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Victorian Literature and Culture
  • ISSN: 1060-1503
  • EISSN: 1470-1553
  • URL: /core/journals/victorian-literature-and-culture
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