by George Eliot
Middlemarch Science Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
Mr Brooke wondered, and felt that women were an inexhaustible subject of study, since even he at his age was not in a perfect state of scientific prediction about them! (1.4.49)
There were several passages describing women as a subject of scientific study by men in the "Women and Femininity" section, too. Why are women so often associated with "scientific prediction" and study? Well, the implication is that men often like to make generalizations about all women (as though women were all the same) and call it "scientific observation."
Even with a microscope directed on a water-drop we find ourselves making interpretations which turn out to be rather coarse; for whereas under a weak lens you may seem to see a creature exhibiting an active voracity into which other smaller creatures actively play as if they were so many animated tax-pennies, a stronger lens reveals to you certain tiniest hairlets which make vortices for these victims while the swallower waits passively at his receipt of custom. In this way, metaphorically speaking, a strong lens applied to Mrs Cadwallader's matchmaking will show a play of minute causes producing what may be called thought and speech vortices to bring her the sort of food she needed. (1.6.71)
This is the first of many references to microscopes, telescopes, and other lenses and scientific instruments in Middlemarch. This passage compares the interpretation of the behavior of single-cellular organisms under a microscope with the behavior of Mrs. Cadwallader, the neighborhood gossip. The narrator says that scientists are always adjusting their interpretations. Every time they get a stronger lens, they're able to make better inferences about what the single-cell organism is really up to. In the same way, you need to look closely at Mrs. Cadwallader in order to judge her correctly – she's not gossiping because she's mean, but because it's "the sort of food she needed."
But of Mr Brooke I make a further remark perhaps less warranted by precedent – namely, that if he had foreknown his speech, it might not have made any great difference. To think with pleasure of his niece's husband having a large ecclesiastical income was one thing – to make a liberal speech was another thing; and it is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view. (1.7.20)
Mr. Brooke is often accused of being inconsistent. He's happy about the fact that Mr. Casaubon, his niece's husband, has "a large income" from his job as a clergyman, and yet he makes a political speech criticizing the Church of England for giving too much money to clergyman. But the narrator, instead of saying, "Yep, he's inconsistent," suggests (perhaps sarcastically) that Mr. Brooke is just being a good scientist; he's trying to look at the problem from "various points of view."