George Eliot’s Life

I just read vol. 2 of Cross’s George Eliot’s Life.  What a woman!  There is much wisdom (and much griping about headaches) in this book, but nothing better than the following:

“We are at the quietest hotel in Florence, having sought it out for the sake of getting clear of the stream of English and Americans, in which one finds one’s self in all the main tracks of travel, so that one seems at last to be in a perpetual, noisy picnic, obliged to be civil, though with a strong inclination to be sullen. My philanthropy rises several degrees as soon as we are alone” (167).

Even “fellow feeling” depends upon distance.  There is nothing worse than a perpetual, noisy picnic (which is why there is much anxiety about living near undergrads).