Even your ugly furniture (From Eliot’s Middlemarch)

An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your ugly furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science, has shown me this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable. The scratches are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent…

From George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch.

1 thought on “Even your ugly furniture (From Eliot’s Middlemarch)”

  1. Thanks Biblioklept for George Eliot’s marvellous parable of the candle and pier glass. But I was puzzled by her concluding reference in the last sentence to ‘any person now absent’ and the ellipsis that follows. So I googled and found the absent person: ‘– of Miss Vincy for example’. Rosamond Vincy will indeed go on to arrange the narrative of events yet to occur in Middlemarch in a concentric pattern around her ego. Google also reveals the way in which Eliot’s parable of the candle has arranged scores of literary commentators in concentric circles around their interpretations and applications of its meaning.


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