Books

Where do stories come from?

God created man in order to tell stories.
(Hasidic saying)

The Reverend Edward Casaubon is the self-absorbed, pedantic, wrong-headed scholar who disastrously, with his shrivelled sexuality, marries the fresh and eager heroine of Middlemarch Dorothea Brooke. Casaubon spends his adult life working on an ultimate theory to explain where all stories come from. His aim is to prepare an encyclopaedic account of world myths which emphasises their similarities. He rewards the lucky Dorothea, during their courtship, with a recitation of his new view of the philistine god Dragon and other fish-deities. George Eliot satirises his scholarship thus: “Mr Casaubon’s theory …was…a plan for threading the stars together”. He toils on his masterwork in vain and fails to complete it before his death. Middlemarch is a story; Mr Casaubon is a warning. Continue reading

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