Lady Dedlock

by Andrea Elizabeth

Yes, every dim little star revolving about her, from her maid to the manager of the Italian Opera, knows her weaknesses, prejudices, follies, haughtinesses, and caprices, and lives upon as accurate a calculation and as nice a measure of her moral nature, as her dress-maker takes of her physical proportions. (Bleak House, Penguin Classics, page 24)

I’ve begun again with my hardcopy, finding it more engaging than the audible version. There is something to say about the oral tradition of story telling, but Dickens wrote in the age of cheap printing for private audiences, public readings aside. This is not to say that another voice couldn’t have been just as engaging as silent reading.

It’s been a while since I read Anna Karenina, one of the very few books I’ve read twice (Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre being the only others I can remember right now), but I think comparing her to Lady Dedlock would be interesting. Emotional neediness and boredom, respectively, can be symptoms of the same thing. Boredom is resigned unfulfillment. A giving up, as it were. But if something stimulating happens, the boredom is quickly forgotten and new expectations spring up unbidden for hoped-for things so long deferred, as if they were always in the front of one’s mind and heart. But what is this neediness? It is for something we were created for but are unfit for. So horribly unfit for. The cure for unfitness? Exercise! Pray, work, study, repeat.