More soon, I promise, but till I have more time, here's where I'm up to:

I picked up two books today ($5 each) from the big discount store that has moved in where Borders was. A gorgeous Vintage edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets, and Chesterton's biography of Dickens, which I shall place on the shelf next his biography of Browning. Chesterton is a marvellous biographer simply because he breaks all the rules: fiercely partial, wildly speculative, intrusively pontifical - in short, a delight. I won't read the Chesterton immediately because I'm knee-deep in Middlemarch, which I'm reading for the third time.  This time around my sympathies are given differently, and I have a much better grasp of Eliot's peripatetic narration. The sensations of my 19-year-old self reading it for the first time are there as a kind of watermark, against which I can measure my progress. I'm also thinking about how far Dorothea Brooke might be compared with Isabel Archer, of Henry James' masterpiece The Portrait of a Lady: both young women affronting their destinies, making fatal choices about where to bestow their promise. Indeed, both might be the objects of sonnet 87:
Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou know’st thy estimate:
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thyself thou gavest, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gavest it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.
Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,
In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.

I recall that James, though with the highest admiration for her, called Eliot a 'great horse-faced blue-stocking.' Surely one of the great literary insults, of which even Chesterton might have been proud.