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Middlemarch by George Eliot

Part 18 out of 18

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Certainly those determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful.
They were the mixed result of young and noble impulse struggling
amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great
feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the
aspect of illusion. For there is no creature whose inward being is
so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it.
A new Theresa will hardly have the opportunity of reforming
a conventual life, any more than a new Antigone will spend her
heroic piety in daring all for the sake of a brother's burial:
the medium in which their ardent deeds took shape is forever gone.
But we insignificant people with our daily words and acts are
preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present
a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.

Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were
not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus
broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great
name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around
her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world
is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so
ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the
number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

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