Mr Brooke On Reason

“Young ladies don’t understand political economy, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, smiling towards Mr. Casaubon. “I remember when we were all reading Adam Smith. THERE is a book, now. I took in all the new ideas at one time–human perfectibility, now. But some say, history moves in circles; and that may be very well argued; I have argued it myself. The fact is, human reason may carry you a little too far–over the hedge, in fact. It carried me a good way at one time; but I saw it would not do. I pulled up; I pulled up in time. But not too hard. I have always been in favor of a little theory: we must have Thought; else we shall be landed back in the dark ages”.

(Middlemarch”, by George Eliot: Part 1 Chapter 2).

I read “Middlemarch” at A-Level and the above quote, of Mr Brooke has stayed with me. Brooke is a Liberal (unlike his Tory neighbour Sir James Chetham). And yet there is in Brooke’s statement (above) much with which the person of a conservative disposition would agree, although today of course most people would deplore his dismissal of the intellectual capacities of women!

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