Tag Archives: 19th century britain

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!