The Notorious George Eliot

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Young Ladislaw did not pay that visit to which Mr. Brooke had invited him, and only six days afterwards Mr. Casaubon mentioned that his young relative had started for the Continent, seeming by this cold vagueness to waive inquiry. Indeed, Will had declined to fix on any more precise destination than the entire area of Europe. Genius, he held, is necessarily intolerant of fetters: on the one hand it must have the utmost play for its spontaneity; on the other, it may confidently await those messages from the universe which summon it to its peculiar work, only placing itself in an attitude of receptivity towards all sublime chances. The attitudes of receptivity are various, and Will had sincerely tried many of them. 

He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken too much, simply as an experiment in that form of ecstasy; he had fasted till he was faint, and then supped on lobster; he had made himself ill with doses of opium. Nothing greatly original had resulted from these measures; and the effects of the opium had convinced him that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution and De Quincey's. The superadded circumstance which would evolve the genius had not yet come; the universe had not yet beckoned. 

Even Caesar's fortune at one time was, but a grand presentiment. We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes may be disguised in helpless embryos.--In fact, the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities. Will saw clearly enough the pitiable instances of long incubation producing no chick, and but for gratitude would have laughed at Casaubon, whose plodding application, rows of note-books, and small taper of learned theory exploring the tossed ruins of the world, seemed to enforce a moral entirely encouraging to Will's generous reliance on the intentions of the universe with regard to himself. 

He held that reliance to be a mark of genius; and certainly it is no mark to the contrary; genius consisting neither in self-conceit nor in humility, but in a power to make or do, not anything in general, but something in particular. Let him start for the Continent, then, without our pronouncing on his future. Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous.

Again with the long winding sentences--dig how she starts the second paragraph. 

I think I tend to see art from the perspective of my earliest influence. For me those are the might djembe and hip-hop. I imagine that others might read this and see melody and color. But all I hear are drums.Indeed, if you will forgive my Hip-Hop Explains The World theorizing, I've repeatedly thought of Biggie:

Dare I squeeze three at your cherry M-3, 
bang every MC easily--busily. 
Recently niggas fronting ain't saying nothing, 
so I just speak my piece, keep my piece, 
Cubans with the Jesus piece, with my peeps; 
packing, asking who want it, you got it nigga flaunt it, 
that Brooklyn bullshit, we on it.

Someone more grammatically attuned can probably better punctuate those sentence. Because rappers have to stay on beat, you'll often find them with the sort of awkward (in the best way)  sometimes roundabout, sometimes direct, sentence structure that Eliot exhibits. A phrase like "Greedy of clutch" could have very easily come out of (gifted) rappers mouth,

Think of Big almost asking himself a question--"Dare I squeeze three at your cherry M-3?"--in a kind of syntax that he would never speak in his native hood Ebonics. It almost completes the circle and sounds like a kind of high English.

And then that long loping "Recently niggas..." riff where he slowly builds a picture of himself, adding phrases, while dancing with the rhyme scheme. Again it's reminiscent to me of that lede sentence in the second graff--"He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken too much."

Anyway, more thoughts as I'm going through. I think in the "Novel Of Manners" subgenre I find myself exploring, Eliot is the most overtly "intellectual," which is to say she seems the most in deliberate conversation with the Western canon. Austen struck me as almost black comedy. Wharton, for all her daggering instincts, was a romantic.

A final not on Big. Someone said here a while back that hip-hop really suffered for not developing a strong body of criticism. Critics take a lot of crap, but I think that is basically true. There are very good reasons for why that didn't happen. (Hip-Hop's proximity to both celebrity and the street, for instance.) But I do think it hurt us. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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