Literary Moneyball with George Eliot: What's The Average Smiling Rate In Middlemarch?

My apologies for the delay in the Hotel Dull, Food Indifferent Friday series, which should return next week; this morning I discovered a cockroach in the silverware drawer, which took a full ten minutes to kill (due to repeatedly pausing to scream) and from which I am still not spiritually recovered.

(I still have not finished reading Middlemarch. Don’t crowd me, kid, let me go at my own pace.)

There weren’t any massive surprises when it came to the official tally — Casaubon didn’t take an unexpected lead or anything — although I might have expected more from Celia and a little less from Dorothea. I excluded metaphorical or inward smiles; where the placement of the smile remains ambiguous, I erred on the side of conservatism. Half points were awarded to vanishing and dying smiles; ditto attempted smiles. In one instance (and only one instance) two characters are described as smiling simultaneously in the same sentence; I have denoted this with an asterisk, and no points for guessing that it’s Ladislaw and Dorothea.

Dorothea - 25 smiles

She smiled and looked up at her betrothed with grateful eyes.

She met Ladislaw with that exquisite smile of good-will which is unmixed with vanity, and held out her hand to him.

Dorothea wondered; but the smile was irresistible, and shone back from her face too.

“What a difficult kind of shorthand!” said Dorothea, smiling towards her husband. 

Dorothea added the last words with a smile.

His tone of angry regret had so much kindness in it for Dorothea’s heart, which had always been giving out ardor and had never been fed with much from the living beings around her, that she felt a new sense of gratitude and answered with a gentle smile.

The vivid presentation came like a pleasant glow to Dorothea: she felt herself smiling, and turning from the miniature sat down and looked up as if she were again talking to a figure in front of her. But the smile disappeared as she went on meditating.

In another minute he was in the library, and Dorothea was meeting him with her sweet unconstrained smile.

Dorothea was trying to extract out of this an excuse for her husband’s evident repulsion, as she said, with a playful smile, “You were not a steady worker enough.”

But her face, too, broke into a smile as she said, “That is your apology, I suppose, for having yourself been rather rebellious; I mean, to Mr. Casaubon’s wishes.”

“That is very good of you,” said Dorothea, with another open smile.

“Oh, my life is very simple,” said Dorothea, her lips curling with an exquisite smile, which irradiated her melancholy.

“But if you like what is good, that comes to the same thing,” said Dorothea, smiling.

She colored with surprise, but put out her hand with a smile of unmistakable pleasure.

“Was I ever high-colored, Tantripp?” said Dorothea, smiling faintly.

A large tear which had been for some time gathering, rolled down Dorothea’s cheek as she looked up and tried to smile.

“No,” said Dorothea, “I shall never forget you. I have never forgotten any one whom I once knew. My life has never been crowded, and seems not likely to be so. And I have a great deal of space for memory at Lowick, haven’t I?” She smiled.

“I am so used to the cap—it has become a sort of shell,” said Dorothea, smiling. “I feel rather bare and exposed when it is off.”

“Oh, what sad words!” said Dorothea, with a dangerous tendency to sob. Then trying to smile, she added, “We used to agree that we were alike in speaking too strongly.”

“You may still win a great fame like the Louis and Laennec I have heard you speak of, and we shall all be proud of you,” she ended, with a smile.

Dorothea made an attempt at smiling in return.

“Don’t be alarmed, Tantripp,” said Dorothea, smiling.

A smile began to play over Dorothea’s face as she said—“No, indeed! How could you imagine it?”

The light was more and more sombre, but there came a flash of lightning which made them start and look at each other, and then smile.*

Dorothea smiled, and Celia looked rather meditative. Presently she said, “I cannot think how it all came about.”

Casaubon - 6 smiles

Mr. Casaubon gravely smiled approval.

Certainly [Casaubon] seemed more and more bent on making her talk to him, on drawing her out, as Celia remarked to herself; and in looking at her his face was often lit up by a smile like pale wintry sunshine. 

“I fear that would be wearisome to you,” said Mr. Casaubon, smiling.

“Yes, but the word has dropped out of the text, or perhaps was subauditum; that is, present in the king’s mind, but not uttered,” said Mr. Casaubon, smiling and bending his head towards Celia, who immediately dropped backward a little, because she could not bear Mr. Casaubon to blink at her.

Mr. Casaubon pronounced this little speech with the most conscientious intention, blinking a little and swaying his head up and down, and concluding with a smile.

“My dear Dorothea—‘who with repentance is not satisfied, is not of heaven nor earth:’—you do not think me worthy to be banished by that severe sentence,” said Mr. Casaubon, exerting himself to make a strong statement, and also to smile faintly.

Rosamond - 5 smiles

“But”—here Rosamond’s face broke into a smile which suddenly revealed two dimples. She herself thought unfavorably of these dimples and smiled little in general society.

[Rosamond] bowed ceremoniously to Mrs. Waule, who said stiffly, “How do you do, miss?” smiled and nodded silently to Mary, and remained standing till the coughing should cease, and allow her uncle to notice her.

“Ah, you have heard Mr. Bowyer,” said Rosamond, with one of her rare smiles. 

Rosamond turned to Lydgate, smiling gently, and said, “You perceive, the bears will not always be taught.”

“I think I shall turn round on you and accuse you of being a Goth,” said Rosamond, looking at Lydgate with a smile.

Will Ladislaw - 7 smiles

[Young Ladislaw did not feel it necessary to smile, as if he were charmed with this introduction to his future second cousin and her relatives; but wore rather a pouting air of discontent.] Like Rosamond, his avoidance of smiling is conspicuously pointed-out, although he does edge her out when it comes to exceptions to the rule.

For an instant he felt that the struggle was causing a queer contortion of his mobile features, but with a good effort he resolved it into nothing more offensive than a merry smile.

Will Ladislaw’s smile was delightful, unless you were angry with him beforehand: it was a gush of inward light illuminating the transparent skin as well as the eyes, and playing about every curve and line as if some Ariel were touching them with a new charm, and banishing forever the traces of moodiness.

“You see I come of rebellious blood on both sides,” Will ended, smiling brightly at Dorothea, while she was still looking with serious intentness before her, like a child seeing a drama for the first time.

Will easily felt happy when nothing crossed his humor, and by this time the thought of vexing Mr. Casaubon had become rather amusing to him, making his face break into its merry smile, pleasant to see as the breaking of sunshine on the water—though the occasion was not exemplary.

But she could see as well as possible how [Ladislaw] smiled down at the little old maid.

He was smiling at it still, and shaking the sketches into order with the thought that he might find a letter from her awaiting him at Middlemarch, when Mrs. Kell close to his elbow said—“Mrs. Casaubon is coming in, sir.”

The light was more and more sombre, but there came a flash of lightning which made them start and look at each other, and then smile.*

Celia - 1 smile

Celia was trying not to smile with pleasure.

Lydgate - 16.5 smiles

“I will not profess bravery,” said Lydgate, smiling.

Lydgate smiled, but he was bent on being circumspect.

This last thought brought back the Vincys and all the pictures of the evening. They floated in his mind agreeably enough, and as he took up his bed-candle his lips were curled with that incipient smile which is apt to accompany agreeable recollections.

Lydgate smiled and shook his head.

Rosamond was proud when he entered the room, and when he approached her with a distinguishing smile, she had a delicious sense that she was the object of enviable homage.

“On the contrary,” said Lydgate, showing no smart; but smiling with exasperating confidence at Rosamond.

“I confess,” said Lydgate, smiling, “amusement is rather an unsatisfactory prescription.”

“That is true, Mademoiselle de Montmorenci,” said Lydgate, just bending his head to the table and lifting with his fourth finger her delicate handkerchief which lay at the mouth of her reticule, as if to enjoy its scent, while he looked at her with a smile.

“Yes, at some stages,” said Lydgate, lifting his brows and smiling, while he began to arrange his microscope.

Lydgate smiled at her tenderly, and really accepted the suggestion that the proud pleasure of showing so charming a bride was worth some trouble.

“Poor devil!” said Lydgate, smiling and pinching his wife’s ears.

Lydgate smiled as he ended his speech, putting his foot into the stirrup.

“The fact is, you would wish me to be a little more like him, Rosy,” said Lydgate, in a sort of resigned murmur, with a smile which was not exactly tender, and certainly not merry.

“Thank you for coming,” said Lydgate, cordially. “I can enjoy the kindness all the more because I am happier. I have certainly been a good deal crushed. I’m afraid I shall find the bruises still painful by-and by,” he added, smiling rather sadly; “but just now I can only feel that the torture-screw is off.”

A smile broke through the gloom of Lydgate’s face.

Lydgate’s smile had died away.

When Lydgate spoke with desperate resignation of going to settle in London, and said with a faint smile, “We shall have you again, old fellow,” Will felt inexpressibly mournful, and said nothing.

Mr. Brooke - 8 smiles

“Sir Humphry Davy?” said Mr. Brooke, over the soup, in his easy smiling way.

“Young ladies don’t understand political economy, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, smiling towards Mr. Casaubon.

“Yes,” said Mr. Brooke, with an easy smile.

“Nothing of the sort,” said Mr. Brooke, smiling and rubbing his eye-glasses, but really blushing a little at the impeachment.

“I don’t pretend to argue with a lady on politics,” said Mr. Brooke, with an air of smiling indifference.

“That kind of thing is not healthy, my dear,” said Mr. Brooke. “Casaubon, she will be in your hands now: you must teach my niece to take things more quietly, eh, Dorothea?” He ended with a smile, not wishing to hurt his niece.

Dorothea looked up at Mr. Casaubon, who bowed his head towards her, while Mr. Brooke said, smiling nonchalantly—

“Come, that’s rather good, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, taking up the paper and trying to bear the attack as easily as his neighbor did, but coloring and smiling rather nervously.

Fred Vincy - 2 smiles

To him it was like the cessation of an ache that Mary could laugh at him, and with a passive sort of smile he tried to reach her hand; but she slipped away quickly towards the door.

Fred bit his lips: it was difficult to help smiling.

Mrs. Vincy - 2 smiles

“Well, Vincy, he was my first, and you made a fine fuss with him when he came. You were as proud as proud,” said Mrs. Vincy, easily recovering her cheerful smile.

This was easily credible to any one looking at Mrs. Vincy as she threw back her broad cap-strings, and smiled towards her three little girls, aged from seven to eleven.

Sir James Chettam - 2.5 smiles

Mrs. Cadwallader paused a few moments, observing the deeply hurt expression in her friend’s face, which [Sir James] was trying to conceal by a nervous smile, while he whipped his boot.

She thought of the white freestone, the pillared portico, and the terrace full of flowers, Sir James smiling above them like a prince issuing from his enchantment in a rose-bush, with a handkerchief swiftly metamorphosed from the most delicately odorous petals.

He smiled much less; when he said “Exactly” it was more often an introduction to a dissentient opinion than in those submissive bachelor days; and Dorothea found to her surprise that she had to resolve not to be afraid of him—all the more because he was really her best friend. 

Ned Plymdale - 1 smile

Mr. Ned smiled nervously, while Lydgate, drawing the “Keepsake” towards him and opening it, gave a short scornful laugh and tossed up his chin, as if in wonderment at human folly.

Mary Garth - 8 smiles

“Yes, I do—a little,” said Mary, nodding, with a smile.

“I should think one of those epithets would do at a time,” said Mary, trying to smile, but feeling alarmed.

Mary’s lips had begun to curl with a smile as soon as she had asked that question about Fred’s future (young souls are mobile), and before she ended, her face had its full illumination of fun.

Mary turned the back of her father’s hand to her lips and smiled at him.

.Take that ordinary but not disagreeable person for a portrait of Mary Garth. If you made her smile, she would show you perfect little teeth; if you made her angry, she would not raise her voice, but would probably say one of the bitterest things you have ever tasted the flavor of; if you did her a kindness, she would never forget it.

“No,” said Mary, shaking her head, and smiling.

“Fred has lost all his other expectations; he must keep this,” Mary said to herself, with a smile curling her lips.

Seeing her father, Mary left the swing and went to meet him, pushing back the pink kerchief and smiling afar off at him with the involuntary smile of loving pleasure.

Mr. Farebrother - 8 smiles

“A mother is never partial,” said Mr. Farebrother, smiling.

At last the Vicar laid down his pipe, stretched out his legs, and turned his bright eyes with a smile towards Lydgate.

But,” he added, smilingly, “I don’t say that Bulstrode’s new hospital is a bad thing; and as to his wanting to oust me from the old one—why, if he thinks me a mischievous fellow, he is only returning a compliment. And I am not a model clergyman—only a decent makeshift.”

“I used often to wish I had been something else than a clergyman,” he said to Lydgate, “but perhaps it will be better to try and make as good a clergyman out of myself as I can. That is the well-beneficed point of view, you perceive, from which difficulties are much simplified,” he ended, smiling.

“You see, I can leave the whist-table easily enough,” he went on, smiling at Lydgate, “now I don’t play for money. I owe that to you, Mrs. Casaubon says.”

“I know he’s one of your black sheep, Hawley. But he is really a disinterested, unworldly fellow,” said Mr. Farebrother, smiling.

“But, my dear Mrs. Casaubon,” said Mr. Farebrother, smiling gently at her ardor, “character is not cut in marble—it is not something solid and unalterable.

“That is an affair of the heart with my aunt,” said Mr. Farebrother, smiling at Dorothea, as he reseated himself.

Mr. Horrock - 1 smile

A nose, mouth, and chin seeming to follow his hat-brim in a moderate inclination upwards, gave the effect of a subdued unchangeable sceptical smile.

Mrs. Garth - 5 smiles

“One—only one. Fanny Hackbutt comes at half past eleven. I am not getting a great income now,” said Mrs. Garth, smiling.

“I was a fool, Susan.”

“That you were,” said the wife, nodding and smiling.

Mrs. Garth patted Letty’s head and smiled.

“Which means,” said Mrs. Garth, smiling at the Vicar, “that we are going to have enough to bring up the boys well and to keep Mary at home.”

“The rotation of crops,” said Mrs. Garth, smiling at him, above her knitting, “or else the back-doors of the Tipton cottages.”

Borthrop Trumbell - 1 smile

The eloquent auctioneer smiled at his own ingenuity.

Humphrey Cadwallader - 3 smiles

Mr. Cadwallader was a large man, with full lips and a sweet smile; very plain and rough in his exterior, but with that solid imperturbable ease and good-humor which is infectious, and like great grassy hills in the sunshine, quiets even an irritated egoism, and makes it rather ashamed of itself.

“I see they are beginning to attack our friend Brooke in the ‘Trumpet,’” said the Rector, lounging back and smiling easily, as he would have done if he had been attacked himself.

But Mr. Cadwallader kept the paper in his hand, saying, with a smile in his eyes—“Look here!”

Mr. Mawmsey - 2 smiles

“But I smile at it: I humor everybody’s weak place.”

“As to Reform, sir, put it in a family light,” he said, rattling the small silver in his pocket, and smiling affably.

Mr. Toller - 2 smiles

He naturally got tired of smiling and saying, “Ah!” when he was told that Mr. Peacock’s successor did not mean to dispense medicines.

Mr. Toller remarked one day, smilingly, to Mrs. Taft, that “Bulstrode had found a man to suit him in Lydgate; a charlatan in religion is sure to like other sorts of charlatans.”

Miss Winifred Farebrother - 1 smile

Miss Winifred, who had been looking at her brother all the while and crying heartily, which was her way of rejoicing, smiled through her tears and said, “You must set me the example, Cam: you must marry now.”

John Raffles - 1 smile

His lips first curled with a smile and then opened with a short triumphant laugh.

Caleb Garth - 2 smiles

Caleb Garth, having little expectation and less cupidity, was interested in the verification of his own guesses, and the calmness with which he half smilingly rubbed his chin and shot intelligent glances much as if he were valuing a tree, made a fine contrast with the alarm or scorn visible in other faces.

“My business is of many sorts, my boy,” said Mr. Garth, smiling.


“A Clerkly person” - 1 smile

The ladies and gentlemen of the final “Keepsake” — 1 collective smile

“Anyone” observing Mr. Borthrop Trumbull - 1 smile

The figure “wrought with love…in finest ivory” - 1 smile

The reader, indirectly, at “one little act of [Dorothea’s],” and hypothetically at “a youthful nobleman stealing jewelry” - 2 smiles

“The world” at widows - 1 smile

“Chance” - 1 smile

Anyone “who cares much to know the history of man…while thinking about Saint Theresa” - 1 smile

Final Scores:

Dorothea (perhaps unexpectedly?) tops the list easily with 25 smiles; while I don’t think of her as a constant grinner, she does take up the most real estate generally, and this is really a numbers game. Lydgate makes a distant second with 16.5 smiles, and nobody else gets anywhere near double digits. Mr Farebrother, Mary Garth and Mr. Brooke share third place with 8 smiles apiece, while Ladislaw, Casaubon, and Rosamond are all within a statistical rounding error of each other at 7, 6, and 5 smiles, respectively.

Excluding the “miscellaneous” category, named characters in Middlemarch smile, on average, 5 times apiece throughout the book. At 880 pages, that’s a rate of a little less than 0.01%, unless my math is wrong there, which it almost certainly is. If we drop Dorothea as an outlier, the average number of smiles (NOS) comes down to just over 4.

Let this guide whichever ITV director finally gets permission to update the ‘94 Middlemarch adpatation, and steady their hand whenever they feel inclined to pump up Rosamond’s grin rate. The numbers just don’t bear it out. Let her mouth keep pace with Casaubon.

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