Literary Hot or Not: Middlemarch Edition
Judging Your Old-Timey Faves
September 7, 2018 at 9:00 am
The POMEcoven Book Club recently finished up Middlemarch, by George Eliot, and boy do we have some opinions — specifically about who is Hot and who is Not. Join us for Literary Hot or Not: Middlemarch Edition, as we judge these beautiful angels and these garbage boys in this study of provincial life.
Middlemarch takes place in a rural community in the English midlands (called Middlemarch) from 1829-1831. Published in eight installments between 1872-1873, Middlemarch follows the entire town of Middlemarch, but especially follows a handful of Hot Youths and some Less Hot Olds who make some good decisions and a lot of bad decisions. Some people are rich, some people are poor; some people are hot, some people are not (looking at you Casaubon). Things happen — love, death, betrayal, inheritance law, local politics; it’s a book — you know how books are. Let’s get to the good stuff.
Jenny: maybe a controversial opinion, but Not Hot. Like, yes, objectively very beautiful, and definitely kind and generous; but she’s too good — she’s untouchable. I would need WAY Higher self-esteem to even consider her physically. Unattainable and thus unrealistic and thus unworthy of consideration.
Rachel: I definitely see where you’re coming from, but I gotta go with Hot here. Dorothea is a bonefide babe but also very considerate and good, and I have the level of hubris where I think I could probably get into those underskirts. Like, if Ladislaw can, then so can I.
CC: Definitely Hot!!!! Annoyingly so, but definitely hot. From Eliot’s descriptions of her, Dorothea is literally the woman in all those Penguin Classics cover oil paintings. But also: I find her impetuousness and stubbornness endearing and she tries so hard to make a difference with what few tools she has. She also has such bad taste in men, which I also find strangely charming.
Jenny: 100% yes — definitely Hot. She’s is the attainable version of Dorothea. I mean, I went through this book thinking I was Lydgate, but fuck — maybe I’m Chettam.
Rachel: Hot! Even as a quintessential Older Sister, I found Celia to be totally charming and way wilier than she would appear. I love how she calls her baby “baby” and I love how she calls Dorothea “Dodo”. She is irreverent when she wants to be and she knows how to get what she wants. Defo Hot.
CC: Hot; a hot mom with a side hustle on Mommy Youtube. Hot but definitely that person who writes 20 paragraphs about her vacation before getting to the ingredients list on her recipe blog.
Sir James Chettam
Jenny: Not Hot. Too boring to be hot. Chettam is like a judgy, decorative fern; he’s like hotel art that thinks it’s too good to be in a hotel. He is just okay. He doesn’t deserve to be in a museum and he doesn’t deserve Dorothea.
Rachel: Not Hot, no way. Chettam is the bf you had that insisted he was over his ex but could never really stop talking about her. He tries to control Dorothea’s life and claims it as “brotherly love” (barf) and I just can’t get into it.
CC: Not Hot but blandly handsome. Too dumb to be hot. Celia deserves better.
Jenny: YES. Definitely Hot. She’s horrible and manipulative and just — bone chilling. She’s the ice queen of my heart. Fully ruthless. I’m in.
Rachel: I know she’s Objectively hot, but I got so frustrated with her selfish, near sociopathic lack of empathy that she’s full Not Hot to me. She’s like a parasite, thriving off of the suffering of others and parasites really yuck me out. So, Not Hot.
CC: So Hot; in our modern world, she’d crush us all under the weight of her lifestyle brand insta. Not smart enough to be truly Evil Hot; hotness eroded by her basicness and manipulative bullshit; but hot nonetheless.
Jenny: Yes. Okay — yes. He’s a big sweet dummy and he tries so hard and he gets nowhere. But he’s so cute; it’s hard not to find him overwhelmingly endearing. So, Hot — I have to give him that.
Rachel: Fred Vincy tries so hard and he messes up so bad but he is such a sweet boy. The story of Fred in Middlemarch is basically a series of people putting him through the trials of the soldiers from Mulan, like, the ones that they go through in “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”. Except his tribulations are mostly self-inflicted. But still!! He tries and he’s sincere and that makes him Hot.
CC: Only a little Hot. Look. Fred is probably a gorgeous farm hunk — especially by the end of the book — but watching him continually fail to absorb the whole concept of consequences killed my attraction to him! Sure, he figures it out eventually, but only after financially jeopardizing the kindest family in Middlemarch and almost ruining their lives. Because of horseracing. HORSE RACING. HORSE. RACING. But, he also brings Mary books and I can forgive a lot in a dude who stops by with good books.
Jenny: look — no? I mean, this is Hot or Not; this isn’t love and commitment or not. Mary’s lovely. You can build a life with Mary. She’s smart and she’s thoughtful and she’s patient — she’s wonderful. But, she’s Not Hot. That’s kind of her whole thing. And, I mean, she seems fine with it, so I think I’m fine with it too.
Rachel: I agree with Jenny here — she’s not Objectively Hot, even if she is the best character in this book. If she were the nerd girl from She’s All That, when Freddie Prinze Jr. takes off her glasses, she’s doesn’t blow everybody’s mind with how gorgeous she actually is under those corrective lenses. She’s just herself, and she’s great, and she’s Not Hot.
CC: def Hot but I love mean women.
Jenny: I mean, listen — I identify very heavily with this asshole. For Lydgate, a life of quiet spinsterhood was his PLAN A! And then everything gets all blown off course because someone commits to him! And he’s just out here trying to communicate about his emotions and share in the burden of responsibility, but it’s hard! Communicating your emotions is hard! Being patient takes practice! But — and this is an important distinction — he’s a doctor, and not someone who writes about their feelings on the internet, so of course HE’S HOT.
Rachel: George Eliot spends so much time talking about how well shaped Lydgate’s hands are in this book that I have to assume it’s a metaphor and that he’s definitely Hot. Also, Rosamund would never go with somebody who wasn’t hot, and even if she’s an evil succubus, I think I can trust her aesthetic choices here. Lydgate is def Hot.
CC: Not Hot to me but def objectively Hot. It’s hard to get any farther from my type than Lydgate. Dollars to donuts he’s got the best ass in Middlemarch, but he also literally, repeatedly fails to notice Mary Garth and is comedically floored by her wealth of suitors. Almost all of his conversations are about how much smarter he is than everybody else; he judges Farebrother for needing money to live; he judges all future suitors against his obsession with an opera murderess he stalked in his early 20s. Endgame Lydgate — a Lydgate whose ego has been tempered by the sadness of living — is p hot tho tbh, even if he is a gout doctor.
Jenny: No, no, a hundred times no. This guy blows. I will never care about tortured artists who need a woman to give their lives meaning. People don’t change for other people; his whole construct is false and I do not have time for it. Not Hot.
Rachel: This is my great shame, but I think Ladislaw is Hot. He’s the Kylo Ren of this story and I can’t help but be kind of into it. God, what is wrong with me.
CC: Hot, but mostly because of his and Dorothea’s mutual pining. I love a good two-sided pining.
Honorable Mention: Camden Farebrother
Jenny: I think the casting director for the 1994 Middlemarch BBC Series had a crush on Farebrother, because he was not as cute in the book — in the book he’s an old man who used to be maybe sort of roguish, but in a nerd way, and is now just kind and patient. I don’t think he’s hot, but I DO Think that he’s very much worthy of commitment.
Rachel: +1 to what Jenny said. I think he probably WAS hot, but now he’s mostly a good dude who gets shafted in the book because I think George Eliot only prioritizes the characters that SHE thinks are hot (which, you know, I get).
CC: Hot, in that slowburn way where he gets hotter the older you get — like most of Lorelei Gilmore’s boyfriends. Hot in a Hot Dad from a Sexy Murder Teens show kind of way. Also he’s like, in his 30s??? I think?? PLUS: he’s sweet to old ladies and separates dumb rich people from their money at the gambling table — two things I am vvvvvvvvv into.
Dishonorable Mention: Edward Casaubon
CC: I just want to establish here, for the record that there is NO WAY that Casaubon was Alan Rickman Hot but kudos to Eliot for this 1872 snapshot of teen Snape fangirls.
Jenny: I mean, I have no sympathy for Snape and I have no sympathy for Casaubon.
Looking for even more POMEmag Middlemarch content? We invite all our POMEmag patrons to check out our most literary Patreon exclusive yet: “Top 3 Most Bangable Middlemarch Characters, According To Rachel, As Predicted By The Group.” A few months back, CC and Jenny predicted which Middlemarch characters we thought Rachel would crush on the hardest — and once she finished all 20,000 pages of Middlemarch, Rachel weighed in on our predictions. Plus: bonus Blingees, and our Middlemarch Tinder bios from the featured image in all their slightly higher resolution glory. What are you waiting for? Get that pure & ardent spirit of yours on over to our Patreon!