You are here:   Judaism > Mesmeric Modulations
 

Music resounds through 19th-century fiction, high and low, as a measure of the ineffable, the spiritual and the deep. Sherlock Holmes's musicality is a sure sign of his superior and mysterious intelligence. His friend Watson's slight philistinism in relation to Holmes's "scraping upon the violin" becomes a clear marker of his role in the stories as what Americans call "a regular guy".

Less formulaically, and with a greater degree of thematic integration, George Eliot's last novel, Daniel Deronda (1876), is suffused with music as a symbol of a deeper current in life, significantly intertwined with its treatment of Jewish culture, politics and spirituality. Daniel Deronda, raised as an English gentleman, discovers that he is Jewish and marries the outcast Mirah Cohen. This is the countermovement in the novel to Gwendolen Harleth's failed experiment in marrying the sadistic Mallinger Grandcourt for power. Yet in choosing Mirah, Deronda also chooses a singer. In discovering his real mother, he finds her to have been a singer too, and a great one. Gwendolen's musical talent, displayed in the early chapters, is found to be superficial, a matter of appearances rather than true musicality. It is Klesmer, the superlative musician, who makes this judgment and whose proud if ever so slightly comic words in another scene confirm music as a central metaphor in the novel. "I was sure he had too much talent to be a mere musician," declares Mr Bult, "an esteemed party man," to Klesmer:

"Ah, sir, you are under some mistake there," said Klesmer, firing up. "No man has too much talent to be a musician. Most men have too little...We help to rule the nations and make the age as much as any other public men. We count ourselves on level benches with legislators."

View Full Article
 
Share/Save
 
 
 
 

Post your comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.