And personal connection is the key. For despite Dorothea's warm and earnest good will, she cannot help Mr. Casaubon because he will not allow himself to be helped. He holds himself apart from her, thus transforming his wife's loving interest into mere arid anxiety. As Eliot writes, "There is no general doctrine which is not capable of eating out our morality if unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct fellow-feeling with individual fellow-men."
I've got a familiar vibrating sensation about this book, as if I might be working myself up to begin the missing chapter of my rereading memoir, even though I wasn't planning to write about either marriage-and-morality or Middlemarch. But apparently this book has its own agenda for me.