Here is a variation on a phrase you will encounter often in the course of reading about Middlemarch: “When I was such-and-such years old, I read Middlemarch for the first time.” Everything else unfolds from there.
This is, of course, very close to how Rebecca Mead opens My Life in Middlemarch, her literary memoir. But Mary Gordon used it in 1994, for her New York Times article “George Eliot, Dorothea, and Me.” Patricia Meyer Spacks used it in “The Power of Middlemarch,” an essay in a recent issue of Daedalus. Zadie Smith has used it in an interview. I’ve used it. I’m using it right now: I read Middlemarch for the first time at sixteen and I wrote in my journal that I was sure it would predict a miserable end for me. (It didn’t.)