'How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare that after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.' No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest of some amusement. — from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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May 27, 2012

Middlemarch: Book Three



      'Of course she is devoted to her husband,' said Rosamond, implying a notion of necessary sequence which the scientific man regarded as the prettiest possible for a woman, but she was thinking at the same time that it was not so very melancholy to be mistress of Lowick Manor with a husband likely to die soon. 'Do you think her very handsome?'
      'She certainly is handsome, but I have not thought about it,' said Lydgate.
      'I suppose it would be unprofessional,' said Rosamond, dimpling. 'But how your practice is spreading! You were called in before to the Chettams, I think, and now, the Causabons.'
      'Yes,' said Lydgate, in a tone of compulsory admission. 'But I don't really like attending such people so well as the poor. The cases are more monotonous, and one has to go through more fuss and listen more deferentially to nonsense.'
      'Not more than in Middlemarch,' said Rosamond. 'And at least you go through wide corridors and have the scent of rose-leaves everywhere.'

I was hoping to read Book Three two weekends ago, and didn't, and because I wasn't home or online last weekend I would have probably missed the official date for this installment of Team Middlemarch, even I had noted it correctly.  No matter, though ... I sank into it yesterday and this morning, and loved every minute of it.

A lot happens in Book Three. After being challenged by Mr. Featherstone about his debts at the beginning of the book, Fred Vincy tries to clear them by speculating on a horse; when he just loses more money, he must go and tell Mr. and Mrs. Garth, and Mary, that he can't repay the note Mr. Garth trustingly signed on his behalf.  Then, there's the flirting between Rosamond and Mr. Lydgate {and how funny that they really are just flirting, or at least he is, until something happens, and 'That moment of naturalness was the crystallizing feather-touch; it shook flirtation into love.' Isn't that a great line?}

Meanwhile, Dorothea and Mr. Causabon return from their honeymoon. There's some authorly sympathy for Mr. C.('As if a man could choose not only his wife, but his wife's husband!'} and a beautiful written scene, set on a snowy day in a blue-green boudoir, with perfect imagery to fit the stresses growing between them:.

The very furniture in the room seemed to have shrunk since she saw it before:  the stag in the tapestry looked more like a ghost in his ghostly blue-green world; the volumes of polite literature in the bookcase looked more like immovable imitations of books.

And, finally, some of the characters are waiting for a death, and the reading of a will; not Mr. Causabon's, as Rosamond thinks (and I thought), but Mr Featherstone's. 


We're reading Middlemarch in its original eight books, in the timing (I think?, every other month, that the installments were published.  One of the things that Lynne asks us to consider is how we like reading a novel in this way, the way that many 19th century novels were published.  It's so interesting;  each time, I thought I had completely lost my place in the story, and then found myself finding it again {that's the power of a good story, and the gift of a great writer}.  I wonder whether it would have been different in what was probably a much less information-overloaded time?   So I would say I'm not sure. I would say that I still don't like Dorothea any more than I did before, but I am liking this book -- and admiring this writer -- more and more.

We'll be reading Book Four {'Three Love Problems') and commenting on it on July 14th.  There, I've noted the date on my calendar this time. :)


{The painting is Woman with Books, by Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), found here.}


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