The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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August 27, 2012

Team Middlemarch: Book Four, Three Love Problems

Book Four of Middlemarch. which I just read (a little late) with Team Middlemarch, is called 'Three Love Problems,' and if there was a quiz {I'm in a back-to-school mood} asking us to name them, I would probably say:

  1. Will Ladislaw's love for Dorothea
  2. Fred Vincy's love for Mary Garth
  3. Dorothea's changing feelings for Mr. Causabon
I'm not all that sure about this list.  There's also a wedding, but it's not really a problem (yet).   It happens off-stage, and involves a lot of handkerchief-sewing and dinner service-buying, but that's about it, so far.

There's a good mix of humor and sadness in Book Four.  The beginning centers around the death of old Mr. Featherstone (which happened at the end of Book Three) and the reading of his wills -- one giving, and one taking away. I'm sorry if this is a spoiler, but Fred's hopes are raised, and then dashed:

Twenty-four hours ago he had thought that instead of needing to know what he should do, he should by this time know  that he needed to do nothing:  that he should hunt in pink, have a first-rate hunter, ride to cover on a fine hack, and be generally respected for doing so; moreover, that he should be able at once to pay Mr. Garth, and that Mary could not longer have any reason for not marrying him. ... But now, at the end of the twenty-four hours, all those firm expectations were upset. It was 'rather hard lines' that while he was smarting under this disappointment he should be treated as if he could have helped it.

We meet two new characters -- Mr. Cadwallader, the Rector of Tipton and Freshitt, and his wife -- who seem to to be here for comic relief?

....There would be a satisfaction in being buried by Mr. Cadwallader, whose very name offered a fine opportunity for pronouncing wrongly if you liked.
      This distinction conferred on the Rector of Tipton and Freshitt was the reason why Mrs. Cadwallader made one of the group that watched old Featherstone's funeral from an upper window of the manor. She was not fond of visiting that house, but she liked, as she said, to see collections of strange animals such as there would be at this funeral; and she had persuaded Sir James and the young Lady Chettam to drive the Rector and herself to Lowick in order that the visit might be altogether pleasant.
      'I will go anywhere with you, Mrs. Cadwallader,' Celia had said,, 'but I don't like funerals.'
      'Oh, my dear, when you have a clergyman in your family you must accommodate your tastes:  I did that very early. When I married Humphrey, I made up my mind to like sermons and I set out by liking the end very much. That soon spread to the middle and the beginning, because I couldn't have the end without them.
The humor reminded me a little of the Trollopes I was reading last year, or even of Angela Thirkell.

There's another new character, a more mysterious and sinister one, the 'frog-faced' stranger, with 'a high chirping voice and a vile accent,' who sits calmly through the reading of Mr. Featherstone's will, as it turns out, with good reason.('I like Featherstones that were brewed such, and not turned Featherstones with sticking the name on 'em.')

Mr/ Brooke buys a newspaper, and hires Will Ladislaw to 'conduct' it for him, and there's a growing battle of wills between Mr. Csusabon and his younger cousin.  But the darker parts of this part of the story center on Dorothea, and her growing dread and anger toward her husband. At the very end, none of the love problems are resolved, but there's a final scene, with a  'kind quiet melancholy,' that makes me wonder what will happen to them, even though I think I already know.

{I'm reading Middlemarch with Dovegrey Reader as part of Team Middlemarch. We'll be reading Book Five, 'The Dead Hand,' for early October; Book Six, 'The Widow and the Wife,' in time for George Eliot's birthday on November 22; and finishing the last two books -- I love this --  by the middle of March.}

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