'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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October 6, 2012

Team Middlemarch, Book Five: The Dead Hand



...belongs to Mr. Causabon, literally and symbolically, and although we knew it was coming (and he did, too, apparently), we're not sorry to see him go.  It's interesting to find myself enjoying a book as much as I'm enjoying Middlemarch without finding myself liking any of the main characters.  Who's to like, except some of the minor, comic characters?  There are some more of them in this book, though, and they're always welcome in all of the Lowickian gloom. Mr. Lydgate is being talked about because he refuses to follow the lucrative practice of prescribing medicines, and this gives George Eliot a chance to introduce more townspeople, like the Mawmseys and Mr. Gambit, and to compare Lydgate to Middlemarch's other 'medical men' {'...he was a little slow in coming, but when he came, he did something'}. There's also a wonderful scene where we meet Mr. Farebrother's family.

The depiction of Mr. Causabon's last days and hours, and the angst leading up to them, is very well done, though. He has already banished Will Ladislaw from Lowick, and now he has asked Dorothea to make a promise --  'It is that you will let me know, deliberately, whether, in case of my death, you will carry out my wishes; whether you will avoid doing what I should deprecate, and apply yourself to do what I should desire.' --  that she (of course) has to suffer over.  There's a change in tone from the end of one chapter, when Dorothea goes to meet Causabon on the Yew Walk, to give him her answer -- and the beginning of the next, when Sir James is ranting over an unexpected, and cruel, codicil in Causabon's will, the dead hand forbidding her to do something she hasn't thought she wanted to do.

The election, and the Reform Bill, is also important in this book, as Mr. Brooke runs for a seat in Parliament and Will Ladislaw sees politics, on a larger stage, as a way to put himself on an equal footing with Dorothea. As I was reading this, I was thinking about how different George Eliot is from Jane Austen, who was so noted for keeping the real world out of her novels.

The final development in Book Five is that old frog-face, Mr. Featherstone's mysterious heir, is already gone, selling Stone Court to Mr. Bulstrode.  But the new owner is haunted by Mr. Raffles, who has reason to blackmail him.  Did we already meet Mr. Raffles (the name is familiar...) and do we already know why? If so, I've forgotten. That's one of the downsides of reading in installments. :)

Team Middlemarch will meet again to read Book Six. 'The Widow and the Wife,' in November.

{Necklace found on Etsy.}

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