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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January 10, 2013

Team Middlemarch, Book Six {very late}: The Widow and the Wife

I overlooked the date, back in November, when Team Middlemarch was meant  to read Book Six, which I'm sorry about because it was also George Eliot's birthday. On the other hand, selfishly, because I read Book Six last weekend, I had more than a fuzzy recollection of it when I read Book Seven this week, in time for the 16th. :)

A lot happens in Book Six.  Some ends are tied together {about Mr. Raffles, and the hold he has over Mr. Bulstrode, and how another character is drawn up in it}.  The section that tells us about Mr. Bulstrode's earlier profession, and the contrast between how he made and kept his money, and the religious principles he espouses now, is lonnnng, and a perfect example of why Victorian novels, or parts of them, are hard to read now.  Will Ladislaw announces that he is leaving Middlemarch, then doesn't, then does, and Fred Vincy finds a profession, and learns that he has, or might have, a rival for Mary's hand. 

      'You don't mean, my dear Miss Garth, that you are glad to hear of a young man giving up the Church for which he was educated; you only mean that things being so, you are glad that he should be under an excellent man like your father.'
      'No, really, Mrs. Farebrother, I am glad of both, I fear,' said Mary, cleverly getting rid of one rebellious tear. 'I have a dreadfully secular mind. I never liked any clergyman except the Vicar of Wakefield and Mr. Farebrother.;
      'Now why, my dear?' said Mrs. Farebrother, pausing on her large wooden knitting-needles and looking at Mary. 'You always have a good reason for your opinions, but this astonishes me. Of course I put put of the question those who preach new doctrine. But why should you dislike clergymen?'
      'Oh dear,' said Mary, her face breaking into merriment as she seemed to consider a moment, 'I don't like their neckcloths.'
      'Why, you don't like Camden's, then,' said Miss Winifred, in some anxiety.
      'Yes, I do,' said Mary. 'I don't like the other clergymen's neckcloths, because it is they who wear them.'
      'How very puzzling!' said Miss Noble, feeling that her own intellect was probably deficient.
But there's also a settling down, and a sense of what the future might hold, for Dorothea and Rosamund.

The widow is Dorothea;  Causabon has died, leaving a will that would leave her penniless if she marries Will.  It would be acceptable, almost expected for her to marry again {and it was surprising to read, near the end, that's she only 21}, but it's her intention to do good works, with Caleb Garth's help and advice.  She is still drawn to Will, though, worried about him if not in love with him.

The wife is Rosamund Vincy, newly married to Lydgate, but drawn to the more dashing style of his cousin.

She was so intensely conscious of having a cousin who was a baronet's son staying in the house, that she imagined the knowledge of what was implied by his presence to be diffused through all other minds; and when she introduced Captain Lydgate to her guests, she had a placid sense that his rank penetrated them as if it had been an odor. The satisfaction was enough for the time to melt away some of the disappointment in the conditions of marriage with a medical man even of good birth; it seemed now that her marriage was visibly  as well as ideally floating her above the Middlemarch level, and the future looked bright wuth letters and visits to and from Quallingham, and vague advancement in consequence for Tertius.
Lydgate, though, has realized that he is now deeply in debt, from the furniture, plate and amethysts that he bought for his bride and their new home, and from Rosamund's lavish and careless entertaining and housekeeping.  They are already finding themselves surprised, and disenchanted, with each other, and the most moving passages in Book Six describe what they each {unrealistically} expected to find in marriage, and what is really there. Those pages are a perfect example of why Victorian novels, or parts of them, are sometimes timeless. :)

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