Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Slow Read: Middlemarch Book 2, Chapters 13-17

I see rather than characters, the Books may instead branch out.  Beginning with Miss Brooke, the view is expanded, and we now look toward the people around her. Or maybe it will all end up centering around Dorothea.

CHAPTER XIII 1st Gent. How class your man?--as better than the most, Or, seeming better, worse beneath that cloak? As saint or knave, pilgrim or hypocrite? 2d Gent. Nay, tell me how you class your wealth of books The drifted relics of all time. As well sort them at once by size and livery: Vellum, tall copies, and the common calf Will hardly cover more diversity Than all your labels cunningly devised To class your unread authors.

Hmmm, will the people be classified?

You know Mr. Farebrother?" "I have seen him. He gave me his vote. I must call to thank him. He seems a very bright pleasant little fellow. And I understand he is a naturalist." "Mr. Farebrother, my dear sir, is a man deeply painful to contemplate. I suppose there is not a clergyman in this country who has greater talents." Mr. Bulstrode paused and looked meditative. "I have not yet been pained by finding any excessive talent in Middlemarch," said Lydgate, bluntly.
Indeed they will, it seems.
Mr. Vincy rose, began to button his great-coat, and looked steadily at his brother-in-law, meaning to imply a demand for a decisive answer. This was not the first time that Mr. Bulstrode had begun by admonishing Mr. Vincy, and had ended by seeing a very unsatisfactory reflection of himself in the coarse unflattering mirror which that manufacturer's mind presented to the subtler lights and shadows of his fellow-men; and perhaps his experience ought to have warned him how the scene would end.
Wow...it seemed Fred would not get his letter, but Mr. Vincy has his ways.  All he needs to do is to imply sisterly wrath.

CHAPTER XIV "Follows here the strict receipt For that sauce to dainty meat, Named Idleness, which many eat By preference, and call it sweet: First watch for morsels, like a hound Mix well with buffets, stir them round With good thick oil of flatteries, And froth with mean self-lauding lies. Serve warm: the vessels you must choose To keep it in are dead men's shoes."

"Your friends would dislike it, and so would mine. My father would think it a disgrace to me if I accepted a man who got into debt, and would not work!" Fred was stung, and released her hand. She walked to the door, but there she turned and said: "Fred, you have always been so good, so generous to me. I am not ungrateful. But never speak to me in that way again." "Very well," said Fred, sulkily, taking up his hat and whip. His complexion showed patches of pale pink and dead white. Like many a plucked idle young gentleman, he was thoroughly in love, and with a plain girl, who had no money! But having Mr. Featherstone's land in the background, and a persuasion that, let Mary say what she would, she really did care for him, Fred was not utterly in despair.
Poor Fred, declares his love, and this is what he gets.  Is Mary so devoid of feeling, so practical?  Or does she challenge Fred to do better than gamble and fritter time away?

CHAPTER XV "Black eyes you have left, you say, Blue eyes fail to draw you; Yet you seem more rapt to-day, Than of old we saw you. "Oh, I track the fairest fair Through new haunts of pleasure; Footprints here and echoes there Guide me to my treasure: "Lo! she turns--immortal youth Wrought to mortal stature, Fresh as starlight's aged truth-- Many-named Nature!"

Lydgate's spots of commonness lay in the complexion of his prejudices, which, in spite of noble intention and sympathy, were half of them such as are found in ordinary men of the world: that distinction of mind which belonged to his intellectual ardor, did not penetrate his feeling and judgment about furniture, or women, or the desirability of its being known (without his telling) that he was better born than other country surgeons.
Lydgate is ambitious, and hopes to better his position through his work as a doctor, right? Nothing else holds his interest longer, not even a beautiful woman.

He had two selves within him apparently, and they must learn to accommodate each other and bear reciprocal impediments. Strange, that some of us, with quick alternate vision, see beyond our infatuations, and even while we rave on the heights, behold the wide plain where our persistent self pauses and awaits us.
What he had was a young love that turned out to be not so worthy of his attention.  I think of it as an inoculation, and he perhaps is now immune to foolish love.  Is he also immune to worthy love?  Would love fit in his life now?

CHAPTER XVI "All that in woman is adored In thy fair self I find-- For the whole sex can but afford The handsome and the kind." --SIR CHARLES SEDLEY.

It was the pleasantest family party that Lydgate had seen since he came to Middlemarch. The Vincys had the readiness to enjoy, the rejection of all anxiety, and the belief in life as a merry lot, which made a house exceptional in most county towns at that time, when Evangelicalism had cast a certain suspicion as of plague-infection over the few amusements which survived in the provinces. At the Vincys' there was always whist, and the card-tables stood ready now, making some of the company secretly impatient of the music.
Yet, Dr. Lydgate tried several times to leave, having a greater interest in the samples of science. He is not wooed by the invitations of the ladies to stay with their amusements.
He thought of Rosamond and her music only in the second place; and though, when her turn came, he dwelt on the image of her for the rest of his walk, he felt no agitation, and had no sense that any new current had set into his life.

He is so focused on his objectives that a possible love barely penetrates his mind and heart.
Our passions do not live apart in locked chambers, but, dressed in their small wardrobe of notions, bring their provisions to a common table and mess together, feeding out of the common store according to their appetite. Rosamond, in fact, was entirely occupied not exactly with Tertius Lydgate as he was in himself, but with his relation to her; and it was excusable in a girl who was accustomed to hear that all young men might, could, would be, or actually were in love with her, to believe at once that Lydgate could be no exception.
Who we love depends on our experiences and our position in society.  It was clear Rosamond was predisposed to falling in love with an outsider.  Everyone she'd known all her life was too familiar, and too clearly already conquests.  She sought an Other, and found him in Dr. Lydgate, and her fantasy is what she saw in him, not him necessarily.

CHAPTER XVII "The clerkly person smiled and said Promise was a pretty maid, But being poor she died unwed."
Who?  Who will die unwed?  Miss Noble?  Who is Miss Noble?  I need a character guide. Ahh, Mrs. Farebrother's sister.  That would make her the Vicar's aunt.  Indeed, she must be an older spinster. 

Meanwhile tiny Miss Noble carried on her arm a small basket, into which she diverted a bit of sugar, which she had first dropped in her saucer as if by mistake; looking round furtively afterwards, and reverting to her teacup with a small innocent noise as of a tiny timid quadruped. ... Perhaps she was conscious of being tempted to steal from those who had much that she might give to those who had nothing, and carried in her conscience the guilt of that repressed desire.
This struck me as so psychologically astute.  I conferred with my co-worker with the History major.  Yes, William James came after this. This was first published in 1871. William James published The Principles of Psychology in 1890.

So much politics among clergy: Tyke would withhold coal from his parishioners if they went to Farebrother. Farebrother either seems to be above it, or does his politicking by being amiable.

Ah, but he is amiable for another reason perhaps:
The Vicar's frankness seemed not of the repulsive sort that comes from an uneasy consciousness seeking to forestall the judgment of others, but simply the relief of a desire to do with as little pretence as possible. Apparently he was not without a sense that his freedom of speech might seem premature, for he presently said-- "I have not yet told you that I have the advantage of you, Mr. Lydgate, and know you better than you know me. You remember Trawley who shared your apartment at Paris for some time? I was a correspondent of his, and he told me a good deal about you.

Not only is he amenable to bartering scientific treasures, it seems he hopes to get Dr. Lydgate's talents focused on his documents. ...or back to the politicking idea...he's cultivating Lydgate to get his vote for the chaplaincy at the hospital. In the end he honestly says he could use the money, but doesn't expect he'll get the position. To Lydgate he says...
You are a sort of circumnavigator come to settle among us, and will keep up my belief in the antipodes. Now tell me all about them in Paris.
This seems kind of mysterious.  Antipodes --> polarities?  Why must Farebrother keep up his belief in them? And what about Paris?  Would he know from Lydgate's former roommate about the love affair?  It seems to be he wishes to lighten the mood by saying this. He's recognizing the tug of war over the chaplaincy, and recognizing Dr. Lydgate may be the one who decides the tug of war. 

But somehow I have a feeling there's more to it than this, a foreshadowing.  Dr. Lydgate is the one who can travel around this world of Middlemarch, isn't that right?  He's an outsider, so can be kind of a referee.  He is not really of the poor class, nor is he of the titled class. In a world where the Mrs. Cadwalladers and the Mrs. Farebrothers manipulate the interactions of and negotiations between the classes, Dr. Lydgate can travel freely, being a doctor and a scientist.  And Mr. Farebrother's primary interest in him is as a scientist, perhaps not so much as a decider of his fate. Maybe it means nothing, just that the vicar hopes to have a chance thanks to the doctor and the amiability between them.  Or, hearkening back to the beginning of this Book, Dr. Lydgate can be a circumnavigator because he has no stake.  He hasn't found any great talents, is hardly affected by the charms of the local beauty, and only cares about his work and having the funds to carry it out.

No comments: