(The #Marchalong continues! Many thanks to Juhi from Nooks and Crannies for hosting the Middlemarch readalong and giving me an excuse to reread this marvelous book!)
So here I am, about a third of the way through Middlemarch! I flew through Book Three – it has been the fastest moving section so far. This was a juicy 80 pages. Fred Vincy confesses his inability to pay back his debts to the Garths and becomes gravely ill. Dorothea and Causabon, back from the honeymoon, quarrel about the possibility of Ladislaw’s visit, and shortly thereafter Causabon has some sort of attack (stroke? heart attack? I wasn’t sure.) Rosamund and Lydgate fall in love (or lust, or something, anyway) and get engaged! And let’s not forget the circus surrounding Peter Featherstone’s impending death – what a bunch of vultures his family members are!
I find myself empathizing with just about every major player in this portion of the novel, which is a credit to Eliot’s tremendous compassion for her characters. I felt deeply sorry for Mary Garth when she discovered how selfish and cavalier Fred Vincy had been with the money he borrowed from her father. She is wounded by his stupidity, yet she retains a generous spirit with him, exhorting him to be better.
“How can you bear to be so contemptible, when others are working and striving, and there are so many things to be done – how can you bear to be fit for nothing in the world that is useful? And with so much good in your disposition, Fred – you might be worth a great deal.”
I was glad when Dorothea stood up for herself when Causabon dismissively tells her he doesn’t want Ladislaw to come for a visit. With her eyes flashing she blasts Causabon with indignation (and built up frustration, no doubt.)
“Why do you attribute to me a wish for anything that would annoy you? You speak to me as if I were something you had to contend against. Wait at least till I appear to consult my own pleasure apart from yours.”
I was pretty pissed at Causabon when he shut down the discussion shortly thereafter. Yet I knew Dorothea would feel guilty about her outburst after he had his attack.
And I feel sympathy for Lydgate and Rosamund. It’s as if they’re trying to build a marriage based on the absolute flimsiest, shakiest ground possible. Rosamund is like, “Everyone’s talking about me flirting with Lydgate, and now I look like a fool, because he’s not really that into me, and I want to be a wife, which is the highest aspiration for my pitiful (yet true to the time) excuse for an education!” Lydgate, Mr. I’m-Not-Gonna-Get-Married-For-Five-Years-At-Least, is all like, “Oh wow, Rosamund is such a pretty, wounded bird! She feels so much for me! I must fall in love with her now in return!” These two idiots! They’re sort of insufferable, but at the same time, I feel sorry for them. They seem to be stuck in this predetermined play, acting their parts, surely heading for disaster.
Now onto Book Four! Mr. Brooke has invited Ladislaw to come visit him (I can’t wait to see what Dorothea thinks of that.) What’s going to happen to Peter Featherstone’s money? Is Rosamund going to be a Bridezilla now that she’s engaged to Lydgate? I’ll leave you with what I thought was the funniest quotation of the section (referencing Mary Garth’s mother:) “Looking at the mother, you might hope that the daughter would become like her, which is a prospective advantage equal to a dowry – the mother too often standing behind the daughter like a malignant prophecy – ‘Such as I am, she will shortly be.'”