Thanks be to Juhi of Nooks & Crannies, for starting this read-a-long and keeping me on track (almost!) even when I don’t feel like it…
ETA: WHAT THE EFF??? My belaboured, late and much-sweated-over post literally disappeared overnight. GRRR. I have replaced…mostly – but my initial love and trust in wordpress – she has been crushed underneath the tyrant’s sandal. sigh.
So very late…BUT for those of you middling along with us marchers…
We are now at mid point. The ABUNDANCE of characters have levelled off and whilst there are all sorts of THINGS happening, we have settled into three main storylines. (a bit of a relief really, I am not sure my character map could fit much more in…)
Coincidentally enough, these three problems ARE Love Problems, hence, the title.
The thing is though, these three overarching love problems are hiding a multitude of smaller problems. They pile upon each other, scrambling for purchase and poking up their less-than-attractive heads in the most inconvenient way.
One thing leads to another; is sublimated by another; is caused, or forced or tipped over the edge by another. The solutions seem so easy to point out too…at least at first, but the more involved the stories get, the more complicated they become; the more difficult it is to hew a way out of the darkly rampant narrative-forest.
It’s like watching a very intricate game of chess played by only one person. Who are we supposed to be rooting for? Black or white? Casuabon or Dorothea? Ladislaw or Casuabon? Brooke or Chettam? Vincy or Rigg?
(HA! See? I also threw in another character there!)
I don’t know. All I can say, is that in chess, the Queen is the power supreme, and in Middlemarch, that Queen is Eliot.
So what goes on?
- Featherstone’s funeral. Remember he went toes up last book? Well, he wanted a BIG FANCY funeral filled with all his horrifying relatives. And that is what he gets.
- Also, Featherstone’s will is read. Actually, if we are being accurate, both of his wills are read. The first where he gives away his estate in a respectable (if slightly miserly) manner; and the second where he basically stamps all over their faces and gives it all to Joshua Rigg
- Ladislaw is now ensconced at the Grange with Mr Brooke.
- Casaubon has developed a seething resentment of Ladislaw
- Celia MARRIED Chettam (YAY!)
- Lydgate, engaged to Rosamond, decides to speed up the walk down the isle to only 6 weeks away, and Rosamond scrambles to get everything ready.
- We learn that the old King (George IV) has died and elections are imminent; and politics suddenly become the order of the day, with Brooke wanting to throw his hat in, and buying up newspapers. He puts Ladislaw in as newspaper editor (a nice touch I thought)
- There is a rather nasty exchange of letters between Casaubon and Ladislaw, as Casuabon wants Will to leave Middlemarch and Will is like – NOPE.
- Salvation (in its monetary form) arrives in the nick of time for the Garth family, so Mary DOESN’T have to move to York and teach in an unfriendly girl’s school (*big sigh of relief*)
- We are finally introduced to Joshua Rigg (heir to Featherstone’s estate) and Raffles (a thoroughly unpleasant individual
- Casaubon beset with resentment for Ladislaw, and suspicious of Dorothea, contemplates rewriting his will incase he dies suddenly (we live in hope…)
For a relatively short book, Eliot packs a huge amount of machinations in.
But do you know what is often more interesting than what Eliot writes about? It’s what she leaves out. And what does she leave out?
It intrigues me and the nerdy-nosy part of me wants to know why?
* Dorothea & Casaubon are just suddenly on their honeymoon.
* Celia and Sir James are just married, the wedding isn’t even mentioned – there they are, Celia as Lady Chettam.
* Right at the end of Book IV, Lydgate is MARRIED. There is such a to-do about speeding it up and getting everything ready, and then: nothing. Just a sentence at the beginning of chapter 42: ‘Lydgate, soon after his return from his wedding journey.’
Additionally, there is this attempt (at least it feels like an attempt) to create some understanding and sympathy for Casuabon’s character.
‘His antipathy to Will did not spring from the common jealousy of a winter-worn husband: it was something deeper, bred by his lifelong claims and discontents…’
He thinks Ladislaw has ‘undeclared motives’ in regards to Dorothea.
I know – I should probably give him a chance – but really, I am waiting for him to die. And I KNOW that is callous – but that is way I roll.
The sadness between Dorothea and Will SLAYS me though. I read and I silently cry:
‘Will followed her only with his eyes and said, “I presume you know that Mr. Casaubon has forbidden me to go to his house.”
“No, I did not,” said Dorothea, after a moment’s pause. She was evidently much moved. “I am very, very sorry,” she added, mournfully.’
“It is better for us not to speak on the subject,” she said, with a tremulousness not common in her voice, “since you and Mr. Casaubon disagree. You intend to remain?” She was looking out on the lawn, with melancholy meditation.
“Yes; but I shall hardly ever see you now,” said Will, in a tone of almost boyish complaint.
“No,” said Dorothea, turning her eyes full upon him, “hardly ever. But I shall hear of you. I shall know what you are doing for my uncle.”
“I shall know hardly anything about you,” said Will. “No one will tell me anything.”
And I love the way the story wends its way around the gossip: we know who Will is, and half of the town knows who Will is, but there they are, gossiping about this ‘Ladislaw fellow’, who could be a foreigner, who is taking over the newspaper…
There are disparate stories and bits and pieces of gossip everywhere. However inaccurate, gossip is mostly definitely the life-blood of Middlemarch…
Also, I was completely ready to be hating on Riggs. He stole Fred Vincy’s chance of money, debt-free-ness and possible ability to marry Mary Garth, (I’ve always had a soft spot for a bounder), but that scene between Riggs and Raffles?
It was SO GOOD and Riggs was so blunt and articulate and GAH – he SLAYED him!
“Have you done?” said Mr. Rigg, quietly, without looking away from the window.
“Yes, I’ve done,” said Raffles, taking hold of his hat which stood before him on the table, and giving it a sort of oratorical push.
“Then just listen to me. The more you say anything, the less I shall believe it. The more you want me to do a thing, the more reason I shall have for never doing it. Do you think I mean to forget your kicking me when I was a lad, and eating all the best victual away from me and my mother? Do you think I forget your always coming home to sell and pocket everything, and going off again leaving us in the lurch? I should be glad to see you whipped at the cart-tail. My mother was a fool to you: she’d no right to give me a father-in-law, and she’s been punished for it. She shall have her weekly allowance paid and no more: and that shall be stopped if you dare to come on to these premises again, or to come into this country after me again. The next time you show yourself inside the gates here, you shall be driven off with the dogs and the wagoner’s whip.”
Well we discovered right at the end, that Featherstone asked Mary to destroy a version of his will. And she refused (for various semi-valid reasons). That version turned out to be the one that left NOTHING to Fred. So, if she HAD destroyed as requested, Rigg wouldn’t have got everything and Fred wouldn’t be destitute. Mary in an awkward way is now responsible for Fred being poor and left with nothing.
Ain’t that a kick in the pants?
So what next???
Well, Book V is entitled The Dead Hand – ominous incarnate no??? What in the world is going to happen????
We shall see.
Valancy: running late, for her date, (the white rabbit knows all about it…) but still marching with the middlers.
Header Image: portrait of George Eliot: a variation on a theme – mine. 😉