I have neighbours. Well, actually I have to two seperate sets of neighbours.
One set live in a large yellow brick house with an enormous hedge of trees that cut them off from the road. Practically invisible to the general passerby; their front screen-age is so immense, a battalion from Battlestar Galactica could land on their front lawn, and you would never know.
Unfortunately, the same expense was not considered when creating their side fencing.
I get nothing, except a single lilly-pilly tree to shield me.
I call them The-Loudest-Quietest-People.
This is because they are the single silentest bunch of people I have ever encountered. They shut doors quietly; their car engines purr. Their dogs don’t bark. They are like ghosts.
Except on the semi-rare occasions when they are not. And then it is like having a front-row seat to a drunken orgy that lasts DAYS.
They play loud music.
They watch banal movies on outdoor screens and laugh raucously at all the bits that aren’t funny.
Bottles are thrown. Sometimes people.
It’s a right spectacle. Until it’s not. And then they go back to being the silentest people on earth.
My other set of neighbours have NO screening whatsoever. They have a not-very-large house in the middle of a barren acerage.
They do however, have children.
These children scream. Incessantly. Constantly. About everything. When they are happy, sad, playing, fighting, eating. These children do it all – at the top of their lungs – without ceasing, for hours on end.
I call them the Weird-Screaming-Children-Family.
I sense your interest waning.
Even though I know singular particular habits OF my neighbours; I don’t actually KNOW my neighbours.
I don’t know their names.
I couldn’t substantiate an alibi for them.
I couldn’t even pick them out of a line up.*
But if I lived in Middlemarch?
COMPLETELY different story.
Everyone knows more than they should EVER know about anyone in Middlemarch. Gossip, innuendo, blackmail, infidelity – It’s all there and EVERYONE ends up knowing about it.
People call it small-town charm…but I don’t know…after what’s happened this week in Middlemarch??? Suddenly my non-named neighbours seems a little bit safer…
The unpropitiously entitled book V, The Dead Hand contained a sort of trifle of country life:
- there is the substantial sponge cake:Casaubon, Dorothea with Ladilslaw being that fruity drizzle of sherry.
- Then we have the jelly layer (Lydgate & Rosamond) which has a bit of wobble, but is still standing firm.
- Custard: Mary & Fred – we don’t see a lot of them, but what bits we do see, are (much like the dairy sauce) fairly ordinary, repeatable and vaguely wholesome.
- I’m adding a layer of mousse to this trifle, in the form of the INSANE, fluffy, light, but oh-so-fattening peripheral middle-marchers that add little substance and definitely no style but so much extra weight;
- Top with a layer of cream: Celia & Chettam;
- And throw in some nuts (Raffles and Bulstrode) and you pretty much have a full house.
So what’s happened?
- Ladislaw is now hanging out and about with Lydgate & Rosamond
- Dorothea is thinking about using her living for the new fever hospital.
- Casuabon: still feeling suspicious and resentful of Ladislaw
- There is a massive backstory on Lydgate’s doctoring throughout the village, as told by MULTIPLE points of view.
- We start to see the begining of fracture lines within Rosa-Gate.
- Politics come into play again, with the conservatives afeared of Ladislaws foreigness (a holdover from the French Revolution some 40 years earlier perhaps?)
- Rosamond maybe pregnant, but Celia definitely is – and then by then of the book V, she has had her baby.
- CASAUBON dies!!!!
- Casaubon’s will specifically includes a codicil that if Ladislaw ever marries Dorothea – she will lose all her inheritance…
- Dorothea has to decide who’s going to be vicar of Lowick – it comes down to Tyke (Bulstrode’s man) and Farebrother (whom Lydgate advocates for) – Farebrother gets it….
- Fred Vincy confides to Farebrother that he is in love with Mary Garth and asks him to speak to her on his behalf — SERIOUSLY!!
- Unfortunately, Farebrother may be in love with Mary himself – which presents a whole bundle of awkward..
- Mary DOES love Fred – but won’t marry him the way he is.
- Finally Riggs (who inherited from Featherstone) sold Stone Court to Bulstrode – Raffles runs into Bulstrode and knowing about his rather dodgy former life before he became an upstanding banker-person, decides to black mail him – and it turns out the Bulstrode’s first wife had a daughter named Sarah – who married a Ladislaw — and was actually Will’s Mother.
It’s like a damn soap opera.
Things that stood out:
CASAUBON Dies!!! Not that we weren’t all hoping – but those types usually hang on til the bitter end – not so with Casaubon. Part way through the middle of book V and his goose be cooked.
‘But the silence in her husband’s ear was never more to be broken.’
I am really hoping this will give Dorothea an opportunity to branch out a little – because she is so confined.
‘She longed for work which would be directly beneficent like the sunshine and the rain, and now it appeared that she was to live more and more in a virtual tomb, where there was the apparatus of a ghastly labor producing what would never see the light. Today she had stood at the door of the tomb and seen Will Ladislaw receding into the distant world of warm activity and fellowship—turning his face towards her as he went.’
That paragraph alone makes me want to find a knight somewhere (with or without armour) to give her a helping hand.
Ladislaw and Lydgate are now a bit like besties (possibly the allure of the alliteration of their names was too much to resist) but there is one scene where Ladislaw is lying on the floor in their sitting room, arguing friendly-like with Lydgate, whilst Rosamond looks on, dotingly playing the piano?
Most oddest, platonic friendship ever.
I mean, it’s a little curious…right?
Also something intriguing, is the way inheritance, wills and death all seem to mess up people’s lives in Middlemarch. Featherstone, gives it away and then takes it all back, Fred Vincy misses out, but Rigg gains everything. Casaubon reaches out from beyond the grave (with his “Dead Hand”) to impress his control and will on Dorothea, through the codicil, regardless the inaccuracy of his ideas…
Also, does anyone feel like the whole Fred & Mary thing just keeps going around that round-a-bout? I feel like all we’ve done is watch Fred ask Mary if she will marry him if he’s a clergyman — Mary says no. Fred says he will try something else to be deserving of it — and then doesn’t. And then starts all over again.
And finally, Eliot’s descriptors of expression are amazing, they are so striking and odd, and yet perfectly describe exactly what needs to be enlarged upon.
- Mr Farebrother’s aunt makes ‘tender little beaver-like noises’ when she hears her nephew has been granted the living of Lowick parish (this was also the same time she added ‘an additional lump of sugar into her basket on the strength of the new preferment.’) When I think of her I think:
Miss Prissy all the way…
- When Raffles arrives on the scene to blackmail Bulstrode: ‘This time Mr Raffles’ slow wink and slight protusion of his tongue was worse than a nightmare, because it held the certitude that it was not a nightmare, but a waking misery. Mr Bulstrode felt a shuddering nausea…’
And that last scene?
‘…By three o’clock that day he had taken up his portmanteau at the turnpike and mounted the coach, relieving Mr. Bulstrode’s eyes of an ugly black spot on the landscape at Stone Court, but not relieving him of the dread that the black spot might reappear and become inseparable even from the vision of his hearth.’
So ominous – I can hardly breathe.
Next up: Book VI (only three more to go!) we shall see what comes of all in The Widow & The Wife…
Valancy: Now almost up-to-date and feeling a wee self righteous…
*I’m not exactly sure why I immediately jumped to crime when thinking about either neighbour — but you do know what they say about it always being the quietest-loudest-ones…..lol.
Header Image: portrait of George Eliot: a variation on a theme – mine.
3 thoughts on “Middlemarch Book V, The Dead Hand, (or when you-know-who, finally does you-know-what…)”
Yay! Love your review – laughed out loud with the comparison of Farebrother’s aunt to Miss Prissy!
I loved Book 5, because so much happened. And I’m so curious to see what happens with the Raffles/Bulstrode thing. That came out of left field! (Yes this is a reread for me but I remember NOTHING about that plotline for some reason. Probably all the drinking I did in college when I first read it.)
I’ve just started Book 6 and so far it is not nearly as momentous as Book 5. But we shall see!
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How unexpected was that whole Bulstrode-blackmail thing???
And that fact that Ladislaw is related to Bulstrode — if his first wife’s daughter was Ladislaw’s mother – that would make him a grandfather??? So why did Casuabon end up looking after him? The teeny-tiny world they live in – it has so many questions!
And you are right — Book VI does seem a wee anti-climatic after all that! Fingers crossed it jumps up in the plot-stakes…
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