Dorothea Brooks, a pious young woman, lives with her younger sister and uncle at Tipton Grange. She thinks she is in love with a deeply intellectual older man, Casaubon. After marrying him, she discovers he is not what she wanted nor is the marriage, but it is what she has. Her husband's second cousin, Ladislaw, visits them on their honeymoon trip, innocently prompting jealousy in the older man. Casaubon adds a codicil to his will that requires his young widow to relinquish the substantial money and property he will leave her should she marry Ladislaw at anytime after his death. He dies soon after.
Rosamond Vincy is taken with the new young doctor, Lydgate, who thinks he does not yet have the right to marry because he hasn't made his fortune. He had been studying innovations in medicine in Paris, and has come to Middlemarch to head the new fever hospital (an unpaid position) and attempt to build the practice he has bought. She marries him, and manages to spend them into debt. Instead of being supportive when their debts come due, she keeps her thoughts to herself. She seeks separation-.-first from their problems and then from her husband.
It is the widowed Dorothea, after, accidentally finding Rosamond unchaperoned with Ladislaw, who explains to her that Rosamond and Lydgate must talk with each other and endure their problems together. Unbeknownst to Dorothea, Rosamond has fantasies concerning Ladislaw as her resource. Dorothea thinks that Ladislaw prefers Rosamond. Dorothea did not hear him say she is the only woman he loves when she came upon them together, alone, in Lydgate's home.
Fred Vincy has failed his exams rather than graduate and be forced to become a member of the clergy by his father. Mary explains that she would not marry him if he became a clergyman when he didn't want to. She also would not marry a man devoted to gambling and hunting. He'd already asked Caleb, Mary's father, to co-sign a loan to pay a gambling debt. He lost the money to repay the loan on a bad horse trade Mary could not have such irresponsibility in a husband, and she is very upset that her father must now repay Fred's gambling debt. After an illness, much angst, and a return to school for his degree, Fred realizes he would like to do what Mary's father does-manage estates-and he works with Caleb, learning the trade.
Ladislaw has come to Middlemarch to be near Dorothea. While respectful of her marriage to his second cousin (who had been supporting him as a familial duty), he was falling in love with her. Her husband had ordered her not to invite him to their home, but her uncle-Brooke-hired him to help at Tipton Grange and they did run into each other. Ladislaw hears of the codicil to Casaubon's will and vows to leave Dorothea in peace. It takes him over two months to actually leave. He later returns. After being found by Dorothea with his hands intimately on Rosamond's face, he vows to leave again rather than have Dorothea penniless. She doesn't want that, and tells him. They marry.
Bulstrode, head of the board of directors at the new fever hospital, had been married before to the daughter of a questionable family, which just happened to be Ladislaw's mother's family. Before being married, Bulstrode had hired Raffles to find Ladislaw's mother, who had run away to the stage. He'd done this at Ladislaw's grandmother's request, so that her daughter could inherit the business from her deceased father (Bulstrode's first wife's first husband) before she gave it to Bulstrode upon their marriage. Raffles did find the girl, but Bulstrode managed to suppress this information. Raffles shows up at Stone Court to attempt to gain an income from his estranged stepson, who has just inherited Featherstone's home, but Riggs refuses him. Raffles recognized Bulstrode and renewed his blackmailing of him. Later, Raffles becomes ill and asks to be taken to Bulstrode's home, where Lydgate comes to attend him.
Bulstrode does not follow Lydgate's medical instructions, Raffles dies, and Lydgate is under suspicion until Dorothea clears the matter and his reputation. Lydgate realizes people think the 1,000 pound loan he took from Bulstrode was a bribe to "hush" the murder of Raffles. He accepted a loan from Dorothea to cover the debt and cut all communication with Bulstrode. Caleb, whom Bulstrode had attempted to engage to manage his estate while he fled his disgrace, also refused to have any dealings with Bulstrode.
The Life and Work of George Eliot
George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans in Warwickshire, England, on November 22, 1819, to Robert Evans, Sr., a carpenter turned estate manager, and his second wife, the former Christiana Pearson. Ms. Evans' living siblings were an older half-brother and sister, Robert and Fanny, from her father's first marriage. She also had another older sister and brother, Christinia and Isaac, from the union between her father and mother. Politics, religion, and education were very important to the young Polly, as she was nicknamed. Her schooling began at age four, with a series of boarding schools, which her older siblings attended. Each school was more academically oriented than the last, which was pleasing to the intellectual and unattractive young girl. Her schooling temporarily ended when her mother died of breast cancer. She was brought home to keep house for her father because one of her sisters was already married and the other planned to marry within the year. Ms. Evans was 16 at this time.
Her father allowed her to order any books she chose. When she was 20, Signor Joseph Brezzi was hired to tutor her in German and then Italian. Although she was not at school, with friends such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, the publisher John Blackwood, and Mme. Eugene Bodichon (a champion of unpopular causes), her education continued. In the summer of 1841, after she moved with her father to Coventry, she studied astronomy and geology. She became a Freethinker, which prompted her father to ask her to leave his house. She was also very involved in women's issues and did not see the need for marriage. She had affairs with her neighbor, Charles Bray, despite her friendship with his wife, Cara, and with John Chapman, although she lived in his boarding house along with his wife and mistress. She and her father reconciled, provided that she make a token appearance in church periodically to save the family's reputation. She nursed him for the rest of his life, at the same time studying whatever interested her.
Upon his death, she called herself "Marian" and moved to London. She lived on her small inheritances from her father and aunt and her wages as the (secret) editor for Chapman's Westminster Review. This show of independence caused a further breach in the family. She fell in unrequited love with the confirmed bachelor editor of The Economist, Herbert Spencer, in 1852.
Fairly soon after, she met the love of her life, George Lewes, who was married but felt free to have affairs. His wife broke the terms of their open marriage arrangement by having three children with her lover.
Ms. Evans and Mr. Lewes were forced to go abroad since they were openly living together while not married. He feared she would lose any chance of having writing assignments accepted if they stayed. Back in England by March of 1855, Mr. Lewes took over as her literary agent, a new concept in the literary world. He obtained a legal separation from his wife in retaliation for her having deliberately incurred substantial debt as punishment for his abandoning her. This did not absolve him from responsibility for her debts. Mr. Lewes began to circulate Ms. Evans' manuscripts as having been written by a shy, but talented, friend of his. Ms. Evans realized it was time for her to have a nom de plume. She chose George in tribute to her lover, and Eliot from the name of a place she had seen on a local map in her father's office. Mr. Lewes continued to be aggressive in representing her by introducing new marketing concepts, a royalty system used today, and the kind of advertising commonly and contemporarily referred to as "hype."
It was at their summer house in Surrey that both Mr. Lewes and Ms. Evans met and welcomed John Cross into their lives as a beloved quasi-nephew. Ms. Evans had met John Cross in Rome on April 18, 1869, though she was already acquainted with the Cross family.
George Lewes became seriously ill and died on November 30, 1878. After the end of the mourning period for Mr. Lewes, Ms. Evans proposed to Mr. Cross, despite his being 20 years younger than she. A distraught Mr. Cross, finding no way to refuse, married Ms. Evans at St. George's Church on May 6, 1880. With Mr. Cross's history of mental illness and suicide attempts, this was not an easy marriage for the few months it endured.
Marian Evans Lewes Cross died of acute laryngitis on December 22, 1880 and was buried beside George Lewes.
Estimated Reading Time
Middlemarch will take approximately 26 hours to read. The book may easily be broken into the parts designated by the author. The Prelude and Book One will take approximately three and a half hours to read; Book Two-three hours; Book Three-two hours; Book Four-three and a half hours; Book Five-four hours; Book Six-three and a half hours; Book Seven-three and a half hours; and Book Eight and the Finale-three hours.
Each person reading the book will find some sections more interesting than others and will choose to spend more time on them. The original was printed in several issues of a magazine, and the book was not designed to be read in one marathon session. Do not allow the length of time necessary to read the book to diminish your enjoyment of the novel.
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Considered Eliot’s masterpiece, Middlemarch develops a complex web of relationships in a provincial community shortly before the 1832 Reform Bill. The author’s perspective from 1871 suggests that the hoped-for results from that legislation have not been achieved, just as the youthful hopes of her characters are not fully realized, perhaps for similar reasons lying with human limitations beyond correction by legislation.
Dorothea Brooke, a young heiress, is compared to Saint Theresa of Avila, whose “passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life” and found it in reforming a religious order. For Dorothea, however, a “later-born” Theresa, philanthropic aspirations are “helped by no coherent social...
(The entire section is 837 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Dorothea Brooke and her younger sister, Celia, are young women of good birth who live with their bachelor uncle at Tipton Grange near the town of Middlemarch. So serious is Dorothea’s cast of mind that she is reluctant to keep jewelry she had inherited from her dead mother, and she gives all of it to her sister except a ring and a bracelet.
At a dinner party where the middle-aged scholar Edward Casaubon and Sir James Chettam both vie for her attention, she is much more attracted to the serious-minded Casaubon. Casaubon must have had an inkling that his chances with Dorothea were good; for he seeks her out the next morning. Celia, who does not like his complexion or his moles, escapes to other interests.
(The entire section is 1583 words.)
Chapter Summary and Analysis
Prelude and Book One: Miss Brooke
Prelude and Chapters 1-6
New Characters: Dorothea: 20-year-old, serious, studious, religious older sister of Celia and niece of Brooke, in whose home, Tipton Grange, both girls live
Celia: the younger, more fun-loving sister of Dorothea and niece of Brooke
Brooke: the 60-year-old uncle of both Dorothea and Celia, who brought the girls to live with him when their mother died a year ago, is considering running for Parliament
Casaubon: a 47-year-old scholar who lives in Lowick Manor and has been Brooke's friend for about ten years
Chettam: the young baronet who loves Dorothea, not realizing she does not return his love, living at Freshitt Hall
(The entire section is 804 words.)
Chapters 7-12 Summary and Analysis
New Characters: Ladislaw: Casaubon's second cousin via his mother's sister, visiting from journeys abroad to study art, financed by Casaubon
Lydgate: newly arrived from studying medicine in Paris, he has
bought Peacock's medical practice and is to be the medical superintendent of the new fever hospital
Rosamond: Fred's sister who has declined to nurse her dying uncle and would prefer to marry someone who is not from Middlemarch
Fred: Rosamond's playboy brother who is the favorite nephew of the rich and dying Featherstone
Vincy: a manufacturer and the mayor of Middlemarch who is the father of Fred, Bob, and Rosamond; Featherstone's brother-in-law through...
(The entire section is 1181 words.)
Book Two: Old and Young Summary and Analysis
Farebrother: a vicar who could become the chaplain of the new hospital
Tyke: Bulstrode's choice for the chaplaincy of the new hospital
Miss Noble: the sister of Farebrother's mother; lives with Farebrother, his mother, and sister Winifred
Madame Laure: the actress who murdered her husband onstage and is the one woman Lydgate has loved in the past
Bulstrode and Lydgate meet at the bank to discuss the new fever hospital. Bulstrode makes it clear to Lydgate that he wants Tyke, not Farebrother, to be its chaplain. Vincy has already arrived to ask Bulstrode for the letter Featherstone wants from Fred. After...
(The entire section is 894 words.)
Chapters 19-22 Summary and Analysis
New Characters: Naumann: Ladislaw's German art teacher and friend, with whom he lives in Rome
Tantripp: Celia and Dorothea's longtime maid, who accompanies Dorothea on her honeymoon
Ladislaw and Naumann come across Dorothea in the Vatican, where Casaubon has just left her. Naumann wants Ladislaw to speak to her about sitting for a portrait, but Ladislaw explains she is on her honeymoon and has just married his second cousin. Naumann insists. Dorothea is upset that Casaubon is not affectionate, and he does not want her to help him with his work. They argued before separating for the day.
Ladislaw visits them when Casaubon is not home. Dorothea entertains him alone. She...
(The entire section is 769 words.)
Book Three: Waiting for Death Summary and Analysis
Ned Plymdale: Rosamond's former suitor
Bambridge: the horse trader to whom Fred is in debt
Mrs. Garth: the educated wife of Caleb, mother of Mary and several other children, who takes in students to earn money for her own son, Alfred's, tuition
Diamond: the horse who lamed himself; Fred, his new owner, is unable to repay the debt for which Caleb co-signed
Wrench: the Vincy family doctor until Lydgate is called in to treat Fred
Caleb: Mrs. Garth's husband, Mary's father, and Featherstone's brother-in-law through Featherstone's marriage to Caleb's now deceased sister; also the co-signer of Fred's loan
(The entire section is 667 words.)
Chapters 29-33 Summary and Analysis
New Characters: Mrs. Plymdale: Ned's mother and Harriet Bulstrode's friend
Trumbull: an auctioneer and second cousin to Featherstone who takes a keen interest in Mary
Dorothea is aiding her husband in his study. He gives her a letter from Ladislaw, which had been enclosed in a letter to him. They have harsh words before she even reads the letter. He ends the dispute by pleading the necessity of returning to his work. Dorothea also returns to her work, leaving the letter unread. Casaubon has some sort of attack and is in danger of fainting. Once he is resting comfortably, Chettam arrives and recommends they send for Lydgate. While happy in his marriage, Chettam still regrets that...
(The entire section is 875 words.)
Book Four: Three Love Problems Summary and Analysis
Rigg: the person who will inherit most of Featherstone's possessions and Stone Court, f he adds the name "Featherstone" to his own name
Sir Lydgate: Lydgate's baronet uncle who Rosamond convinces Lydgate they must visit
Featherstone is buried with a lavish funeral. Cadwallader presides. Dorothea, Mrs. Cadwallader, and the Chettams are at Lowick Manor, where they can watch the funeral train. Casaubon is working, having returned to his scholarly habits despite Lydgate's warnings that they must be moderated. Chettam remarks that most of the attendees are possible legatees, who have come from a distance, rather than neighbors....
(The entire section is 1113 words.)
Chapters 38-42 Summary and Analysis
New Characters: Dagley: one of Brooke's tenants whose son has been found poaching and who insults Brooke
Raffles: Rigg's estranged stepfather
Brooke is thinking of becoming a candidate for Parliament. He has made Ladislaw the editor of the Pioneer, which upsets the Cadwalladers and Chettams. Chettam wants Brooke to ask Caleb, who Brooke dismissed 12 years ago, to return to the management of his property. Chettam will also ask Caleb to manage his estates. When Brooke arrives unexpectedly, Cadwallader gives him a copy of the Trumpet in which Brooke is attacked. Mrs. Cadwallader tries to dissuade Brooke by bringing up the expense of being a candidate, since it is known that Brooke is...
(The entire section is 1095 words.)
Book Five: The Dead Hand Summary and Analysis
Nancy Nash: the patient misdiagnosed by another doctor and successfully treated by Lydgate
Dorothea calls at Lydgate's and finds Ladislaw and Rosamond; Lydgate is at the hospital. Ladislaw is mortified to be found alone with another woman, not realizing Rosamond sees he adores Dorothea. Dorothea wonders why Rosamond entertains another man when her husband is not home. While Dorothea is with Lydgate at the hospital, asking if there is any change in her husband's condition, she agrees to donate handsomely to the new hospital. He tells her of the opposition in the town to helping the hospital because of the dislike for Bulstrode. By telling...
(The entire section is 777 words.)
Chapters 48-53 Summary and Analysis
Sarah Dunkirk Ladislaw: Ladislaw's mother and Bulstrode's secret stepdaughter
Dorothea realizes she cannot please her husband. He has reversed his aversion to having her work with him. Casaubon asks his wife to work with him after dinner. Later, in bed, she reads to him as usual. He complains of discomfort and asks if she will follow his wishes for her should he die. Dorothea pleads to think this over at least until morning. They meet in the library the next morning. She tells him she will join him in the garden with her answer. She can't answer him; he has died in the garden while awaiting her decision. Lydgate is then called to attend her since she has become delirious....
(The entire section is 1182 words.)
Book Six: The Widow and His Wife Summary and Analysis
Captain Lydgate: the third son of Lydgate's baronet uncle, Sir Lydgate
Celia is enthralled with her baby, Arthur, but Dorothea finds she needs to do more than watch his every movement. After three months at Freshitt Hall, she returns permanently to Lowick Manor. Dorothea refuses to accept a companion there. She makes her private peace with her deceased husband and catches glimpses of Ladislaw whenever she can. Ladislaw surprises her by arriving to announce he will be leaving Middlemarch; he is chagrined that she is not disappointed. Misunderstanding his distress, she offers him the miniature of his grandmother. He is perplexed and declares...
(The entire section is 1050 words.)
Chapters 59-62 Summary and Analysis
Rosamond tells Ladislaw not to go to London. Dorothea likes him far more than her fortune. When he demands to know what she is talking about, Rosamond tells Ladislaw about the codicil. He leaves, astonished, declaring he will never marry Dorothea. Unbeknownst to Lydgate, Rosamond has gone to her father for financial aid and been refused. An auction is held locally, to which Trumbull invites Ladislaw. Raffles accosts Ladislaw, asking if his mother was Sarah Dunkirk. Startled, Ladislaw challenges Raffles, who only asks if his parents are still alive.
During an unplanned encounter that evening, Raffles talks of when Ladislaw was small, how much he resembles his father, and wonders aloud why his mother...
(The entire section is 762 words.)
Book Seven: Two Temptations Summary and Analysis
Toller, Minchen, Chichely: Middlemarchers who are opposed to Lydgate's medical practices and position in the new hospital
Standish: lawyer who wrote Featherstone's first wills
Toller, Minchen, and Chichely visit with Farebrother. They discuss Lydgate and his expenses. Farebrother suspects he may be taking opiates. At a New Year's Day party; Farebrother notices Vincy speaks as little as possible to his son-in-law. Rosamond seems to disregard her husband. Farebrother finds a moment to discreetly offer Lydgate help, which only causes Lydgate to privately consider suicide. He now needs 1,000 pounds to settle his debts. He continues...
(The entire section is 949 words.)
Chapters 68-71 Summary and Analysis
Mrs. Abel: Bulstrode's servant at Stone Court who nurses the ill Raffles while Bulstrode sleeps
Hawley: a Middlemarch lawyer who inquires into the rumors about Bulstrode's conduct with Raffles
Hopkins: the undertaker who buried Raffles
Raffles visited Bulstrode. Bulstrode was terrified his wife would overhear Raffles' ranting and raving. He offered Raffles the choice between having money for the rest of his life in return for his silence and disappearance from Middlemarch or having a policeman remove him. If he should tell his tales, Bulstrode swears no one will believe them. Raffles left a richer, sicker man.
As Bulstrode prepares for...
(The entire section is 1023 words.)
Book Eight: Sunset and Sunrise Summary and Analysis
Martha: the Lydgates' maid
At the Chettams' dinner, Dorothea convinces Farebrother and Chettam that they must help her clear Lydgate's name. Celia implores her to listen to Chettam's advice. Lydgate must act for himself. Once having deposited Bulstrode at his home and reassuring Mrs. Bulstrode, Lydgate decides not to tell Rosamond, thinking the matter will soon become evident. The wives in the town discuss not only Bulstrode and Lydgate, but their spouses and not to the benefit of any of them Mrs. Bulstrode, suspecting her husband's illness is not physical, seeks Lydgate, who gives her no satisfaction. Still seeking answers, Mrs. Bulstrode...
(The entire section is 933 words.)
Chapters 81-86 and Finale Summary and Analysis
When Dorothea reaches the Lydgates' home, Dr. Lydgate is still there and tells her he is certain his wife will see her. First, he wants to thank Dorothea for the check. Afraid of having to tell her husband why she declines to see Dorothea, Rosamond joins her in the drawing room, where she sees Dorothea is worn and close to tears. The two women talk and cry together as Dorothea gently explains how the problem was not Lydgate's fault. He did not tell Rosamond for fear of hurting her even more. Dorothea allows Rosamond to see her pain, which serves to begin a friendship between them. Rosamond confesses to Dorothea that she received the wrong impression the day before; Ladislaw was really telling Rosamond he was in...
(The entire section is 808 words.)
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