Part 4 out of 18
on the earth among neighbors who perhaps thought much more of his
gait and his garments than of anything which was to give him
a title to everlasting fame: each of them had his little local
personal history sprinkled with small temptations and sordid cares,
which made the retarding friction of his course towards final
companionship with the immortals. Lydgate was not blind to the
dangers of such friction, but he had plenty of confidence in his
resolution to avoid it as far as possible: being seven-and-twenty,
he felt himself experienced. And he was not going to have his
vanities provoked by contact with the showy worldly successes
of the capital, but to live among people who could hold no rivalry
with that pursuit of a great idea which was to be a twin object
with the assiduous practice of his profession. There was fascination
in the hope that the two purposes would illuminate each other:
the careful observation and inference which was his daily work,
the use of the lens to further his judgment in special cases,
would further his thought as an instrument of larger inquiry.
Was not this the typical pre-eminence of his profession? He would
be a good Middlemarch doctor, and by that very means keep himself
in the track of far-reaching investigation. On one point he may
fairly claim approval at this particular stage of his career:
he did not mean to imitate those philanthropic models who make
a profit out of poisonous pickles to support themselves while they
are exposing adulteration, or hold shares in a gambling-hell that
they may have leisure to represent the cause of public morality.
He intended to begin in his own case some particular reforms which
were quite certainly within his reach, and much less of a problem
than the demonstrating of an anatomical conception. One of these
reforms was to act stoutly on the strength of a recent legal decision,
and simply prescribe, without dispensing drugs or taking percentage
from druggists. This was an innovation for one who had chosen
to adopt the style of general practitioner in a country town,
and would be felt as offensive criticism by his professional brethren.
But Lydgate meant to innovate in his treatment also, and he was wise
enough to see that the best security for his practising honestly
according to his belief was to get rid of systematic temptations
to the contrary.
Perhaps that was a more cheerful time for observers and theorizers
than the present; we are apt to think it the finest era of the world
when America was beginning to be discovered, when a bold sailor,
even if he were wrecked, might alight on a new kingdom; and about 1829
the dark territories of Pathology were a fine America for a spirited
young adventurer. Lydgate was ambitious above all to contribute
towards enlarging the scientific, rational basis of his profession.
The more he became interested in special questions of disease,
such as the nature of fever or fevers, the more keenly he felt the
need for that fundamental knowledge of structure which just at the
beginning of the century had been illuminated by the brief and glorious
career of Bichat, who died when he was only one-and-thirty, but,
like another Alexander, left a realm large enough for many heirs.
That great Frenchman first carried out the conception that living bodies,
fundamentally considered, are not associations of organs which can be
understood by studying them first apart, and then as it were federally;
but must be regarded as consisting of certain primary webs or tissues,
out of which the various organs--brain, heart, lungs, and so on--
are compacted, as the various accommodations of a house are built up
in various proportions of wood, iron, stone, brick, zinc, and the rest,
each material having its peculiar composition and proportions.
No man, one sees, can understand and estimate the entire structure
or its parts--what are its frailties and what its repairs, without
knowing the nature of the materials. And the conception wrought
out by Bichat, with his detailed study of the different tissues,
acted necessarily on medical questions as the turning of gas-light
would act on a dim, oil-lit street, showing new connections
and hitherto hidden facts of structure which must be taken into
account in considering the symptoms of maladies and the action
of medicaments. But results which depend on human conscience and
intelligence work slowly, and now at the end of 1829, most medical
practice was still strutting or shambling along the old paths,
and there was still scientific work to be done which might have
seemed to be a direct sequence of Bichat's. This great seer did
not go beyond the consideration of the tissues as ultimate facts
in the living organism, marking the limit of anatomical analysis;
but it was open to another mind to say, have not these structures
some common basis from which they have all started, as your sarsnet,
gauze, net, satin, and velvet from the raw cocoon? Here would be
another light, as of oxy-hydrogen, showing the very grain of things,
and revising all former explanations. Of this sequence to Bichat's
work, already vibrating along many currents of the European mind,
Lydgate was enamoured; he longed to demonstrate the more intimate
relations of living structure, and help to define men's thought more
accurately after the true order. The work had not yet been done,
but only prepared for those who knew how to use the preparation.
What was the primitive tissue? In that way Lydgate put the question--
not quite in the way required by the awaiting answer; but such
missing of the right word befalls many seekers. And he counted on
quiet intervals to be watchfully seized, for taking up the threads
of investigation--on many hints to be won from diligent application,
not only of the scalpel, but of the microscope, which research
had begun to use again with new enthusiasm of reliance. Such was
Lydgate's plan of his future: to do good small work for Middlemarch,
and great work for the world.
He was certainly a happy fellow at this time: to be seven-and-twenty,
without any fixed vices, with a generous resolution that his
action should be beneficent, and with ideas in his brain that made
life interesting quite apart from the cultus of horseflesh
and other mystic rites of costly observance, which the eight
hundred pounds left him after buying his practice would certainly
not have gone far in paying for. He was at a starting-point
which makes many a man's career a fine subject for betting,
if there were any gentlemen given to that amusement who could
appreciate the complicated probabilities of an arduous purpose,
with all the possible thwartings and furtherings of circumstance,
all the niceties of inward balance, by which a man swims and makes
his point or else is carried headlong. The risk would remain
even with close knowledge of Lydgate's character; for character
too is a process and an unfolding. The man was still in the making,
as much as the Middlemarch doctor and immortal discoverer, and there
were both virtues and faults capable of shrinking or expanding.
The faults will not, I hope, be a reason for the withdrawal of
your interest in him. Among our valued friends is there not some
one or other who is a little too self-confident and disdainful;
whose distinguished mind is a little spotted with commonness;
who is a little pinched here and protuberant there with native.
prejudices; or whose better energies are liable to lapse down
the wrong channel under the influence of transient solicitations?
All these things might be alleged against Lydgate, but then,
they are the periphrases of a polite preacher, who talks of Adam,
and would not like to mention anything painful to the pew-renters.
The particular faults from which these delicate generalities are
distilled have distinguishable physiognomies, diction, accent,
and grimaces; filling up parts in very various dramas. Our vanities
differ as our noses do: all conceit is not the same conceit,
but varies in correspondence with the minutiae of mental make
in which one of us differs from another. Lydgate's conceit
was of the arrogant sort, never simpering, never impertinent,
but massive in its claims and benevolently contemptuous.
He would do a great deal for noodles, being sorry for them,
and feeling quite sure that they could have no power over him:
he had thought of joining the Saint Simonians when he was in Paris,
in order to turn them against some of their own doctrines.
All his faults were marked by kindred traits, and were those of a
man who had a fine baritone, whose clothes hung well upon him,
and who even in his ordinary gestures had an air of inbred distinction.
Where then lay the spots of commonness? says a young lady enamoured
of that careless grace. How could there be any commonness in a man
so well-bred, so ambitious of social distinction, so generous and unusual
in his views of social duty? As easily as there may be stupidity
in a man of genius if you take him unawares on the wrong subject,
or as many a man who has the best will to advance the social
millennium might be ill-inspired in imagining its lighter pleasures;
unable to go beyond Offenbach's music, or the brilliant punning in the
last burlesque. 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. He did not
mean to think of furniture at present; but whenever he did so it
was to be feared that neither biology nor schemes of reform would
lift him above the vulgarity of feeling that there would be an
incompatibility in his furniture not being of the best.
As to women, he had once already been drawn headlong by impetuous folly,
which he meant to be final, since marriage at some distant period
would of course not be impetuous. For those who want to be
acquainted with Lydgate it will be good to know what was that case
of impetuous folly, for it may stand as an example of the fitful
swerving of passion to which he was prone, together with the
chivalrous kindness which helped to make him morally lovable.
The story can be told without many words. It happened when he
was studying in Paris, and just at the time when, over and above
his other work, he was occupied with some galvanic experiments.
One evening, tired with his experimenting, and not being able
to elicit the facts he needed, he left his frogs and rabbits
to some repose under their trying and mysterious dispensation of
unexplained shocks, and went to finish his evening at the theatre
of the Porte Saint Martin, where there was a melodrama which he
had already seen several times; attracted, not by the ingenious
work of the collaborating authors, but by an actress whose part
it was to stab her lover, mistaking him for the evil-designing
duke of the piece. Lydgate was in love with this actress, as a
man is in love with a woman whom he never expects to speak to.
She was a Provencale, with dark eyes, a Greek profile, and rounded
majestic form, having that sort of beauty which carries a sweet
matronliness even in youth, and her voice was a soft cooing.
She had but lately come to Paris, and bore a virtuous reputation,
her husband acting with her as the unfortunate lover. It was her
acting which was "no better than it should be," but the public
was satisfied. Lydgate's only relaxation now was to go and look
at this woman, just as he might have thrown himself under the
breath of the sweet south on a bank of violets for a while,
without prejudice to his galvanism, to which he would presently return.
But this evening the old drama had a new catastrophe. At the moment
when the heroine was to act the stabbing of her lover, and he
was to fall gracefully, the wife veritably stabbed her husband,
who fell as death willed. A wild shriek pierced the house,
and the Provencale fell swooning: a shriek and a swoon were
demanded by the play, but the swooning too was real this time.
Lydgate leaped and climbed, he hardly knew how, on to the stage,
and was active in help, making the acquaintance of his heroine by
finding a contusion on her head and lifting her gently in his arms.
Paris rang with the story of this death:--was it a murder? Some of
the actress's warmest admirers were inclined to believe in her guilt,
and liked her the better for it (such was the taste of those times);
but Lydgate was not one of these. He vehemently contended for
her innocence, and the remote impersonal passion for her beauty
which he had felt before, had passed now into personal devotion,
and tender thought of her lot. The notion of murder was absurd:
no motive was discoverable, the young couple being understood to dote
on each other; and it was not unprecedented that an accidental
slip of the foot should have brought these grave consequences.
The legal investigation ended in Madame Laure's release.
Lydgate by this time had had many interviews with her, and found
her more and more adorable. She talked little; but that was
an additional charm. She was melancholy, and seemed grateful;
her presence was enough, like that of the evening light.
Lydgate was madly anxious about her affection, and jealous lest
any other man than himself should win it and ask her to marry him.
But instead of reopening her engagement at the Porte Saint Martin,
where she would have been all the more popular for the fatal episode,
she left Paris without warning, forsaking her little court of admirers.
Perhaps no one carried inquiry far except Lydgate, who felt that all
science had come to a stand-still while he imagined the unhappy Laure,
stricken by ever-wandering sorrow, herself wandering, and finding no
faithful comforter. Hidden actresses, however, are not so difficult
to find as some other hidden facts, and it was not long before Lydgate
gathered indications that Laure had taken the route to Lyons.
He found her at last acting with great success at Avignon under
the same name, looking more majestic than ever as a forsaken wife
carrying her child in her arms. He spoke to her after the play,
was received with the usual quietude which seemed to him beautiful
as clear depths of water, and obtained leave to visit her the next day;
when he was bent on telling her that he adored her, and on asking
her to marry him. He knew that this was like the sudden impulse
of a madman--incongruous even with his habitual foibles. No matter!
It was the one thing which he was resolved to do. 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.
To have approached Laure with any suit that was not reverentially
tender would have been simply a contradiction of his whole feeling
"You have come all the way from Paris to find me?" she said to him
the next day, sitting before him with folded arms, and looking
at him with eyes that seemed to wonder as an untamed ruminating
animal wonders. "Are all Englishmen like that?"
"I came because I could not live without trying to see you.
You are lonely; I love you; I want you to consent to be my wife;
I will wait, but I want you to promise that you will marry me--
no one else."
Laure looked at him in silence with a melancholy radiance from
under her grand eyelids, until he was full of rapturous certainty,
and knelt close to her knees.
"I will tell you something," she said, in her cooing way,
keeping her arms folded. "My foot really slipped."
"I know, I know," said Lydgate, deprecatingly. "It was a fatal accident--
a dreadful stroke of calamity that bound me to you the more."
Again Laure paused a little and then said, slowly, "_I meant
to do it._"
Lydgate, strong man as he was, turned pale and trembled:
moments seemed to pass before he rose and stood at a distance from her.
"There was a secret, then," he said at last, even vehemently.
"He was brutal to you: you hated him."
"No! he wearied me; he was too fond: he would live in Paris,
and not in my country; that was not agreeable to me."
"Great God!" said Lydgate, in a groan of horror. "And you planned
to murder him?"
"I did not plan: it came to me in the play--_I meant to do it._"
Lydgate stood mute, and unconsciously pressed his hat on while he
looked at her. He saw this woman--the first to whom he had given
his young adoration--amid the throng of stupid criminals.
"You are a good young man," she said. "But I do not like husbands.
I will never have another."
Three days afterwards Lydgate was at his galvanism again in his
Paris chambers, believing that illusions were at an end for him.
He was saved from hardening effects by the abundant kindness
of his heart and his belief that human life might be made better.
But he had more reason than ever for trusting his judgment,
now that it was so experienced; and henceforth he would take
a strictly scientific view of woman, entertaining no expectations
but such as were justified beforehand.
No one in Middle march was likely to have such a notion of Lydgate's
past as has here been faintly shadowed, and indeed the respectable
townsfolk there were not more given than mortals generally to any
eager attempt at exactness in the representation to themselves
of what did not come under their own senses. Not only young virgins
of that town, but gray-bearded men also, were often in haste to
conjecture how a new acquaintance might be wrought into their purposes,
contented with very vague knowledge as to the way in which life had
been shaping him for that instrumentality. Middlemarch, in fact,
counted on swallowing Lydgate and assimilating him very comfortably.
"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.
The question whether Mr. Tyke should be appointed as salaried
chaplain to the hospital was an exciting topic to the Middlemarchers;
and Lydgate heard it discussed in a way that threw much light
on the power exercised in the town by Mr. Bulstrode. The banker
was evidently a ruler, but there was an opposition party,
and even among his supporters there were some who allowed it to be
seen that their support was a compromise, and who frankly stated
their impression that the general scheme of things, and especially
the casualties of trade, required you to hold a candle to the devil.
Mr. Bulstrode's power was not due simply to his being a country banker,
who knew the financial secrets of most traders in the town and could
touch the springs of their credit; it was fortified by a beneficence
that was at once ready and severe--ready to confer obligations,
and severe in watching the result. He had gathered, as an industrious
man always at his post, a chief share in administering the town
charities, and his private charities were both minute and abundant.
He would take a great deal of pains about apprenticing Tegg the
shoemaker's son, and he would watch over Tegg's church-going; he would
defend Mrs. Strype the washerwoman against Stubbs's unjust exaction
on the score of her drying-ground, and he would himself-scrutinize
a calumny against Mrs. Strype. His private minor loans were numerous,
but he would inquire strictly into the circumstances both before
and after. In this way a man gathers a domain in his neighbors'
hope and fear as well as gratitude; and power, when once it has
got into that subtle region, propagates itself, spreading out
of all proportion to its external means. It was a principle with
Mr. Bulstrode to gain as much power as possible, that he might use
it for the glory of God. He went through a great deal of spiritual
conflict and inward argument in order to adjust his motives, and make
clear to himself what God's glory required. But, as we have seen,
his motives were not always rightly appreciated. There were many
crass minds in Middlemarch whose reflective scales could only weigh
things in the lump; and they had a strong suspicion that since
Mr. Bulstrode could not enjoy life in their fashion, eating and
drinking so little as he did, and worreting himself about everything,
he must have a sort of vampire's feast in the sense of mastery.
The subject of the chaplaincy came up at Mr. Vincy's table when Lydgate
was dining there, and the family connection with Mr. Bulstrode
did not, he observed, prevent some freedom of remark even on the
part of the host himself, though his reasons against the proposed
arrangement turned entirely on his objection to Mr. Tyke's sermons,
which were all doctrine, and his preference for Mr. Farebrother,
whose sermons were free from that taint. Mr. Vincy liked well enough
the notion of the chaplain's having a salary, supposing it were given
to Farebrother, who was as good a little fellow as ever breathed,
and the best preacher anywhere, and companionable too.
"What line shall you take, then?" said Mr. Chichely, the coroner,
a great coursing comrade of Mr. Vincy's.
"Oh, I'm precious glad I'm not one of the Directors now.
I shall vote for referring the matter to the Directors and the
Medical Board together. I shall roll some of my responsibility
on your shoulders, Doctor," said Mr. Vincy, glancing first at
Dr. Sprague, the senior physician of the town, and then at
Lydgate who sat opposite. "You medical gentlemen must consult
which sort of black draught you will prescribe, eh, Mr. Lydgate?"
"I know little of either," said Lydgate; "but in general,
appointments are apt to be made too much a question of personal liking.
The fittest man for a particular post is not always the best
fellow or the most agreeable. Sometimes, if you wanted to get
a reform, your only way would be to pension off the good fellows
whom everybody is fond of, and put them out of the question."
Dr. Sprague, who was considered the physician of most "weight,"
though Dr. Minchin was usually said to have more "penetration,"
divested his large heavy face of all expression, and looked
at his wine-glass while Lydgate was speaking. Whatever was not
problematical and suspected about this young man--for example,
a certain showiness as to foreign ideas, and a disposition
to unsettle what had been settled and forgotten by his elders--
was positively unwelcome to a physician whose standing had been fixed
thirty years before by a treatise on Meningitis, of which at least
one copy marked "own" was bound in calf. For my part I have some
fellow-feeling with Dr. Sprague: one's self-satisfaction is an
untaxed kind of property which it is very unpleasant to find deprecated.
Lydgate's remark, however, did not meet the sense of the company.
Mr. Vincy said, that if he could have _his_ way, he would not put
disagreeable fellows anywhere.
"Hang your reforms!" said Mr. Chichely. "There's no greater humbug
in the world. You never hear of a reform, but it means some trick
to put in new men. I hope you are not one of the `Lancet's' men,
Mr. Lydgate--wanting to take the coronership out of the hands
of the legal profession: your words appear to point that way."
"I disapprove of Wakley," interposed Dr. Sprague, "no man more:
he is an ill-intentioned fellow, who would sacrifice the
respectability of the profession, which everybody knows depends
on the London Colleges, for the sake of getting some notoriety
for himself. There are men who don't mind about being kicked blue
if they can only get talked about. But Wakley is right sometimes,"
the Doctor added, judicially. "I could mention one or two points
in which Wakley is in the right."
"Oh, well," said Mr. Chichely, "I blame no man for standing up in favor
of his own cloth; but, coming to argument, I should like to know
how a coroner is to judge of evidence if he has not had a legal training?"
"In my opinion," said Lydgate, "legal training only makes a man more
incompetent in questions that require knowledge a of another kind.
People talk about evidence as if it could really be weighed in scales
by a blind Justice. No man can judge what is good evidence on any
particular subject, unless he knows that subject well. A lawyer
is no better than an old woman at a post-mortem examination.
How is he to know the action of a poison? You might as well say
that scanning verse will teach you to scan the potato crops."
"You are aware, I suppose, that it is not the coroner's business
to conduct the post-mortem, but only to take the evidence
of the medical witness?" said Mr. Chichely, with some scorn.
"Who is often almost as ignorant as the coroner himself," said Lydgate.
"Questions of medical jurisprudence ought not to be left to the chance
of decent knowledge in a medical witness, and the coroner ought not
to be a man who will believe that strychnine will destroy the coats
of the stomach if an ignorant practitioner happens to tell him so."
Lydgate had really lost sight of the fact that Mr. Chichely was
his Majesty's coroner, and ended innocently with the question,
"Don't you agree with me, Dr. Sprague?"
"To a certain extent--with regard to populous districts, and in
the metropolis," said the Doctor. "But I hope it will be long before
this part of the country loses the services of my friend Chichely,
even though it might get the best man in our profession to succeed him.
I am sure Vincy will agree with me."
"Yes, yes, give me a coroner who is a good coursing man," said Mr.
Vincy, jovially. "And in my opinion, you're safest with a lawyer.
Nobody can know everything. Most things are `visitation of God.'
And as to poisoning, why, what you want to know is the law. Come,
shall we join the ladies?"
Lydgate's private opinion was that Mr. Chichely might be the
very coroner without bias as to the coats of the stomach, but he
had not meant to be personal. This was one of the difficulties
of moving in good Middlemarch society: it was dangerous to insist
on knowledge as a qualification for any salaried office. Fred Vincy
had called Lydgate a prig, and now Mr. Chichely was inclined
to call him prick-eared; especially when, in the drawing-room,
he seemed to be making himself eminently agreeable to Rosamond,
whom he had easily monopolized in a tete-a-tete, since Mrs. Vincy
herself sat at the tea-table. She resigned no domestic function
to her daughter; and the matron's blooming good-natured face,
with the two volatile pink strings floating from her fine throat,
and her cheery manners to husband and children, was certainly among
the great attractions of the Vincy house--attractions which made
it all the easier to fall in love with the daughter. The tinge
of unpretentious, inoffensive vulgarity in Mrs. Vincy gave more effect
to Rosamond's refinement, which was beyond what Lydgate had expected.
Certainly, small feet and perfectly turned shoulders aid the
impression of refined manners, and the right thing said seems
quite astonishingly right when it is accompanied with exquisite
curves of lip and eyelid. And Rosamond could say the right thing;
for she was clever with that sort of cleverness which catches every
tone except the humorous. Happily she never attempted to joke,
and this perhaps was the most decisive mark of her cleverness.
She and Lydgate readily got into conversation. He regretted
that he had not heard her sing the other day at Stone Court.
The only pleasure he allowed himself during the latter part of his
stay in Paris was to go and hear music.
"You have studied music, probably?" said Rosamond.
"No, I know the notes of many birds, and I know many melodies by ear;
but the music that I don't know at all, and have no notion about,
delights me--affects me. How stupid the world is that it does not
make more use of such a pleasure within its reach!"
"Yes, and you will find Middlemarch very tuneless. There are hardly
any good musicians. I only know two gentlemen who sing at all well."
"I suppose it is the fashion to sing comic songs in a rhythmic way,
leaving you to fancy the tune--very much as if it were tapped on
"Ah, you have heard Mr. Bowyer," said Rosamond, with one of her
rare smiles. "But we are speaking very ill of our neighbors."
Lydgate was almost forgetting that he must carry on the conversation,
in thinking how lovely this creature was, her garment seeming to be made
out of the faintest blue sky, herself so immaculately blond, as if
the petals of some gigantic flower had just opened and disclosed her;
and yet with this infantine blondness showing so much ready,
self-possessed grace. Since he had had the memory of Laure,
Lydgate had lost all taste for large-eyed silence: the divine
cow no longer attracted him, and Rosamond was her very opposite.
But he recalled himself.
"You will let me hear some music to-night, I hope."
"I will let you hear my attempts, if you like," said Rosamond.
"Papa is sure to insist on my singing. But I shall tremble before you,
who have heard the best singers in Paris. I have heard very little:
I have only once been to London. But our organist at St. Peter's
is a good musician, and I go on studying with him."
"Tell me what you saw in London."
"Very little." (A more naive girl would have said, "Oh, everything!"
But Rosamond knew better.) "A few of the ordinary sights, such as raw
country girls are always taken to."
"Do you call yourself a raw country girl?" said Lydgate, looking at
her with an involuntary emphasis of admiration, which made Rosamond
blush with pleasure. But she remained simply serious, turned her long
neck a little, and put up her hand to touch her wondrous hair-plaits--
an habitual gesture with her as pretty as any movements of a
kitten's paw. Not that Rosamond was in the least like a kitten:
she was a sylph caught young and educated at Mrs. Lemon's.
"I assure you my mind is raw," she said immediately; "I pass
at Middlemarch. I am not afraid of talking to our old neighbors.
But I am really afraid of you."
"An accomplished woman almost always knows more than we men,
though her knowledge is of a different sort. I am sure you could
teach me a thousand things--as an exquisite bird could teach a bear
if there were any common language between them. Happily, there is
a common language between women and men, and so the bears can
"Ah, there is Fred beginning to strum! I must go and hinder
him from jarring all your nerves," said Rosamond, moving to the
other side of the room, where Fred having opened the piano,
at his father's desire, that Rosamond might give them some music,
was parenthetically performing "Cherry Ripe!" with one hand. Able men
who have passed their examinations will do these things sometimes,
not less than the plucked Fred.
"Fred, pray defer your practising till to-morrow; you will make
Mr. Lydgate ill," said Rosamond. "He has an ear."
Fred laughed, and went on with his tune to the end.
Rosamond turned to Lydgate, smiling gently, and said, "You perceive,
the bears will not always be taught."
"Now then, Rosy!" said Fred, springing from the stool and twisting
it upward for her, with a hearty expectation of enjoyment.
"Some good rousing tunes first."
Rosamond played admirably. Her master at Mrs. Lemon's school
(close to a county town with a memorable history that had its
relics in church and castle) was one of those excellent musicians
here and there to be found in our provinces, worthy to compare
with many a noted Kapellmeister in a country which offers more
plentiful conditions of musical celebrity. Rosamond, with the
executant's instinct, had seized his manner of playing, and gave
forth his large rendering of noble music with the precision
of an echo. It was almost startling, heard for the first time.
A hidden soul seemed to be flowing forth from Rosamond's fingers;
and so indeed it was, since souls live on in perpetual echoes,
and to all fine expression there goes somewhere an originating activity,
if it be only that of an interpreter. Lydgate was taken possession of,
and began to believe in her as something exceptional. After all,
he thought, one need not be surprised to find the rare conjunctions
of nature under circumstances apparently unfavorable: come where
they may, they always depend on conditions that are not obvious.
He sat looking at her, and did not rise to pay her any compliments,
leaving that to others, now that his admiration was deepened.
Her singing was less remarkable, but also well trained, and sweet
to hear as a chime perfectly in tune. It is true she sang "Meet
me by moonlight," and "I've been roaming"; for mortals must share
the fashions of their time, and none but the ancients can be
always classical. But Rosamond could also sing "Black-eyed Susan"
with effect, or Haydn's canzonets, or "Voi, che sapete,"
or "Batti, batti"--she only wanted to know what her audience liked.
Her father looked round at the company, delighting in their admiration.
Her mother sat, like a Niobe before her troubles, with her youngest
little girl on her lap, softly beating the child's hand up and
down in time to the music. And Fred, notwithstanding his general
scepticism about Rosy, listened to her music with perfect allegiance,
wishing he could do the same thing on his flute. 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. Before it ceased Mr. Farebrother came in--
a handsome, broad-chested but otherwise small man, about forty,
whose black was very threadbare: the brilliancy was all in his
quick gray eyes. He came like a pleasant change in the light,
arresting little Louisa with fatherly nonsense as she was being
led out of the room by Miss Morgan, greeting everybody with some
special word, and seeming to condense more talk into ten minutes
than had been held all through the evening. He claimed from
Lydgate the fulfilment of a promise to come and see him. "I can't
let you off, you know, because I have some beetles to show you.
We collectors feel an interest in every new man till he has seen
all we have to show him."
But soon he swerved to the whist-table, rubbing his hands and saying,
"Come now, let us be serious! Mr. Lydgate? not play? Ah! you are
too young and light for this kind of thing."
Lydgate said to himself that the clergyman whose abilities were so
painful to Mr. Bulstrode, appeared to have found an agreeable resort
in this certainly not erudite household. He could half understand it:
the good-humor, the good looks of elder and younger, and the
provision for passing the time without any labor of intelligence,
might make the house beguiling to people who had no particular
use for their odd hours.
Everything looked blooming and joyous except Miss Morgan,
who was brown, dull, and resigned, and altogether, as Mrs. Vincy
often said, just the sort of person for a governess. Lydgate did
not mean to pay many such visits himself. They were a wretched
waste of the evenings; and now, when he had talked a little
more to Rosamond, he meant to excuse himself and go.
"You will not like us at Middlemarch, I feel sure," she said,
when the whist-players were settled. "We are very stupid, and you
have been used to something quite different."
"I suppose all country towns are pretty much alike," said Lydgate.
"But I have noticed that one always believes one's own town
to be more stupid than any other. I have made up my mind to take
Middlemarch as it comes, and shall be much obliged if the town
will take me in the same way. I have certainly found some charms
in it which are much greater than I had expected."
"You mean the rides towards Tipton and Lowick; every one is pleased
with those," said Rosamond, with simplicity.
"No, I mean something much nearer to me."
Rosamond rose and reached her netting, and then said, "Do you
care about dancing at all? I am not quite sure whether clever
men ever dance."
"I would dance with you if you would allow me."
"Oh!" said Rosamond, with a slight deprecatory laugh. "I was only
going to say that we sometimes have dancing, and I wanted to know
whether you would feel insulted if you were asked to come."
"Not on the condition I mentioned."
After this chat Lydgate thought that he was going, but on moving towards
the whist-tables, he got interested in watching Mr. Farebrother's play,
which was masterly, and also his face, which was a striking mixture
of the shrewd and the mild. At ten o'clock supper was brought in
(such were the customs of Middlemarch) and there was punch-drinking;
but Mr. Farebrother had only a glass of water. He was winning,
but there seemed to be no reason why the renewal of rubbers should end,
and Lydgate at last took his leave.
But as it was not eleven o'clock, he chose to walk in the brisk
air towards the tower of St. Botolph's, Mr. Farebrother's church,
which stood out dark, square, and massive against the starlight.
It was the oldest church in Middlemarch; the living, however, was but
a vicarage worth barely four hundred a-year. Lydgate had heard that,
and he wondered now whether Mr. Farebrother cared about the money
he won at cards; thinking, "He seems a very pleasant fellow,
but Bulstrode may have his good reasons." Many things would be
easier to Lydgate if it should turn out that Mr. Bulstrode was
generally justifiable. "What is his religious doctrine to me, if he
carries some good notions along with it? One must use such brains
as are to be found."
These were actually Lydgate's first meditations as he walked away from
Mr. Vincy's, and on this ground I fear that many ladies will consider
him hardly worthy of their attention. 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 could not marry yet; he wished not to marry for several years;
and therefore he was not ready to entertain the notion of being
in love with a girl whom he happened to admire. He did admire
Rosamond exceedingly; but that madness which had once beset him about
Laure was not, he thought, likely to recur in relation to any other
woman. Certainly, if falling in love had been at all in question,
it would have been quite safe with a creature like this Miss Vincy,
who had just the kind of intelligence one would desire in a woman--
polished, refined, docile, lending itself to finish in all the
delicacies of life, and enshrined in a body which expressed this with
a force of demonstration that excluded the need for other evidence.
Lydgate felt sure that if ever he married, his wife would have
that feminine radiance, that distinctive womanhood which must be
classed with flowers and music, that sort of beauty which by its
very nature was virtuous, being moulded only for pure and delicate joys.
But since he did not mean to marry for the next five years--
his more pressing business was to look into Louis' new book on Fever,
which he was specially interested in, because he had known Louis
in Paris, and had followed many anatomical demonstrations in order
to ascertain the specific differences of typhus and typhoid.
He went home and read far into the smallest hour, bringing a much
more testing vision of details and relations into this pathological
study than he had ever thought it necessary to apply to the
complexities of love and marriage, these being subjects on which he
felt himself amply informed by literature, and that traditional
wisdom which is handed down in the genial conversation of men.
Whereas Fever had obscure conditions, and gave him that delightful
labor of the imagination which is not mere arbitrariness, but the
exercise of disciplined power--combining and constructing with the
clearest eye for probabilities and the fullest obedience to knowledge;
and then, in yet more energetic alliance with impartial Nature,
standing aloof to invent tests by which to try its own work.
Many men have been praised as vividly imaginative on the strength
of their profuseness in indifferent drawing or cheap narration:--
reports of very poor talk going on in distant orbs; or portraits
of Lucifer coming down on his bad errands as a large ugly man
with bat's wings and spurts of phosphorescence; or exaggerations
of wantonness that seem to reflect life in a diseased dream.
But these kinds of inspiration Lydgate regarded as rather vulgar
and vinous compared with the imagination that reveals subtle
actions inaccessible by any sort of lens, but tracked in that outer
darkness through long pathways of necessary sequence by the inward
light which is the last refinement of Energy, capable of bathing
even the ethereal atoms in its ideally illuminated space.
He for his part had tossed away all cheap inventions where ignorance
finds itself able and at ease: he was enamoured of that arduous
invention which is the very eye of research, provisionally framing
its object and correcting it to more and more exactness of relation;
he wanted to pierce the obscurity of those minute processes
which prepare human misery and joy, those invisible thoroughfares
which are the first lurking-places of anguish, mania, and crime,
that delicate poise and transition which determine the growth of happy
or unhappy consciousness.
As he threw down his book, stretched his legs towards the embers
in the grate, and clasped his hands at the back of his head,
in that agreeable afterglow of excitement when thought lapses from
examination of a specific object into a suffusive sense of its
connections with all the rest of our existence--seems, as it were,
to throw itself on its back after vigorous swimming and float
with the repose of unexhausted strength--Lydgate felt a triumphant
delight in his studies, and something like pity for those less
lucky men who were not of his profession.
"If I had not taken that turn when I was a lad," he thought,
"I might have got into some stupid draught-horse work or other,
and lived always in blinkers. I should never have been happy in any
profession that did not call forth the highest intellectual strain,
and yet keep me in good warm contact with my neighbors. There is
nothing like the medical profession for that: one can have the
exclusive scientific life that touches the distance and befriend the
old fogies in the parish too. It is rather harder for a clergyman:
Farebrother seems to be an anomaly."
This last thought brought back the Vincys and all the pictures
of the evening. They floated in his mind agreeably enough,
and as he took up his bed-candle his lips were curled with that
incipient smile which is apt to accompany agreeable recollections.
He was an ardent fellow, but at present his ardor was absorbed in
love of his work and in the ambition of making his life recognized
as a factor in the better life of mankind--like other heroes of
science who had nothing but an obscure country practice to begin with.
Poor Lydgate! or shall I say, Poor Rosamond! Each lived in a world
of which the other knew nothing. It had not occurred to Lydgate
that he had been a subject of eager meditation to Rosamond,
who had neither any reason for throwing her marriage into distant
perspective, nor any pathological studies to divert her mind from
that ruminating habit, that inward repetition of looks, words,
and phrases, which makes a large part in the lives of most girls.
He had not meant to look at her or speak to her with more than
the inevitable amount of admiration and compliment which a man
must give to a beautiful girl; indeed, it seemed to him that his
enjoyment of her music had remained almost silent, for he feared
falling into the rudeness of telling her his great surprise at her
possession of such accomplishment. But Rosamond had registered
every look and word, and estimated them as the opening incidents
of a preconceived romance--incidents which gather value from the
foreseen development and climax. In Rosamond's romance it was not
necessary to imagine much about the inward life of the hero, or of
his serious business in the world: of course, he had a profession
and was clever, as well as sufficiently handsome; but the piquant
fact about Lydgate was his good birth, which distinguished him
from all Middlemarch admirers, and presented marriage as a prospect
of rising in rank and getting a little nearer to that celestial
condition on earth in which she would have nothing to do with
vulgar people, and perhaps at last associate with relatives quite
equal to the county people who looked down on the Middlemarchers.
It was part of Rosamond's cleverness to discern very subtly the
faintest aroma of rank, and once when she had seen the Miss Brookes
accompanying their uncle at the county assizes, and seated among
the aristocracy, she had envied them, notwithstanding their plain dress.
If you think it incredible that to imagine Lydgate as a man of family
could cause thrills of satisfaction which had anything to do with
the sense that she was in love with him, I will ask you to use your
power of comparison a little more effectively, and consider whether
red cloth and epaulets have never had an influence of that sort.
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. His looks
and words meant more to her than other men's, because she cared
more for them: she thought of them diligently, and diligently
attended to that perfection of appearance, behavior, sentiments,
and all other elegancies, which would find in Lydgate a more
adequate admirer than she had yet been conscious of.
For Rosamond, though she would never do anything that was disagreeable
to her, was industrious; and now more than ever she was active in
sketching her landscapes and market-carts and portraits of friends,
in practising her music, and in being from morning till night her
own standard of a perfect lady, having always an audience in her
own consciousness, with sometimes the not unwelcome addition of a more
variable external audience in the numerous visitors of the house.
She found time also to read the best novels, and even the second best,
and she knew much poetry by heart. Her favorite poem was "Lalla Rookh."
"The best girl in the world! He will be a happy fellow who gets her!"
was the sentiment of the elderly gentlemen who visited the Vincys;
and the rejected young men thought of trying again, as is the fashion
in country towns where the horizon is not thick with coming rivals.
But Mrs. Plymdale thought that Rosamond had been educated to a
ridiculous pitch, for what was the use of accomplishments which would
be all laid aside as soon as she was married? While her aunt Bulstrode,
who had a sisterly faithfulness towards her brother's family,
had two sincere wishes for Rosamond--that she might show a more
serious turn of mind, and that she might meet with a husband whose
wealth corresponded to her habits.
"The clerkly person smiled and said
Promise was a pretty maid,
But being poor she died unwed."
The Rev. Camden Farebrother, whom Lydgate went to see the
next evening, lived in an old parsonage, built of stone,
venerable enough to match the church which it looked out upon.
All the furniture too in the house was old, but with another
grade of age--that of Mr. Farebrother's father and grandfather.
There were painted white chairs, with gilding and wreaths on them,
and some lingering red silk damask with slits in it. There were
engraved portraits of Lord Chancellors and other celebrated lawyers
of the last century; and there were old pier-glasses to reflect them,
as well as the little satin-wood tables and the sofas resembling
a prolongation of uneasy chairs, all standing in relief against
the dark wainscot This was the physiognomy of the drawing-room into
which Lydgate was shown; and there were three ladies to receive him,
who were also old-fashioned, and of a faded but genuine respectability:
Mrs. Farebrother, the Vicar's white-haired mother, befrilled and
kerchiefed with dainty cleanliness, up right, quick-eyed, and
still under seventy; Miss Noble, her sister, a tiny old lady
of meeker aspect, with frills and kerchief decidedly more worn
and mended; and Miss Winifred Farebrother, the Vicar's elder sister,
well-looking like himself, but nipped and subdued as single women
are apt to be who spend their lives in uninterrupted subjection
to their elders. Lydgate had not expected to see so quaint a group:
knowing simply that Mr. Farebrother was a bachelor, he had thought
of being ushered into a snuggery where the chief furniture would
probably be books and collections of natural objects. The Vicar
himself seemed to wear rather a changed aspect, as most men do
when acquaintances made elsewhere see them for the first time
in their own homes; some indeed showing like an actor of genial
parts disadvantageously cast for the curmudgeon in a new piece.
This was not the case with Mr. Farebrother: he seemed a trifle milder
and more silent, the chief talker being his mother, while he only put
in a good-humored moderating remark here and there. The old lady
was evidently accustomed to tell her company what they ought to think,
and to regard no subject as quite safe without her steering.
She was afforded leisure for this function by having all her little
wants attended to by Miss Winifred. 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.
Pray think no ill of Miss Noble. That basket held small savings
from her more portable food, destined for the children of her poor
friends among whom she trotted on fine mornings; fostering and
petting all needy creatures being so spontaneous a delight to her,
that she regarded it much as if it had been a pleasant vice that she
was addicted to. 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.
One must be poor to know the luxury of giving!
Mrs. Farebrother welcomed the guest with a lively formality
and precision. She presently informed him that they were not often
in want of medical aid in that house. She had brought up her
children to wear flannel and not to over-eat themselves, which last
habit she considered the chief reason why people needed doctors.
Lydgate pleaded for those whose fathers and mothers had over-eaten
themselves, but Mrs. Farebrother held that view of things dangerous:
Nature was more just than that; it would be easy for any felon
to say that his ancestors ought to have been hanged instead of him.
If those he had bad fathers and mothers were bad themselves, they were
hanged for that. There was no need to go back on what you couldn't see.
"My mother is like old George the Third," said the Vicar,
"she objects to metaphysics."
"I object to what is wrong, Camden. I say, keep hold of a
few plain truths, and make everything square with them. When I was young,
Mr. Lydgate, there never was any question about right and wrong.
We knew our catechism, and that was enough; we learned our creed and
our duty. Every respectable Church person had the same opinions.
But now, if you speak out of the Prayer-book itself, you are liable
to be contradicted."
"That makes rather a pleasant time of it for those who like
to maintain their own point," said Lydgate.
"But my mother always gives way," said the Vicar, slyly.
"No, no, Camden, you must not lead Mr. Lydgate into a mistake about
_me_. I shall never show that disrespect to my parents, to give
up what they taught me. Any one may see what comes of turning.
If you change once, why not twenty times?"
"A man might see good arguments for changing once, and not see
them for changing again," said Lydgate, amused with the decisive
"Excuse me there. If you go upon arguments, they are never wanting,
when a man has no constancy of mind. My father never changed, and he
preached plain moral sermons without arguments, and was a good man--
few better. When you get me a good man made out of arguments,
I will get you a good dinner with reading you the cookery-book. That's
my opinion, and I think anybody's stomach will bear me out."
"About the dinner certainly, mother," said Mr. Farebrother.
"It is the same thing, the dinner or the man. I am nearly seventy,
Mr. Lydgate, and I go upon experience. I am not likely to follow
new lights, though there are plenty of them here as elsewhere.
I say, they came in with the mixed stuffs that will neither wash
nor wear. It was not so in my youth: a Churchman was a Churchman,
and a clergyman, you might be pretty sure, was a gentleman,
if nothing else. But now he may be no better than a Dissenter,
and want to push aside my son on pretence of doctrine. But whoever
may wish to push him aside, I am proud to say, Mr. Lydgate,
that he will compare with any preacher in this kingdom, not to speak
of this town, which is but a low standard to go by; at least,
to my thinking, for I was born and bred at Exeter."
"A mother is never partial," said Mr. Farebrother, smiling.
"What do you think Tyke's mother says about him?"
"Ah, poor creature! what indeed?" said Mrs. Farebrother, her sharpness
blunted for the moment by her confidence in maternal judgments.
"She says the truth to herself, depend upon it."
"And what is the truth?" said Lydgate. "I am curious to know."
"Oh, nothing bad at all," said Mr. Farebrother. "He is a
zealous fellow: not very learned, and not very wise, I think--
because I don't agree with him."
"Why, Camden!" said Miss Winifred, "Griffin and his wife told me
only to-day, that Mr. Tyke said they should have no more coals
if they came to hear you preach."
Mrs. Farebrother laid down her knitting, which she had resumed after
her small allowance of tea and toast, and looked at her son as if to
say "You hear that?" Miss Noble said, "Oh poor things! poor things!"
in reference, probably, to the double loss of preaching and coal.
But the Vicar answered quietly--
"That is because they are not my parishioners. And I don't think
my sermons are worth a load of coals to them."
"Mr. Lydgate," said Mrs. Farebrother, who could not let this pass,
"you don't know my son: he always undervalues himself. I tell
him he is undervaluing the God who made him, and made him a most
"That must be a hint for me to take Mr. Lydgate away to
my study, mother," said the Vicar, laughing. "I promised
to show you my collection," he added, turning to Lydgate; "shall we go?"
All three ladies remonstrated. Mr. Lydgate ought not to be
hurried away without being allowed to accept another cup of tea:
Miss Winifred had abundance of good tea in the pot. Why was Camden
in such haste to take a visitor to his den? There was nothing
but pickled vermin, and drawers full of blue-bottles and moths,
with no carpet on the floor. Mr. Lydgate must excuse it. A game
at cribbage would be far better. In short, it was plain that a vicar
might be adored by his womankind as the king of men and preachers,
and yet be held by them to stand in much need of their direction.
Lydgate, with the usual shallowness of a young bachelor.
wondered that Mr. Farebrother had not taught them better.
"My mother is not used to my having visitors who can take any interest
in my hobbies," said the Vicar, as he opened the door of his study,
which was indeed as bare of luxuries for the body as the ladies
had implied, unless a short porcelain pipe and a tobacco-box were
to be excepted.
"Men of your profession don't generally smoke," he said. Lydgate smiled
and shook his head. "Nor of mine either, properly, I suppose.
You will hear that pipe alleged against me by Bulstrode and Company.
They don't know how pleased the devil would be if I gave it up."
"I understand. You are of an excitable temper and want a sedative.
I am heavier, and should get idle with it. I should rush into idleness,
and stagnate there with all my might."
"And you mean to give it all to your work. I am some ten
or twelve years older than you, and have come to a compromise.
I feed a weakness or two lest they should get clamorous. See,"
continued the Vicar, opening several small drawers, "I fancy I
have made an exhaustive study of the entomology of this district.
I am going on both with the fauna and flora; but I have at least
done my insects well. We are singularly rich in orthoptera:
I don't know whether--Ah! you have got hold of that glass jar--
you are looking into that instead of my drawers. You don't really
care about these things?"
"Not by the side of this lovely anencephalous monster.
I have never had time to give myself much to natural history.
I was early bitten with an interest in structure, and it is what
lies most directly in my profession. I have no hobby besides.
I have the sea to swim in there."
"Ah! you are a happy fellow," said Mr. Farebrother, turning on his
heel and beginning to fill his pipe. "You don't know what it is
to want spiritual tobacco--bad emendations of old texts, or small
items about a variety of Aphis Brassicae, with the well-known
signature of Philomicron, for the `Twaddler's Magazine;' or a learned
treatise on the entomology of the Pentateuch, including all the
insects not mentioned, but probably met with by the Israelites
in their passage through the desert; with a monograph on the Ant,
as treated by Solomon, showing the harmony of the Book of Proverbs
with the results of modern research. You don't mind my fumigating you?"
Lydgate was more surprised at the openness of this talk than at its
implied meaning--that the Vicar felt himself not altogether in the
right vocation. The neat fitting-up of drawers and shelves, and the
bookcase filled with expensive illustrated books on Natural History,
made him think again of the winnings at cards and their destination.
But he was beginning to wish that the very best construction
of everything that Mr. Farebrother did should be the true one.
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.
I was not quite sure when you first came that you were the same man.
I was very glad when I found that you were. Only I don't forget
that you have not had the like prologue about me."
Lydgate divined some delicacy of feeling here, but did not half
understand it. "By the way," he said, "what has become of Trawley?
I have quite lost sight of him. He was hot on the French
social systems, and talked of going to the Backwoods to found
a sort of Pythagorean community. Is he gone?"
"Not at all. He is practising at a German bath, and has married
a rich patient."
"Then my notions wear the best, so far," said Lydgate, with a
short scornful laugh. "He would have it, the medical profession was
an inevitable system of humbug. I said, the fault was in the men--
men who truckle to lies and folly. Instead of preaching against
humbug outside the walls, it might be better to set up a disinfecting
apparatus within. In short--I am reporting my own conversation--
you may be sure I had all the good sense on my side."
"Your scheme is a good deal more difficult to carry out than the
Pythagorean community, though. You have not only got the old Adam
in yourself against you, but you have got all those descendants
of the original Adam who form the society around you. You see,
I have paid twelve or thirteen years more than you for my knowledge
of difficulties. But"--Mr. Farebrother broke off a moment,
and then added, "you are eying that glass vase again. Do you want
to make an exchange? You shall not have it without a fair barter."
"I have some sea-mice--fine specimens--in spirits. And I will
throw in Robert Brown's new thing--`Microscopic Observations
on the Pollen of Plants'--if you don't happen to have it already."
"Why, seeing how you long for the monster, I might ask a higher price.
Suppose I ask you to look through my drawers and agree with me
about all my new species?" The Vicar, while he talked in this way,
alternately moved about with his pipe in his mouth, and returned to hang
rather fondly over his drawers. "That would be good discipline, you know,
for a young doctor who has to please his patients in Middlemarch.
You must learn to be bored, remember. However, you shall have
the monster on your own terms."
"Don't you think men overrate the necessity for humoring everybody's
nonsense, till they get despised by the very fools they humor?"
said Lydgate, moving to Mr. Farebrother's side, and looking rather
absently at the insects ranged in fine gradation, with names subscribed
in exquisite writing. "The shortest way is to make your value felt,
so that people must put up with you whether you flatter them or not."
"With all my heart. But then you must be sure of having the value,
and you must keep yourself independent. Very few men can do that.
Either you slip out of service altogether, and become good for nothing,
or you wear the harness and draw a good deal where your yoke-fellows
pull you. But do look at these delicate orthoptera!"
Lydgate had after all to give some scrutiny to each drawer,
the Vicar laughing at himself, and yet persisting in the exhibition.
"Apropos of what you said about wearing harness," Lydgate began,
after they had sat down, "I made up my mind some time ago to do
with as little of it as possible. That was why I determined not to
try anything in London, for a good many years at least. I didn't
like what I saw when I was studying there--so much empty bigwiggism,
and obstructive trickery. In the country, people have less pretension
to knowledge, and are less of companions, but for that reason they
affect one's amour-propre less: one makes less bad blood,
and can follow one's own course more quietly."
"Yes--well--you have got a good start; you are in the right profession,
the work you feel yourself most fit for. Some people miss that,
and repent too late. But you must not be too sure of keeping
"You mean of family ties?" said Lydgate, conceiving that these
might press rather tightly on Mr. Farebrother.
"Not altogether. Of course they make many things more difficult.
But a good wife--a good unworldly woman--may really help a man,
and keep him more independent. There's a parishioner of mine--
a fine fellow, but who would hardly have pulled through as he has done
without his wife. Do you know the Garths? I think they were not
"No; but there is a Miss Garth at old Featherstone's, at Lowick."
"Their daughter: an excellent girl."
"She is very quiet--I have hardly noticed her."
"She has taken notice of you, though, depend upon it."
"I don't understand," said Lydgate; he could hardly say "Of course."
"Oh, she gauges everybody. I prepared her for confirmation--
she is a favorite of mine."
Mr. Farebrother puffed a few moments in silence, Lydgate not caring
to know more about the Garths. At last the Vicar laid down his pipe,
stretched out his legs, and turned his bright eyes with a smile
towards Lydgate, saying--
"But we Middlemarchers are not so tame as you take us to be.
We have our intrigues and our parties. I am a party man,
for example, and Bulstrode is another. If you vote for me you
will offend Bulstrode."
"What is there against Bulstrode?" said Lydgate, emphatically.
"I did not say there was anything against him except that.
If you vote against him you will make him your enemy."
"I don't know that I need mind about that," said Lydgate,
rather proudly; "but he seems to have good ideas about hospitals,
and he spends large sums on useful public objects. He might help me
a good deal in carrying out my ideas. As to his religious notions--
why, as Voltaire said, incantations will destroy a flock of sheep
if administered with a certain quantity of arsenic. I look for the
man who will bring the arsenic, and don't mind about his incantations."
"Very good. But then you must not offend your arsenic-man. You will
not offend me, you know," said Mr. Farebrother, quite unaffectedly.
"I don't translate my own convenience into other people's duties.
I am opposed to Bulstrode in many ways. I don't like the set
he belongs to: they are a narrow ignorant set, and do more to
make their neighbors uncomfortable than to make them better.
Their system is a sort of worldly-spiritual cliqueism: they really
look on the rest of mankind as a doomed carcass which is to nourish
them for heaven. But," he added, smilingly, "I don't say that
Bulstrode's new hospital is a bad thing; and as to his wanting to oust
me from the old one--why, if he thinks me a mischievous fellow,
he is only returning a compliment. And I am not a model clergyman--
only a decent makeshift."
Lydgate was not at all sure that the Vicar maligned himself.
A model clergyman, like a model doctor, ought to think his own
profession the finest in the world, and take all knowledge as mere
nourishment to his moral pathology and therapeutics. He only said,
"What reason does Bulstrode give for superseding you?"
"That I don't teach his opinions--which he calls spiritual religion;
and that I have no time to spare. Both statements are true.
But then I could make time, and I should be glad of the forty pounds.
That is the plain fact of the case. But let us dismiss it.
I only wanted to tell you that if you vote for your arsenic-man,
you are not to cut me in consequence. I can't spare you.
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
"Oh, sir, the loftiest hopes on earth
Draw lots with meaner hopes: heroic breasts,
Breathing bad air, ran risk of pestilence;
Or, lacking lime-juice when they cross the Line,
May languish with the scurvy."
Some weeks passed after this conversation before the question of the
chaplaincy gathered any practical import for Lydgate, and without telling
himself the reason, he deferred the predetermination on which side he
should give his vote. It would really have been a matter of total
indifference to him--that is to say, he would have taken the more
convenient side, and given his vote for the appointment of Tyke without
any hesitation--if he had not cared personally for Mr. Farebrother.
But his liking for the Vicar of St. Botolph's grew with
growing acquaintanceship. That, entering into Lydgate's position
as a new-comer who had his own professional objects to secure,
Mr. Farebrother should have taken pains rather to warn off than
to obtain his interest, showed an unusual delicacy and generosity,
which Lydgate's nature was keenly alive to. It went along with other
points of conduct in Mr. Farebrother which were exceptionally fine,
and made his character resemble those southern landscapes which seem
divided between natural grandeur and social slovenliness. Very few
men could have been as filial and chivalrous as he was to the mother,
aunt, and sister, whose dependence on him had in many ways shaped
his life rather uneasily for himself; few men who feel the pressure
of small needs are so nobly resolute not to dress up their inevitably
self-interested desires in a pretext of better motives. In these
matters he was conscious that his life would bear the closest scrutiny;
and perhaps the consciousness encouraged a little defiance towards
the critical strictness of persons whose celestial intimacies
seemed not to improve their domestic manners, and whose lofty aims
were not needed to account for their actions. Then, his preaching
was ingenious and pithy, like the preaching of the English Church
in its robust age, and his sermons were delivered without book.
People outside his parish went to hear him; and, since to fill the
church was always the most difficult part of a clergyman's function,
here was another ground for a careless sense of superiority.
Besides, he was a likable man: sweet-tempered, ready-witted, frank,
without grins of suppressed bitterness or other conversational
flavors which make half of us an affliction to our friends.
Lydgate liked him heartily, and wished for his friendship.
With this feeling uppermost, he continued to waive the question
of the chaplaincy, and to persuade himself that it was not only
no proper business of his, but likely enough never to vex him
with a demand for his vote. Lydgate, at Mr. Bulstrode's request,
was laying down plans for the internal arrangements of the new hospital,
and the two were often in consultation. The banker was always
presupposing that he could count in general on Lydgate as a coadjutor,
but made no special recurrence to the coming decision between Tyke
and Farebrother. When the General Board of the Infirmary had met,
however, and Lydgate had notice that the question of the chaplaincy
was thrown on a council of the directors and medical men, to meet
on the following Friday, he had a vexed sense that he must make up
his mind on this trivial Middlemarch business. He could not help
hearing within him the distinct declaration that Bulstrode was
prime minister, and that the Tyke affair was a question of office
or no office; and he could not help an equally pronounced dislike
to giving up the prospect of office. For his observation was
constantly confirming Mr. Farebrother's assurance that the banker
would not overlook opposition. "Confound their petty politics!"
was one of his thoughts for three mornings in the meditative
process of shaving, when he had begun to feel that he must really
hold a court of conscience on this matter. Certainly there were
valid things to be said against the election of Mr. Farebrother:
he had too much on his hands already, especially considering
how much time he spent on non-clerical occupations. Then again
it was a continually repeated shock, disturbing Lydgate's esteem,
that the Vicar should obviously play for the sake of money,
liking the play indeed, but evidently liking some end which it served.
Mr. Farebrother contended on theory for the desirability of all games,
and said that Englishmen's wit was stagnant for want of them;
but Lydgate felt certain that he would have played very much less
but for the money. There was a billiard-room at the Green Dragon,
which some anxious mothers and wives regarded as the chief temptation
in Middlemarch. The Vicar was a first-rate billiard-player, and
though he did not frequent the Green Dragon, there were reports
that he had sometimes been there in the daytime and had won money.
And as to the chaplaincy, he did not pretend that he cared for it,
except for the sake of the forty pounds. Lydgate was no Puritan,
but he did not care for play, and winning money at it had always
seemed a meanness to him; besides, he had an ideal of life which made
this subservience of conduct to the gaining of small sums thoroughly
hateful to him. Hitherto in his own life his wants had been supplied
without any trouble to himself, and his first impulse was always to be
liberal with half-crowns as matters of no importance to a gentleman;
it had never occurred to him to devise a plan for getting half-crowns.
He had always known in a general way that he was not rich, but he
had never felt poor, and he had no power of imagining the part
which the want of money plays in determining the actions of men.
Money had never been a motive to him. Hence he was not ready
to frame excuses for this deliberate pursuit of small gains.
It was altogether repulsive to him, and he never entered into any
calculation of the ratio between the Vicar's income and his more or
less necessary expenditure. It was possible that he would not have
made such a calculation in his own case.
And now, when the question of voting had come, this repulsive fact
told more strongly against Mr. Farebrother than it had done before.
One would know much better what to do if men's characters were
more consistent, and especially if one's friends were invariably fit
for any function they desired to undertake! Lydgate was convinced
that if there had been no valid objection to Mr. Farebrother, he would
have voted for him, whatever Bulstrode might have felt on the subject:
he did not intend to be a vassal of Bulstrode's. On the other hand,
there was Tyke, a man entirely given to his clerical office, who was
simply curate at a chapel of ease in St. Peter's parish, and had
time for extra duty. Nobody had anything to say against Mr. Tyke,
except that they could not bear him, and suspected him of cant.
Really, from his point of view, Bulstrode was thoroughly justified.
But whichever way Lydgate began to incline, there was something
to make him wince; and being a proud man, he was a little
exasperated at being obliged to wince. He did not like frustrating
his own best purposes by getting on bad terms with Bulstrode;
he did not like voting against Farebrother, and helping to deprive
him of function and salary; and the question occurred whether
the additional forty pounds might not leave the Vicar free from
that ignoble care about winning at cards. Moreover, Lydgate did
not like the consciousness that in voting for Tyke he should be
voting on the side obviously convenient for himself. But would
the end really be his own convenience? Other people would say so,
and would allege that he was currying favor with Bulstrode for the
sake of making himself important and getting on in the world.
What then? He for his own part knew that if his personal prospects
simply had been concerned, he would not have cared a rotten nut
for the banker's friendship or enmity. What he really cared for
was a medium for his work, a vehicle for his ideas; and after all,
was he not bound to prefer the object of getting a good hospital,
where he could demonstrate the specific distinctions of fever
and test therapeutic results, before anything else connected
with this chaplaincy? For the first time Lydgate was feeling
the hampering threadlike pressure of small social conditions,
and their frustrating complexity. At the end of his inward debate,
when he set out for the hospital, his hope was really in the chance
that discussion might somehow give a new aspect to the question,
and make the scale dip so as to exclude the necessity for voting.
I think he trusted a little also to the energy which is begotten
by circumstances--some feeling rushing warmly and making resolve easy,
while debate in cool blood had only made it more difficult.
However it was, he did not distinctly say to himself on which side he
would vote; and all the while he was inwardly resenting the subjection
which had been forced upon him. It would have seemed beforehand
like a ridiculous piece of bad logic that he, with his unmixed
resolutions of independence and his select purposes, would find
himself at the very outset in the grasp of petty alternatives,
each of which was repugnant to him. In his student's chambers,
he had prearranged his social action quite differently.
Lydgate was late in setting out, but Dr. Sprague, the two other surgeons,
and several of the directors had arrived early; Mr. Bulstrode,
treasurer and chairman, being among those who were still absent.
The conversation seemed to imply that the issue was problematical,
and that a majority for Tyke was not so certain as had been generally
supposed. The two physicians, for a wonder, turned out to be unanimous,
or rather, though of different minds, they concurred in action.
Dr. Sprague, the rugged and weighty, was, as every one had foreseen,
an adherent of Mr. Farebrother. The Doctor was more than suspected
of having no religion, but somehow Middlemarch tolerated this
deficiency in him as if he had been a Lord Chancellor; indeed it
is probable that his professional weight was the more believed in,
the world-old association of cleverness with the evil principle being
still potent in the minds even of lady-patients who had the strictest
ideas of frilling and sentiment. It was perhaps this negation in the
Doctor which made his neighbors call him hard-headed and dry-witted;
conditions of texture which were also held favorable to the storing
of judgments connected with drugs. At all events, it is certain
that if any medical man had come to Middlemarch with the reputation
of having very definite religious views, of being given to prayer,
and of otherwise showing an active piety, there would have been
a general presumption against his medical skill.
On this ground it was (professionally speaking) fortunate for
Dr. Minchin that his religious sympathies were of a general kind,
and such as gave a distant medical sanction to all serious sentiment,
whether of Church or Dissent, rather than any adhesion to
particular tenets. If Mr. Bulstrode insisted, as he was apt to do,
on the Lutheran doctrine of justification, as that by which a Church
must stand or fall, Dr. Minchin in return was quite sure that man
was not a mere machine or a fortuitous conjunction of atoms;
if Mrs. Wimple insisted on a particular providence in relation to her
stomach complaint, Dr. Minchin for his part liked to keep the mental
windows open and objected to fixed limits; if the Unitarian brewer
jested about the Athanasian Creed, Dr. Minchin quoted Pope's "Essay
on Man." He objected to the rather free style of anecdote in which
Dr. Sprague indulged, preferring well-sanctioned quotations, and liking
refinement of all kinds: it was generally known that he had some
kinship to a bishop, and sometimes spent his holidays at "the palace."
Dr. Minchin was soft-handed, pale-complexioned, and of rounded outline,
not to be distinguished from a mild clergyman in appearance:
whereas Dr. Sprague was superfluously tall; his trousers got creased
at the knees, and showed an excess of boot at a time when straps seemed
necessary to any dignity of bearing; you heard him go in and out,
and up and down, as if he had come to see after the roofing.
In short, he had weight, and might be expected to grapple with a
disease and throw it; while Dr. Minchin might be better able to detect
it lurking and to circumvent it. They enjoyed about equally the
mysterious privilege of medical reputation, and concealed with much
etiquette their contempt for each other's skill. Regarding themselves
as Middlemarch institutions, they were ready to combine against
all innovators, and against non-professionals given to interference.
On this ground they were both in their hearts equally averse to
Mr. Bulstrode, though Dr. Minchin had never been in open hostility
with him, and never differed from him without elaborate explanation
to Mrs. Bulstrode, who had found that Dr. Minchin alone understood
her constitution. A layman who pried into the professional
conduct of medical men, and was always obtruding his reforms,--
though he was less directly embarrassing to the two physicians
than to the surgeon-apothecaries who attended paupers by contract,
was nevertheless offensive to the professional nostril as such;
and Dr. Minchin shared fully in the new pique against Bulstrode,
excited by his apparent determination to patronize Lydgate.
The long-established practitioners, Mr. Wrench and Mr. Toller;
were just now standing apart and having a friendly colloquy,
in which they agreed that Lydgate was a jackanapes, just made to
serve Bulstrode's purpose. To non-medical friends they had already
concurred in praising the other young practitioner, who had come into
the town on Mr. Peacock's retirement without further recommendation
than his own merits and such argument for solid professional
acquirement as might be gathered from his having apparently wasted
no time on other branches of knowledge. It was clear that Lydgate,
by not dispensing drugs, intended to cast imputations on his equals,
and also to obscure the limit between his own rank as a general
practitioner and that of the physicians, who, in the interest
of the profession, felt bound to maintain its various grades,--
especially against a man who had not been to either of the English
universities and enjoyed the absence of anatomical and bedside
study there, but came with a libellous pretension to experience
in Edinburgh and Paris, where observation might be abundant indeed,
but hardly sound.
Thus it happened that on this occasion Bulstrode became identified
with Lydgate, and Lydgate with Tyke; and owing to this variety
of interchangeable names for the chaplaincy question, diverse minds
were enabled to form the same judgment concerning it.
Dr. Sprague said at once bluntly to the group assembled when
he entered, "I go for Farebrother. A salary, with all my heart.
But why take it from the Vicar? He has none too much--has to insure
his life, besides keeping house, and doing a vicar's charities.
Put forty pounds in his pocket and you'll do no harm. He's a
good fellow, is Farebrother, with as little of the parson about him
as will serve to carry orders."
"Ho, ho! Doctor," said old Mr. Powderell, a retired iron-monger
of some standing--his interjection being something between a laugh
and a Parliamentary disapproval; "we must let you have your say.
But what we have to consider is not anybody's income--it's the souls
of the poor sick people"--here Mr. Powderell's voice and face had a
sincere pathos in them. "He is a real Gospel preacher, is Mr. Tyke.
I should vote against my conscience if I voted against Mr. Tyke--
I should indeed."
"Mr. Tyke's opponents have not asked any one to vote against
his conscience, I believe," said Mr. Hackbutt, a rich tanner
of fluent speech, whose glittering spectacles and erect hair
were turned with some severity towards innocent Mr. Powderell.
"But in my judgment it behoves us, as Directors, to consider whether
we will regard it as our whole business to carry out propositions
emanating from a single quarter. Will any member of the committee
aver that he would have entertained the idea of displacing the
gentleman who has always discharged the function of chaplain here,
if it had not been suggested to him by parties whose disposition
it is to regard every institution of this town as a machinery
for carrying out their own views? I tax no man's motives:
let them lie between himself and a higher Power; but I do say,
that there are influences at work here which are incompatible
with genuine independence, and that a crawling servility is
usually dictated by circumstances which gentlemen so conducting
themselves could not afford either morally or financially to avow.
I myself am a layman, but I have given no inconsiderable attention
to the divisions in the Church and--"
"Oh, damn the divisions!" burst in Mr. Frank Hawley, lawyer and
town-clerk, who rarely presented himself at the board, but now looked
in hurriedly, whip in hand. "We have nothing to do with them here.
Farebrother has been doing the work--what there was--without pay,
and if pay is to be given, it should be given to him. I call it
a confounded job to take the thing away from Farebrother."
"I think it would be as well for gentlemen not to give their
remarks a personal bearing," said Mr. Plymdale. "I shall vote
for the appointment of Mr. Tyke, but I should not have known,
if Mr. Hackbutt hadn't hinted it, that I was a Servile Crawler."
"I disclaim any personalities. I expressly said, if I may be
allowed to repeat, or even to conclude what I was about to say--"
"Ah, here's Minchin!" said Mr. Frank Hawley; at which everybody
turned away from Mr. Hackbutt, leaving him to feel the uselessness
of superior gifts in Middlemarch. "Come, Doctor, I must have you
on the right side, eh?"
"I hope so," said Dr. Minchin, nodding and shaking hands here and there;
"at whatever cost to my feelings."
"If there's any feeling here, it should be feeling for the man
who is turned out, I think," said Mr. Frank Hawley.
"I confess I have feelings on the other side also. I have a
divided esteem," said Dr. Minchin, rubbing his hands. "I consider
Mr. Tyke an exemplary man--none more so--and I believe him to be
proposed from unimpeachable motives. I, for my part, wish that I
could give him my vote. But I am constrained to take a view of the
case which gives the preponderance to Mr. Farebrother's claims.
He is an amiable man, an able preacher, and has been longer among us."
Old Mr. Powderell looked on, sad and silent. Mr. Plymdale settled
his cravat, uneasily.
"You don't set up Farebrother as a pattern of what a clergyman
ought to be, I hope," said Mr. Larcher, the eminent carrier,
who had just come in. "I have no ill-will towards him, but I think
we owe something to the public, not to speak of anything higher,
in these appointments. In my opinion Farebrother is too lax for
a clergyman. I don't wish to bring up particulars against him;
but he will make a little attendance here go as far as he can."
"And a devilish deal better than too much," said Mr. Hawley,
whose bad language was notorious in that part of the county.
"Sick people can't bear so much praying and preaching. And that
methodistical sort of religion is bad for the spirits--bad for the
inside, eh?" he added, turning quickly round to the four medical
men who were assembled.
But any answer was dispensed with by the entrance of three gentlemen,
with whom there were greetings more or less cordial. These were
the Reverend Edward Thesiger, Rector of St. Peter's, Mr. Bulstrode,
and our friend Mr. Brooke of Tipton, who had lately allowed himself
to be put on the board of directors in his turn, but had never before
attended, his attendance now being due to Mr. Bulstrode's exertions.
Lydgate was the only person still expected.
Every one now sat down, Mr. Bulstrode presiding, pale and
self-restrained as usual. Mr. Thesiger, a moderate evangelical,
wished for the appointment of his friend Mr. Tyke, a zealous
able man, who, officiating at a chapel of ease, had not a cure
of souls too extensive to leave him ample time for the new duty.
It was desirable that chaplaincies of this kind should be entered
on with a fervent intention: they were peculiar opportunities
for spiritual influence; and while it was good that a salary should
be allotted, there was the more need for scrupulous watching lest
the office should be perverted into a mere question of salary.
Mr. Thesiger's manner had so much quiet propriety that objectors
could only simmer in silence.
Mr. Brooke believed that everybody meant well in the matter.
He had not himself attended to the affairs of the Infirmary, though he
had a strong interest in whatever was for the benefit of Middlemarch,
and was most happy to meet the gentlemen present on any public question--
"any public question, you know," Mr. Brooke repeated, with his nod
of perfect understanding. "I am a good deal occupied as a magistrate,
and in the collection of documentary evidence, but I regard my time
as being at the disposal of the public--and, in short, my friends
have convinced me that a chaplain with a salary--a salary, you know--
is a very good thing, and I am happy to be able to come here and
vote for the appointment of Mr. Tyke, who, I understand, is an
unexceptionable man, apostolic and eloquent and everything of that kind--
and I am the last man to withhold my vote--under the circumstances,
"It seems to me that you have been crammed with one side of
the question, Mr. Brooke," said Mr. Frank Hawley, who was afraid
of nobody, and was a Tory suspicious of electioneering intentions.
"You don't seem to know that one of the worthiest men we have
has been doing duty as chaplain here for years without pay,
and that Mr. Tyke is proposed to supersede him."
"Excuse me, Mr. Hawley," said Mr. Bulstrode. "Mr. Brooke has been
fully informed of Mr. Farebrother's character and position."
"By his enemies," flashed out Mr. Hawley.
"I trust there is no personal hostility concerned here,"
said Mr. Thesiger.
"I'll swear there is, though," retorted Mr. Hawley.
"Gentlemen," said Mr. Bulstrode, in a subdued tone, "the merits
of the question may be very briefly stated, and if any one present
doubts that every gentleman who is about to give his vote has
not been fully informed, I can now recapitulate the considerations
that should weigh on either side."
"I don't see the good of that," said Mr. Hawley. "I suppose we all
know whom we mean to vote for. Any man who wants to do justice does
not wait till the last minute to hear both sides of the question.
I have no time to lose, and I propose that the matter be put to the
vote at once."
A brief but still hot discussion followed before each person wrote
"Tyke" or "Farebrother" on a piece of paper and slipped it into
a glass tumbler; and in the mean time Mr. Bulstrode saw Lydgate enter.
"I perceive that the votes are equally divided at present,"
said Mr. Bulstrode, in a clear biting voice. Then, looking up
"There is a casting-vote still to be given. It is yours, Mr. Lydgate:
will you be good enough to write?"
"The thing is settled now," said Mr. Wrench, rising. "We all know
how Mr. Lydgate will vote."
"You seem to speak with some peculiar meaning, sir," said Lydgate,
rather defiantly, and keeping his pencil suspended.
"I merely mean that you are expected to vote with Mr. Bulstrode.
Do you regard that meaning as offensive?"
"It may be offensive to others. But I shall not desist from voting
with him on that account." Lydgate immediately wrote down "Tyke."
So the Rev. Walter Tyke became chaplain to the Infirmary,
and Lydgate continued to work with Mr. Bulstrode. He was really
uncertain whether Tyke were not the more suitable candidate,
and yet his consciousness told him that if he had been quite free
from indirect bias he should have voted for Mr. Farebrother.
The affair of the chaplaincy remained a sore point in his memory
as a case in which this petty medium of Middlemarch had been
too strong for him. How could a man be satisfied with a decision
between such alternatives and under such circumstances? No more
than he can be satisfied with his hat, which he has chosen from
among such shapes as the resources of the age offer him, wearing it
at best with a resignation which is chiefly supported by comparison.
But Mr. Farebrother met him with the same friendliness as before.
The character of the publican and sinner is not always practically
incompatible with that of the modern Pharisee, for the majority of us
scarcely see more distinctly the faultiness of our own conduct than
the faultiness of our own arguments, or the dulness of our own jokes.
But the Vicar of St. Botolph's had certainly escaped the slightest
tincture of the Pharisee, and by dint of admitting to himself that he
was too much as other men were, he had become remarkably unlike them
in this--that he could excuse others for thinking slightly of him,
and could judge impartially of their conduct even when it told
"The world has been to strong for _me_, I know," he said one
day to Lydgate. "But then I am not a mighty man--I shall never
be a man of renown. The choice of Hercules is a pretty fable;
but Prodicus makes it easy work for the hero, as if the first resolves
were enough. Another story says that he came to hold the distaff,
and at last wore the Nessus shirt. I suppose one good resolve
might keep a man right if everybody else's resolve helped him."
The Vicar's talk was not always inspiriting: he had escaped
being a Pharisee, but he had not escaped that low estimate of
possibilities which we rather hastily arrive at as an inference
from our own failure. Lydgate thought that there was a pitiable
infirmity of will in Mr. Farebrother.
"L' altra vedete ch'ha fatto alla guancia
Della sua palma, sospirando, letto."
When George the Fourth was still reigning over the privacies of Windsor,
when the Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister, and Mr. Vincy
was mayor of the old corporation in Middlemarch, Mrs. Casaubon,
born Dorothea Brooke, had taken her wedding journey to Rome.
In those days the world in general was more ignorant of good and evil
by forty years than it is at present. Travellers did not often carry
full information on Christian art either in their heads or their pockets;
and even the most brilliant English critic of the day mistook the
flower-flushed tomb of the ascended Virgin for an ornamental vase
due to the painter's fancy. Romanticism, which has helped to fill
some dull blanks with love and knowledge, had not yet penetrated
the times with its leaven and entered into everybody's food; it was
fermenting still as a distinguishable vigorous enthusiasm in certain
long-haired German artists at Rome, and the youth of other nations who
worked or idled near them were sometimes caught in the spreading movement.
One fine morning a young man whose hair was not immoderately long,
but abundant and curly, and who was otherwise English in his equipment,
had just turned his back on the Belvedere Torso in the Vatican
and was looking out on the magnificent view of the mountains from
the adjoining round vestibule. He was sufficiently absorbed not
to notice the approach of a dark-eyed, animated German who came up
to him and placing a hand on his shoulder, said with a strong accent,
"Come here, quick! else she will have changed her pose."
Quickness was ready at the call, and the two figures passed lightly
along by the Meleager, towards the hall where the reclining Ariadne,
then called the Cleopatra, lies in the marble voluptuousness
of her beauty, the drapery folding around her with a petal-like
ease and tenderness. They were just in time to see another
figure standing against a pedestal near the reclining marble:
a breathing blooming girl, whose form, not shamed by the Ariadne,
was clad in Quakerish gray drapery; her long cloak, fastened at
the neck, was thrown backward from her arms, and one beautiful
ungloved hand pillowed her cheek, pushing somewhat backward
the white beaver bonnet which made a sort of halo to her face
around the simply braided dark-brown hair. She was not looking
at the sculpture, probably not thinking of it: her large eyes were
fixed dreamily on a streak of sunlight which fell across the floor.
But she became conscious of the two strangers who suddenly paused
as if to contemplate the Cleopatra, and, without looking at them,
immediately turned away to join a maid-servant and courier
who were loitering along the hall at a little distance off.
"What do you think of that for a fine bit of antithesis?" said the
German, searching in his friend's face for responding admiration,
but going on volubly without waiting for any other answer.
"There lies antique beauty, not corpse-like even in death,
but arrested in the complete contentment of its sensuous perfection:
and here stands beauty in its breathing life, with the consciousness
of Christian centuries in its bosom. But she should be dressed
as a nun; I think she looks almost what you call a Quaker;
I would dress her as a nun in my picture. However, she is married;
I saw her wedding-ring on that wonderful left hand, otherwise I
should have thought the sallow Geistlicher was her father.
I saw him parting from her a good while ago, and just now I found her
in that magnificent pose. Only think! he is perhaps rich, and would
like to have her portrait taken. Ah! it is no use looking after her--
there she goes! Let us follow her home!"
"No, no," said his companion, with a little frown.
"You are singular, Ladislaw. You look struck together. Do you
"I know that she is married to my cousin," said Will Ladislaw,
sauntering down the hall with a preoccupied air, while his German
friend kept at his side and watched him eagerly.
"What! the Geistlicher? He looks more like an uncle--a more
useful sort of relation."
"He is not my uncle. I tell you he is my second cousin,"
said Ladislaw, with some irritation.
"Schon, schon. Don't be snappish. You are not angry with me
for thinking Mrs. Second-Cousin the most perfect young Madonna
I ever saw?"
"Angry? nonsense. I have only seen her once before, for a couple
of minutes, when my cousin introduced her to me, just before I
left England. They were not married then. I didn't know they
were coming to Rome."
"But you will go to see them now--you will find out what they have
for an address--since you know the name. Shall we go to the post?
And you could speak about the portrait."
"Confound you, Naumann! I don't know what I shall do. I am not
so brazen as you."
"Bah! that is because you are dilettantish and amateurish. If you
were an artist, you would think of Mistress Second-Cousin as antique
form animated by Christian sentiment--a sort of Christian Antigone--
sensuous force controlled by spiritual passion."
"Yes, and that your painting her was the chief outcome of
her existence--the divinity passing into higher completeness
and all but exhausted in the act of covering your bit of canvas.
I am amateurish if you like: I do _not_ think that all the universe
is straining towards the obscure significance of your pictures."
"But it is, my dear!--so far as it is straining through me,
Adolf Naumann: that stands firm," said the good-natured painter,
putting a hand on Ladislaw's shoulder, and not in the least disturbed
by the unaccountable touch of ill-humor in his tone. "See now!
My existence presupposes the existence of the whole universe--
does it _not?_ and my function is to paint--and as a painter
I have a conception which is altogether genialisch, of your
great-aunt or second grandmother as a subject for a picture;
therefore, the universe is straining towards that picture through
that particular hook or claw which it puts forth in the shape of me--
"But how if another claw in the shape of me is straining to thwart it?--
the case is a little less simple then."
"Not at all: the result of the struggle is the same thing--
picture or no picture--logically."
Will could not resist this imperturbable temper, and the cloud
in his face broke into sunshiny laughter.
"Come now, my friend--you will help?" said Naumann, in a hopeful tone.
"No; nonsense, Naumann! English ladies are not at everybody's service
as models. And you want to express too much with your painting.
You would only have made a better or worse portrait with a background
which every connoisseur would give a different reason for or against.
And what is a portrait of a woman? Your painting and Plastik are
poor stuff after all. They perturb and dull conceptions instead
of raising them. Language is a finer medium."
"Yes, for those who can't paint," said Naumann. "There you have
perfect right. I did not recommend you to paint, my friend."
The amiable artist carried his sting, but Ladislaw did not choose
to appear stung. He went on as if he had not heard.
"Language gives a fuller image, which is all the better for beings vague.
After all, the true seeing is within; and painting stares at you
with an insistent imperfection. I feel that especially about
representations of women. As if a woman were a mere colored superficies!
You must wait for movement and tone. There is a difference in their
very breathing: they change from moment to moment.--This woman whom
you have just seen, for example: how would you paint her voice,
pray? But her voice is much diviner than anything you have seen of her."
"I see, I see. You are jealous. No man must presume to think
that he can paint your ideal. This is serious, my friend!
Your great-aunt! `Der Neffe als Onkel' in a tragic sense--ungeheuer!"
"You and I shall quarrel, Naumann, if you call that lady my aunt again."
"How is she to be called then?"
"Good. Suppose I get acquainted with her in spite of you, and find
that she very much wishes to be painted?"
"Yes, suppose!" said Will Ladislaw, in a contemptuous undertone,
intended to dismiss the subject. He was conscious of being irritated
by ridiculously small causes, which were half of his own creation.
Why was he making any fuss about Mrs. Casaubon? And yet he felt
as if something had happened to him with regard to her. There are
characters which are continually creating collisions and nodes
for themselves in dramas which nobody is prepared to act with them.
Their susceptibilities will clash against objects that remain
"A child forsaken, waking suddenly,
Whose gaze afeard on all things round doth rove,
And seeth only that it cannot see
The meeting eyes of love."
Two hours later, Dorothea was seated in an inner room or boudoir
of a handsome apartment in the Via Sistina.
I am sorry to add that she was sobbing bitterly, with such abandonment
to this relief of an oppressed heart as a woman habitually
controlled by pride on her own account and thoughtfulness for others
will sometimes allow herself when she feels securely alone.
And Mr. Casaubon was certain to remain away for some time at the Vatican.
Yet Dorothea had no distinctly shapen grievance that she could
state even to herself; and in the midst of her confused thought
and passion, the mental act that was struggling forth into clearness
was a self-accusing cry that her feeling of desolation was the fault
of her own spiritual poverty. She had married the man of her choice,
and with the advantage over most girls that she had contemplated
her marriage chiefly as the beginning of new duties: from the very
first she had thought of Mr. Casaubon as having a mind so much above
her own, that he must often be claimed by studies which she could
not entirely share; moreover, after the brief narrow experience
of her girlhood she was beholding Rome, the city of visible history,
where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession
with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.
But this stupendous fragmentariness heightened the dreamlike strangeness
of her bridal life. Dorothea had now been five weeks in Rome,
and in the kindly mornings when autumn and winter seemed to go hand
in hand like a happy aged couple one of whom would presently survive
in chiller loneliness, she had driven about at first with Mr. Casaubon,
but of late chiefly with Tantripp and their experienced courier.
She had been led through the best galleries, had been taken to the
chief points of view, had been shown the grandest ruins and the most
glorious churches, and she had ended by oftenest choosing to drive
out to the Campagna where she could feel alone with the earth
and sky, away-from the oppressive masquerade of ages, in which
her own life too seemed to become a masque with enigmatical costumes.
To those who have looked at Rome with the quickening power of a
knowledge which breathes a growing soul into all historic shapes,
and traces out the suppressed transitions which unite all contrasts,
Rome may still be the spiritual centre and interpreter of the world.
But let them conceive one more historical contrast: the gigantic
broken revelations of that Imperial and Papal city thrust abruptly
on the notions of a girl who had been brought up in English
and Swiss Puritanism, fed on meagre Protestant histories and on
art chiefly of the hand-screen sort; a girl whose ardent nature
turned all her small allowance of knowledge into principles,
fusing her actions into their mould, and whose quick emotions gave
the most abstract things the quality of a pleasure or a pain;
a girl who had lately become a wife, and from the enthusiastic
acceptance of untried duty found herself plunged in tumultuous
preoccupation with her personal lot. The weight of unintelligible
Rome might lie easily on bright nymphs to whom it formed a background
for the brilliant picnic of Anglo-foreign society; but Dorothea
had no such defence against deep impressions. Ruins and basilicas,
palaces and colossi, set in the midst of a sordid present, where all
that was living and warm-blooded seemed sunk in the deep degeneracy
of a superstition divorced from reverence; the dimmer but yet eager
Titanic life gazing and struggling on walls and ceilings; the long
vistas of white forms whose marble eyes seemed to hold the monotonous
light of an alien world: all this vast wreck of ambitious ideals,
sensuous and spiritual, mixed confusedly with the signs of breathing
forgetfulness and degradation, at first jarred her as with an
electric shock, and then urged themselves on her with that ache
belonging to a glut of confused ideas which check the flow of emotion.
Forms both pale and glowing took possession of her young sense,
and fixed themselves in her memory even when she was not thinking
of them, preparing strange associations which remained through
her after-years. Our moods are apt to bring with them images
which succeed each other like the magic-lantern pictures of a doze;
and in certain states of dull forlornness Dorothea all her life
continued to see the vastness of St. Peter's, the huge bronze canopy,
the excited intention in the attitudes and garments of the prophets
and evangelists in the mosaics above, and the red drapery which was
being hung for Christmas spreading itself everywhere like a disease
of the retina.
Not that this inward amazement of Dorothea's was anything
very exceptional: many souls in their young nudity are tumbled
out among incongruities and left to "find their feet" among them,
while their elders go about their business. Nor can I suppose
that when Mrs. Casaubon is discovered in a fit of weeping six weeks
after her wedding, the situation will be regarded as tragic.
Some discouragement, some faintness of heart at the new real
future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do
not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual.
That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency,
has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind;
and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had
a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be
like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we
should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.
As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.
However, Dorothea was crying, and if she had been required to state
the cause, she could only have done so in some such general words as I
have already used: to have been driven to be more particular would
have been like trying to give a history of the lights and shadows,
for that new real future which was replacing the imaginary drew
its material from the endless minutiae by which her view of
Mr. Casaubon and her wifely relation, now that she was married to him,
was gradually changing with the secret motion of a watch-hand
from what it had been in her maiden dream. It was too early yet
for her fully to recognize or at least admit the change, still more
for her to have readjusted that devotedness which was so necessary
a part of her mental life that she was almost sure sooner or later
to recover it. Permanent rebellion, the disorder of a life
without some loving reverent resolve, was not possible to her;
but she was now in an interval when the very force of her nature
heightened its confusion. In this way, the early months of marriage
often are times of critical tumult--whether that of a shrimp-pool
or of deeper waters--which afterwards subsides into cheerful peace.
But was not Mr. Casaubon just as learned as before? Had his forms
of expression changed, or his sentiments become less laudable?
Oh waywardness of womanhood! did his chronology fail him, or his
ability to state not only a theory but the names of those who held it;
or his provision for giving the heads of any subject on demand?
And was not Rome the place in all the world to give free play
to such accomplishments? Besides, had not Dorothea's enthusiasm
especially dwelt on the prospect of relieving the weight and perhaps
the sadness with which great tasks lie on him who has to achieve them?--
And that such weight pressed on Mr. Casaubon was only plainer
All these are crushing questions; but whatever else remained the same,