Part 2 out of 18
of the Thirty-nine Articles, and would have been less socially uniting.
Mr. Brooke, seeing Mrs. Cadwallader's merits from a different point
of view, winced a little when her name was announced in the library,
where he was sitting alone.
"I see you have had our Lowick Cicero here," she said, seating
herself comfortably, throwing back her wraps, and showing a thin
but well-built figure. "I suspect you and he are brewing some
bad polities, else you would not be seeing so much of the lively man.
I shall inform against you: remember you are both suspicious characters
since you took Peel's side about the Catholic Bill. I shall tell
everybody that you are going to put up for Middlemarch on the Whig
side when old Pinkerton resigns, and that Casaubon is going to help
you in an underhand manner: going to bribe the voters with pamphlets,
and throw open the public-houses to distribute them. Come, confess!"
"Nothing of the sort," said Mr. Brooke, smiling and rubbing his
eye-glasses, but really blushing a little at the impeachment.
"Casaubon and I don't talk politics much. He doesn't care much about
the philanthropic side of things; punishments, and that kind of thing.
He only cares about Church questions. That is not my line of action,
"Ra-a-ther too much, my friend. I have heard of your doings.
Who was it that sold his bit of land to the Papists at Middlemarch?
I believe you bought it on purpose. You are a perfect Guy Faux.
See if you are not burnt in effigy this 5th of November coming.
Humphrey would not come to quarrel with you about it, so I
"Very good. I was prepared to be persecuted for not persecuting--not
persecuting, you know."
"There you go! That is a piece of clap-trap you have got ready for
the hustings. Now, _do not_ let them lure you to the hustings,
my dear Mr. Brooke. A man always makes a fool of himself,
speechifying: there's no excuse but being on the right side,
so that you can ask a blessing on your humming and hawing.
You will lose yourself, I forewarn you. You will make a Saturday
pie of all parties' opinions, and be pelted by everybody."
"That is what I expect, you know," said Mr. Brooke, not wishing
to betray how little he enjoyed this prophetic sketch--"what I
expect as an independent man. As to the Whigs, a man who goes
with the thinkers is not likely to be hooked on by any party.
He may go with them up to a certain point--up to a certain point,
you know. But that is what you ladies never understand."
"Where your certain point is? No. I should like to be told how a man
can have any certain point when he belongs to no party--leading
a roving life, and never letting his friends know his address.
`Nobody knows where Brooke will be--there's no counting on Brooke'--that
is what people say of you, to be quite frank. Now, do turn respectable.
How will you like going to Sessions with everybody looking shy
on you, and you with a bad conscience and an empty pocket?"
"I don't pretend to argue with a lady on politics," said Mr. Brooke,
with an air of smiling indifference, but feeling rather unpleasantly
conscious that this attack of Mrs. Cadwallader's had opened the
defensive campaign to which certain rash steps had exposed him.
"Your sex are not thinkers, you know--varium et mutabile
semper--that kind of thing. You don't know Virgil. I knew"--Mr.
Brooke reflected in time that he had not had the personal acquaintance
of the Augustan poet--"I was going to say, poor Stoddart, you know.
That was what _he_ said. You ladies are always against an
independent attitude--a man's caring for nothing but truth,
and that sort of thing. And there is no part of the county where
opinion is narrower than it is here--I don't mean to throw stones,
you know, but somebody is wanted to take the independent line;
and if I don't take it, who will?"
"Who? Why, any upstart who has got neither blood nor position.
People of standing should consume their independent nonsense at home,
not hawk it about. And you! who are going to marry your niece,
as good as your daughter, to one of our best men. Sir James would
be cruelly annoyed: it will be too hard on him if you turn round now
and make yourself a Whig sign-board."
Mr. Brooke again winced inwardly, for Dorothea's engagement had
no sooner been decided, than he had thought of Mrs. Cadwallader's
prospective taunts. It might have been easy for ignorant observers
to say, "Quarrel with Mrs. Cadwallader;" but where is a country
gentleman to go who quarrels with his oldest neighbors? Who could taste
the fine flavor in the name of Brooke if it were delivered casually,
like wine without a seal? Certainly a man can only be cosmopolitan
up to a certain point.
"I hope Chettam and I shall always be good friends; but I am sorry
to say there is no prospect of his marrying my niece," said Mr. Brooke,
much relieved to see through the window that Celia was coming in.
"Why not?" said Mrs. Cadwallader, with a sharp note of surprise.
"It is hardly a fortnight since you and I were talking about it."
"My niece has chosen another suitor--has chosen him, you know.
I have had nothing to do with it. I should have preferred Chettam;
and I should have said Chettam was the man any girl would have chosen.
But there is no accounting for these things. Your sex is capricious,
"Why, whom do you mean to say that you are going to let her marry?"
Mrs. Cadwallader's mind was rapidly surveying the possibilities
of choice for Dorothea.
But here Celia entered, blooming from a walk in the garden,
and the greeting with her delivered Mr. Brooke from the necessity
of answering immediately. He got up hastily, and saying, "By the way,
I must speak to Wright about the horses," shuffled quickly out
of the room.
"My dear child, what is this?--this about your sister's engagement?"
said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"She is engaged to marry Mr. Casaubon," said Celia, resorting, as usual,
to the simplest statement of fact, and enjoying this opportunity
of speaking to the Rector's wife alone.
"This is frightful. How long has it been going on?"
"I only knew of it yesterday. They are to be married in six weeks."
"Well, my dear, I wish you joy of your brother-in-law."
"I am so sorry for Dorothea."
"Sorry! It is her doing, I suppose."
"Yes; she says Mr. Casaubon has a great soul."
"With all my heart."
"Oh, Mrs. Cadwallader, I don't think it can be nice to marry a man
with a great soul."
"Well, my dear, take warning. You know the look of one now;
when the next comes and wants to marry you, don't you accept him."
"I'm sure I never should."
"No; one such in a family is enough. So your sister never cared
about Sir James Chettam? What would you have said to _him_
for a brother-in-law?"
"I should have liked that very much. I am sure he would have
been a good husband. Only," Celia added, with a slight blush
(she sometimes seemed to blush as she breathed), "I don't think
he would have suited Dorothea."
"Not high-flown enough?"
"Dodo is very strict. She thinks so much about everything,
and is so particular about what one says. Sir James never seemed
to please her."
"She must have encouraged him, I am sure. That is not very creditable."
"Please don't be angry with Dodo; she does not see things.
She thought so much about the cottages, and she was rude to Sir
James sometimes; but he is so kind, he never noticed it."
"Well," said Mrs. Cadwallader, putting on her shawl, and rising,
as if in haste, "I must go straight to Sir James and break this to him.
He will have brought his mother back by this time, and I must call.
Your uncle will never tell him. We are all disappointed, my dear.
Young people should think of their families in marrying. I set a bad
example--married a poor clergyman, and made myself a pitiable object
among the De Bracys--obliged to get my coals by stratagem, and pray
to heaven for my salad oil. However, Casaubon has money enough;
I must do him that justice. As to his blood, I suppose the family
quarterings are three cuttle-fish sable, and a commentator rampant.
By the bye, before I go, my dear, I must speak to your Mrs. Carter
about pastry. I want to send my young cook to learn of her.
Poor people with four children, like us, you know, can't afford to keep
a good cook. I have no doubt Mrs. Carter will oblige me. Sir James's
cook is a perfect dragon."
In less than an hour, Mrs. Cadwallader had circumvented Mrs. Carter
and driven to Freshitt Hall, which was not far from her own parsonage,
her husband being resident in Freshitt and keeping a curate in Tipton.
Sir James Chettam had returned from the short journey which had
kept him absent for a couple of days, and had changed his dress,
intending to ride over to Tipton Grange. His horse was standing at
the door when Mrs. Cadwallader drove up, and he immediately appeared
there himself, whip in hand. Lady Chettam had not yet returned,
but Mrs. Cadwallader's errand could not be despatched in the presence
of grooms, so she asked to be taken into the conservatory close by,
to look at the new plants; and on coming to a contemplative stand,
"I have a great shock for you; I hope you are not so far gone
in love as you pretended to be."
It was of no use protesting, against Mrs. Cadwallader's way of
putting things. But Sir James's countenance changed a little.
He felt a vague alarm.
"I do believe Brooke is going to expose himself after all. I accused
him of meaning to stand for Middlemarch on the Liberal side, and he
looked silly and never denied it--talked about the independent line,
and the usual nonsense."
"Is that all?" said Sir James, much relieved.
"Why," rejoined Mrs. Cadwallader, with a sharper note, "you don't
mean to say that you would like him to turn public man in that
way--making a sort of political Cheap Jack of himself?"
"He might be dissuaded, I should think. He would not like the expense."
"That is what I told him. He is vulnerable to reason there--always
a few grains of common-sense in an ounce of miserliness.
Miserliness is a capital quality to run in families; it's the safe
side for madness to dip on. And there must be a little crack
in the Brooke family, else we should not see what we are to see."
"What? Brooke standing for Middlemarch?"
"Worse than that. I really feel a little responsible. I always told
you Miss Brooke would be such a fine match. I knew there was a great
deal of nonsense in her--a flighty sort of Methodistical stuff.
But these things wear out of girls. However, I am taken by surprise
"What do you mean, Mrs. Cadwallader?" said Sir James. His fear lest
Miss Brooke should have run away to join the Moravian Brethren,
or some preposterous sect unknown to good society, was a little
allayed by the knowledge that Mrs. Cadwallader always made the worst
of things. "What has happened to Miss Brooke? Pray speak out."
"Very well. She is engaged to be married." Mrs. Cadwallader
paused a few moments, observing the deeply hurt expression in her
friend's face, which he was trying to conceal by a nervous smile,
while he whipped his boot; but she soon added, "Engaged to Casaubon."
Sir James let his whip fall and stooped to pick it up.
Perhaps his face had never before gathered so much concentrated
disgust as when he turned to Mrs. Cadwallader and repeated, "Casaubon?"
"Even so. You know my errand now."
"Good God! It is horrible! He is no better than a mummy!"
(The point of view has to be allowed for, as that of a blooming
and disappointed rival.)
"She says, he is a great soul.--A great bladder for dried peas
to rattle in!" said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"What business has an old bachelor like that to marry?" said Sir James.
"He has one foot in the grave."
"He means to draw it out again, I suppose."
"Brooke ought not to allow it: he should insist on its being put
off till she is of age. She would think better of it then.
What is a guardian for?"
"As if you could ever squeeze a resolution out of Brooke!"
"Cadwallader might talk to him."
"Not he! Humphrey finds everybody charming. I never can get him
to abuse Casaubon. He will even speak well of the bishop, though I
tell him it is unnatural in a beneficed clergyman; what can one do
with a husband who attends so little to the decencies? I hide it
as well as I can by abusing everybody myself. Come, come, cheer up!
you are well rid of Miss Brooke, a girl who would have been requiring
you to see the stars by daylight. Between ourselves, little Celia
is worth two of her, and likely after all to be the better match.
For this marriage to Casaubon is as good as going to a nunnery."
"Oh, on my own account--it is for Miss Brooke's sake I think her
friends should try to use their influence."
"Well, Humphrey doesn't know yet. But when I tell him, you may
depend on it he will say, `Why not? Casaubon is a good fellow--and
young--young enough.' These charitable people never know vinegar from
wine till they have swallowed it and got the colic. However, if I
were a man I should prefer Celia, especially when Dorothea was gone.
The truth is, you have been courting one and have won the other.
I can see that she admires you almost as much as a man expects to
be admired. If it were any one but me who said so, you might think
it exaggeration. Good-by!"
Sir James handed Mrs. Cadwallader to the phaeton, and then jumped on his
horse. He was not going to renounce his ride because of his friend's
unpleasant news--only to ride the faster in some other direction than
that of Tipton Grange.
Now, why on earth should Mrs. Cadwallader have been at all busy
about Miss Brooke's marriage; and why, when one match that she
liked to think she had a hand in was frustrated, should she have
straightway contrived the preliminaries of another? Was there
any ingenious plot, any hide-and-seek course of action, which
might be detected by a careful telescopic watch? Not at all:
a telescope might have swept the parishes of Tipton and Freshitt,
the whole area visited by Mrs. Cadwallader in her phaeton,
without witnessing any interview that could excite suspicion,
or any scene from which she did not return with the same unperturbed
keenness of eye and the same high natural color. In fact, if that
convenient vehicle had existed in the days of the Seven Sages,
one of them would doubtless have remarked, that you can know little
of women by following them about in their pony-phaetons. Even
with a microscope directed on a water-drop we find ourselves making
interpretations which turn out to be rather coarse; for whereas
under a weak lens you may seem to see a creature exhibiting an active
voracity into which other smaller creatures actively play as if they
were so many animated tax-pennies, a stronger lens reveals to you
certain tiniest hairlets which make vortices for these victims
while the swallower waits passively at his receipt of custom.
In this way, metaphorically speaking, a strong lens applied to
Mrs. Cadwallader's match-making will show a play of minute causes
producing what may be called thought and speech vortices to bring
her the sort of food she needed. Her life was rurally simple,
quite free from secrets either foul, dangerous, or otherwise important,
and not consciously affected by the great affairs of the world.
All the more did the affairs of the great world interest her,
when communicated in the letters of high-born relations: the way
in which fascinating younger sons had gone to the dogs by marrying
their mistresses; the fine old-blooded idiocy of young Lord Tapir,
and the furious gouty humors of old Lord Megatherium; the exact
crossing of genealogies which had brought a coronet into a new branch
and widened the relations of scandal,--these were topics of which she
retained details with the utmost accuracy, and reproduced them in
an excellent pickle of epigrams, which she herself enjoyed the more
because she believed as unquestionably in birth and no-birth as she
did in game and vermin. She would never have disowned any one on the
ground of poverty: a De Bracy reduced to take his dinner in a basin
would have seemed to her an example of pathos worth exaggerating,
and I fear his aristocratic vices would not have horrified her.
But her feeling towards the vulgar rich was a sort of religious hatred:
they had probably made all their money out of high retail prices,
and Mrs. Cadwallader detested high prices for everything that was not
paid in kind at the Rectory: such people were no part of God's design
in making the world; and their accent was an affliction to the ears.
A town where such monsters abounded was hardly more than a sort
of low comedy, which could not be taken account of in a well-bred
scheme of the universe. Let any lady who is inclined to be hard
on Mrs. Cadwallader inquire into the comprehensiveness of her own
beautiful views, and be quite sure that they afford accommodation
for all the lives which have the honor to coexist with hers.
With such a mind, active as phosphorus, biting everything that came
near into the form that suited it, how could Mrs. Cadwallader feel
that the Miss Brookes and their matrimonial prospects were alien
to her? especially as it had been the habit of years for her to
scold Mr. Brooke with the friendliest frankness, and let him know
in confidence that she thought him a poor creature. From the first
arrival of the young ladies in Tipton she had prearranged Dorothea's
marriage with Sir James, and if it had taken place would have been
quite sure that it was her doing: that it should not take place
after she had preconceived it, caused her an irritation which every
thinker will sympathize with. She was the diplomatist of Tipton
and Freshitt, and for anything to happen in spite of her was an
offensive irregularity. As to freaks like this of Miss Brooke's,
Mrs. Cadwallader had no patience with them, and now saw that her
opinion of this girl had been infected with some of her husband's
weak charitableness: those Methodistical whims, that air of being
more religious than the rector and curate together, came from
a deeper and more constitutional disease than she had been willing
"However," said Mrs. Cadwallader, first to herself and afterwards
to her husband, "I throw her over: there was a chance, if she had
married Sir James, of her becoming a sane, sensible woman. He would
never have contradicted her, and when a woman is not contradicted,
she has no motive for obstinacy in her absurdities. But now I wish
her joy of her hair shirt."
It followed that Mrs. Cadwallader must decide on another match for
Sir James, and having made up her mind that it was to be the younger
Miss Brooke, there could not have been a more skilful move towards
the success of her plan than her hint to the baronet that he had made
an impression on Celia's heart. For he was not one of those gentlemen
who languish after the unattainable Sappho's apple that laughs
from the topmost bough--the charms which
"Smile like the knot of cowslips on the cliff,
Not to be come at by the willing hand."
He had no sonnets to write, and it could not strike him agreeably
that he was not an object of preference to the woman whom he
had preferred. Already the knowledge that Dorothea had chosen
Mr. Casaubon had bruised his attachment and relaxed its hold.
Although Sir James was a sportsman, he had some other feelings
towards women than towards grouse and foxes, and did not regard
his future wife in the light of prey, valuable chiefly for the
excitements of the chase. Neither was he so well acquainted
with the habits of primitive races as to feel that an ideal
combat for her, tomahawk in hand, so to speak, was necessary
to the historical continuity of the marriage-tie. On the contrary,
having the amiable vanity which knits us to those who are fond of us,
and disinclines us to those who are indifferent, and also a good
grateful nature, the mere idea that a woman had a kindness towards
him spun little threads of tenderness from out his heart towards hers.
Thus it happened, that after Sir James had ridden rather fast for
half an hour in a direction away from Tipton Grange, he slackened
his pace, and at last turned into a road which would lead him back
by a shorter cut. Various feelings wrought in him the determination
after all to go to the Grange to-day as if nothing new had happened.
He could not help rejoicing that he had never made the offer
and been rejected; mere friendly politeness required that he
should call to see Dorothea about the cottages, and now happily
Mrs. Cadwallader had prepared him to offer his congratulations,
if necessary, without showing too much awkwardness. He really
did not like it: giving up Dorothea was very painful to him;
but there was something in the resolve to make this visit forthwith
and conquer all show of feeling, which was a sort of file-biting and
counter-irritant. And without his distinctly recognizing the impulse,
there certainly was present in him the sense that Celia would be there,
and that he should pay her more attention than he had done before.
We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between
breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little
pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, "Oh, nothing!"
Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us
to hide our own hurts--not to hurt others.
"Piacer e popone
Vuol la sua stagione."
Mr. Casaubon, as might be expected, spent a great deal of his time
at the Grange in these weeks, and the hindrance which courtship
occasioned to the progress of his great work--the Key to all
Mythologies--naturally made him look forward the more eagerly
to the happy termination of courtship. But he had deliberately
incurred the hindrance, having made up his mind that it was now time
for him to adorn his life with the graces of female companionship,
to irradiate the gloom which fatigue was apt to hang over the intervals
of studious labor with the play of female fancy, and to secure in this,
his culminating age, the solace of female tendance for his declining years.
Hence he determined to abandon himself to the stream of feeling,
and perhaps was surprised to find what an exceedingly shallow rill
it was. As in droughty regions baptism by immersion could only be
performed symbolically, Mr. Casaubon found that sprinkling was
the utmost approach to a plunge which his stream would afford him;
and he concluded that the poets had much exaggerated the force
of masculine passion. Nevertheless, he observed with pleasure that
Miss Brooke showed an ardent submissive affection which promised
to fulfil his most agreeable previsions of marriage. It had once
or twice crossed his mind that possibly there was some deficiency
in Dorothea to account for the moderation of his abandonment;
but he was unable to discern the deficiency, or to figure to himself
a woman who would have pleased him better; so that there was clearly
no reason to fall back upon but the exaggerations of human tradition.
"Could I not be preparing myself now to be more useful?"
said Dorothea to him, one morning, early in the time of courtship;
"could I not learn to read Latin and Greek aloud to you, as Milton's
daughters did to their father, without understanding what they read?"
"I fear that would be wearisome to you," said Mr. Casaubon, smiling;
"and, indeed, if I remember rightly, the young women you have
mentioned regarded that exercise in unknown tongues as a ground
for rebellion against the poet."
"Yes; but in the first place they were very naughty girls, else they
would have been proud to minister to such a father; and in the second
place they might have studied privately and taught themselves to
understand what they read, and then it would have been interesting.
I hope you don't expect me to be naughty and stupid?"
"I expect you to be all that an exquisite young lady can be in every
possible relation of life. Certainly it might be a great advantage
if you were able to copy the Greek character, and to that end it
were well to begin with a little reading."
Dorothea seized this as a precious permission. She would not have
asked Mr. Casaubon at once to teach her the languages, dreading of all
things to be tiresome instead of helpful; but it was not entirely
out of devotion to her future husband that she wished to know Latin
and Creek. Those provinces of masculine knowledge seemed to her
a standing-ground from which all truth could be seen more truly.
As it was, she constantly doubted her own conclusions, because she
felt her own ignorance: how could she be confident that one-roomed
cottages were not for the glory of God, when men who knew the classics
appeared to conciliate indifference to the cottages with zeal
for the glory? Perhaps even Hebrew might be necessary--at least the
alphabet and a few roots--in order to arrive at the core of things,
and judge soundly on the social duties of the Christian. And she
had not reached that point of renunciation at which she would have
been satisfied with having a wise husband: she wished, poor child,
to be wise herself. Miss Brooke was certainly very naive with all
her alleged cleverness. Celia, whose mind had never been thought
too powerful, saw the emptiness of other people's pretensions much
more readily. To have in general but little feeling, seems to be
the only security against feeling too much on any particular occasion.
However, Mr. Casaubon consented to listen and teach for an hour together,
like a schoolmaster of little boys, or rather like a lover,
to whom a mistress's elementary ignorance and difficulties have
a touching fitness. Few scholars would have disliked teaching
the alphabet under such circumstances. But Dorothea herself
was a little shocked and discouraged at her own stupidity,
and the answers she got to some timid questions about the value
of the Greek accents gave her a painful suspicion that here indeed
there might be secrets not capable of explanation to a woman's reason.
Mr. Brooke had no doubt on that point, and expressed himself with
his usual strength upon it one day that he came into the library
while the reading was going forward.
"Well, but now, Casaubon, such deep studies, classics, mathematics,
that kind of thing, are too taxing for a woman--too taxing, you know."
"Dorothea is learning to read the characters simply," said Mr. Casaubon,
evading the question. "She had the very considerate thought
of saving my eyes."
"Ah, well, without understanding, you know--that may not be so bad.
But there is a lightness about the feminine mind--a touch and go--music,
the fine arts, that kind of thing--they should study those up
to a certain point, women should; but in a light way, you know.
A woman should be able to sit down and play you or sing you a good old
English tune. That is what I like; though I have heard most things--been
at the opera in Vienna: Gluck, Mozart, everything of that sort.
But I'm a conservative in music--it's not like ideas, you know.
I stick to the good old tunes."
"Mr. Casaubon is not fond of the piano, and I am very glad he is not,"
said Dorothea, whose slight regard for domestic music and feminine
fine art must be forgiven her, considering the small tinkling
and smearing in which they chiefly consisted at that dark period.
She smiled and looked up at her betrothed with grateful eyes.
If he had always been asking her to play the "Last Rose of Summer,"
she would have required much resignation. "He says there is only an old
harpsichord at Lowick, and it is covered with books."
"Ah, there you are behind Celia, my dear. Celia, now, plays very
prettily, and is always ready to play. However, since Casaubon does not
like it, you are all right. But it's a pity you should not have little
recreations of that sort, Casaubon: the bow always strung--that kind of
thing, you know--will not do."
"I never could look on it in the light of a recreation to have my
ears teased with measured noises," said Mr. Casaubon. "A tune much
iterated has the ridiculous effect of making the words in my mind
perform a sort of minuet to keep time--an effect hardly tolerable,
I imagine, after boyhood. As to the grander forms of music,
worthy to accompany solemn celebrations, and even to serve as
an educating influence according to the ancient conception,
I say nothing, for with these we are not immediately concerned."
"No; but music of that sort I should enjoy," said Dorothea.
"When we were coming home from Lausanne my uncle took us to hear
the great organ at Freiberg, and it made me sob."
"That kind of thing is not healthy, my dear," said Mr. Brooke.
"Casaubon, she will be in your hands now: you must teach my niece
to take things more quietly, eh, Dorothea?"
He ended with a smile, not wishing to hurt his niece, but really
thinking that it was perhaps better for her to be early married
to so sober a fellow as Casaubon, since she would not hear of Chettam.
"It is wonderful, though," he said to himself as he shuffled out
of the room--"it is wonderful that she should have liked him.
However, the match is good. I should have been travelling out of my
brief to have hindered it, let Mrs. Cadwallader say what she will.
He is pretty certain to be a bishop, is Casaubon. That was a very
seasonable pamphlet of his on the Catholic Question:--a deanery
at least. They owe him a deanery."
And here I must vindicate a claim to philosophical reflectiveness,
by remarking that Mr. Brooke on this occasion little thought
of the Radical speech which, at a later period, he was led to make
on the incomes of the bishops. What elegant historian would
neglect a striking opportunity for pointing out that his heroes
did not foresee the history of the world, or even their own
actions?--For example, that Henry of Navarre, when a Protestant baby,
little thought of being a Catholic monarch; or that Alfred the Great,
when he measured his laborious nights with burning candles, had no
idea of future gentlemen measuring their idle days with watches.
Here is a mine of truth, which, however vigorously it may be worked,
is likely to outlast our coal.
But of Mr. Brooke I make a further remark perhaps less warranted
by precedent--namely, that if he had foreknown his speech,
it might not have made any great difference. To think with pleasure
of his niece's husband having a large ecclesiastical income was
one thing--to make a Liberal speech was another thing; and it is
a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.
"Oh, rescue her! I am her brother now,
And you her father. Every gentle maid
Should have a guardian in each gentleman."
It was wonderful to Sir James Chettam how well he continued to like
going to the Grange after he had once encountered the difficulty
of seeing Dorothea for the first time in the light of a woman who was
engaged to another man. Of course the forked lightning seemed to pass
through him when he first approached her, and he remained conscious
throughout the interview of hiding uneasiness; but, good as he was,
it must be owned that his uneasiness was less than it would have
been if he had thought his rival a brilliant and desirable match.
He had no sense of being eclipsed by Mr. Casaubon; he was only shocked
that Dorothea was under a melancholy illusion, and his mortification
lost some of its bitterness by being mingled with compassion.
Nevertheless, while Sir James said to himself that he had
completely resigned her, since with the perversity of a Desdemona
she had not affected a proposed match that was clearly suitable
and according to nature; he could not yet be quite passive under
the idea of her engagement to Mr. Casaubon. On the day when he
first saw them together in the light of his present knowledge,
it seemed to him that he had not taken the affair seriously enough.
Brooke was really culpable; he ought to have hindered it. Who could
speak to him? Something might be done perhaps even now, at least
to defer the marriage. On his way home he turned into the Rectory
and asked for Mr. Cadwallader. Happily, the Rector was at home,
and his visitor was shown into the study, where all the fishing
tackle hung. But he himself was in a little room adjoining,
at work with his turning apparatus, and he called to the baronet
to join him there. The two were better friends than any other
landholder and clergyman in the county--a significant fact
which was in agreement with the amiable expression of their faces.
Mr. Cadwallader was a large man, with full lips and a sweet smile;
very plain and rough in his exterior, but with that solid imperturbable
ease and good-humor which is infectious, and like great grassy hills
in the sunshine, quiets even an irritated egoism, and makes it
rather ashamed of itself. "Well, how are you?" he said, showing a
hand not quite fit to be grasped. "Sorry I missed you before.
Is there anything particular? You look vexed."
Sir James's brow had a little crease in it, a little depression
of the eyebrow, which he seemed purposely to exaggerate as he answered.
"It is only this conduct of Brooke's. I really think somebody
should speak to him."
"What? meaning to stand?" said Mr. Cadwallader, going on with
the arrangement of the reels which he had just been turning.
"I hardly think he means it. But where's the harm, if he likes it?
Any one who objects to Whiggery should be glad when the Whigs don't
put up the strongest fellow. They won't overturn the Constitution
with our friend Brooke's head for a battering ram."
"Oh, I don't mean that," said Sir James, who, after putting down
his hat and throwing himself into a chair, had begun to nurse
his leg and examine the sole of his boot with much bitterness.
"I mean this marriage. I mean his letting that blooming young girl
"What is the matter with Casaubon? I see no harm in him--if the girl
"She is too young to know what she likes. Her guardian ought
to interfere. He ought not to allow the thing to be done in this
headlong manner. I wonder a man like you, Cadwallader--a man
with daughters, can look at the affair with indifference:
and with such a heart as yours! Do think seriously about it."
"I am not joking; I am as serious as possible," said the Rector,
with a provoking little inward laugh. "You are as bad as Elinor.
She has been wanting me to go and lecture Brooke; and I have reminded
her that her friends had a very poor opinion of the match she made
when she married me."
"But look at Casaubon," said Sir James, indignantly. "He must
be fifty, and I don't believe he could ever have been much more
than the shadow of a man. Look at his legs!"
"Confound you handsome young fellows! you think of having it
all your own way in the world. You don't under stand women.
They don't admire you half so much as you admire yourselves.
Elinor used to tell her sisters that she married me for my ugliness--it
was so various and amusing that it had quite conquered her prudence."
"You! it was easy enough for a woman to love you. But this is no
question of beauty. I don't _like_ Casaubon." This was Sir James's
strongest way of implying that he thought ill of a man's character.
"Why? what do you know against him?" said the Rector laying down
his reels, and putting his thumbs into his armholes with an air
Sir James paused. He did not usually find it easy to give his
reasons: it seemed to him strange that people should not know
them without being told, since he only felt what was reasonable.
At last he said--
"Now, Cadwallader, has he got any heart?"
"Well, yes. I don't mean of the melting sort, but a sound kernel,
_that_ you may be sure of. He is very good to his poor relations:
pensions several of the women, and is educating a young fellow at
a good deal of expense. Casaubon acts up to his sense of justice.
His mother's sister made a bad match--a Pole, I think--lost herself--at
any rate was disowned by her family. If it had not been for that,
Casaubon would not have had so much money by half. I believe he went
himself to find out his cousins, and see what he could do for them.
Every man would not ring so well as that, if you tried his metal.
_you_ would, Chettam; but not every man."
"I don't know," said Sir James, coloring. "I am not so sure of myself."
He paused a moment, and then added, "That was a right thing for
Casaubon to do. But a man may wish to do what is right, and yet
be a sort of parchment code. A woman may not be happy with him.
And I think when a girl is so young as Miss Brooke is, her friends
ought to interfere a little to hinder her from doing anything foolish.
You laugh, because you fancy I have some feeling on my own account.
But upon my honor, it is not that. I should feel just the same if I
were Miss Brooke's brother or uncle."
"Well, but what should you do?"
"I should say that the marriage must not be decided on until she was
of age. And depend upon it, in that case, it would never come off.
I wish you saw it as I do--I wish you would talk to Brooke about it."
Sir James rose as he was finishing his sentence, for he saw
Mrs. Cadwallader entering from the study. She held by the hand her
youngest girl, about five years old, who immediately ran to papa,
and was made comfortable on his knee.
"I hear what you are talking about," said the wife. "But you
will make no impression on Humphrey. As long as the fish rise
to his bait, everybody is what he ought to be. Bless you,
Casaubon has got a trout-stream, and does not care about fishing
in it himself: could there be a better fellow?"
"Well, there is something in that," said the Rector, with his quiet,
inward laugh. "It is a very good quality in a man to have
"But seriously," said Sir James, whose vexation had not yet spent itself,
"don't you think the Rector might do some good by speaking?"
"Oh, I told you beforehand what he would say," answered Mrs. Cadwallader,
lifting up her eyebrows. "I have done what I could: I wash
my hands of the marriage."
"In the first place," said the Rector, looking rather grave,
"it would be nonsensical to expect that I could convince Brooke,
and make him act accordingly. Brooke is a very good fellow, but pulpy;
he will run into any mould, but he won't keep shape."
"He might keep shape long enough to defer the marriage," said Sir James.
"But, my dear Chettam, why should I use my influence to Casaubon's
disadvantage, unless I were much surer than I am that I should be
acting for the advantage of Miss Brooke? I know no harm of Casaubon.
I don't care about his Xisuthrus and Fee-fo-fum and the rest;
but then he doesn't care about my fishing-tackle. As to the line he
took on the Catholic Question, that was unexpected; but he has always
been civil to me, and I don't see why I should spoil his sport.
For anything I can tell, Miss Brooke may be happier with him than
she would be with any other man."
"Humphrey! I have no patience with you. You know you would rather
dine under the hedge than with Casaubon alone. You have nothing
to say to each other."
"What has that to do with Miss Brooke's marrying him? She does
not do it for my amusement."
"He has got no good red blood in his body," said Sir James.
"No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass and it was all
semicolons and parentheses," said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"Why does he not bring out his book, instead of marrying,"
said Sir James, with a disgust which he held warranted by the sound
feeling of an English layman.
"Oh, he dreams footnotes, and they run away with all his brains.
They say, when he was a little boy, he made an abstract of
`Hop o' my Thumb,' and he has been making abstracts ever since.
Ugh! And that is the man Humphrey goes on saying that a woman may be
"Well, he is what Miss Brooke likes," said the Rector. "I don't
profess to understand every young lady's taste."
"But if she were your own daughter?" said Sir James.
"That would be a different affair. She is _not_ my daughter,
and I don't feel called upon to interfere. Casaubon is as good
as most of us. He is a scholarly clergyman, and creditable to
the cloth. Some Radical fellow speechifying at Middlemarch said
Casaubon was the learned straw-chopping incumbent, and Freke was
the brick-and-mortar incumbent, and I was the angling incumbent.
And upon my word, I don't see that one is worse or better than
the other." The Rector ended with his silent laugh. He always saw
the joke of any satire against himself. His conscience was large
and easy, like the rest of him: it did only what it could do without
Clearly, there would be no interference with Miss Brooke's marriage
through Mr. Cadwallader; and Sir James felt with some sadness that she
was to have perfect liberty of misjudgment. It was a sign of his good
disposition that he did not slacken at all in his intention of carrying
out Dorothea's design of the cottages. Doubtless this persistence was
the best course for his own dignity: but pride only helps us to be
generous; it never makes us so, any more than vanity makes us witty.
She was now enough aware of Sir James's position with regard to her, to
appreciate the rectitude of his perseverance in a landlord's duty, to
which he had at first been urged by a lover's complaisance, and her
pleasure in it was great enough to count for something even in her
present happiness. Perhaps she gave to Sir James Chettam's cottages all
the interest she could spare from Mr. Casaubon, or rather from the
symphony of hopeful dreams, admiring trust, and passionate self devotion
which that learned gentleman had set playing in her soul. Hence it
happened that in the good baronet's succeeding visits, while he was
beginning to pay small attentions to Celia, he found himself talking
with more and more pleasure to Dorothea. She was perfectly unconstrained
and without irritation towards him now, and he was gradually discovering
the delight there is in frank kindness and companionship between a man
and a woman who have no passion to hide or confess.
1st Gent. An ancient land in ancient oracles
Is called "law-thirsty": all the struggle there
Was after order and a perfect rule.
Pray, where lie such lands now? . . .
2d Gent. Why, where they lay of old--in human souls.
Mr. Casaubon's behavior about settlements was highly satisfactory
to Mr. Brooke, and the preliminaries of marriage rolled smoothly along,
shortening the weeks of courtship. The betrothed bride must see
her future home, and dictate any changes that she would like to have
made there. A woman dictates before marriage in order that she
may have an appetite for submission afterwards. And certainly,
the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our
own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.
On a gray but dry November morning Dorothea drove to Lowick
in company with her uncle and Celia. Mr. Casaubon's home was
the manor-house. Close by, visible from some parts of the garden,
was the little church, with the old parsonage opposite.
In the beginning of his career, Mr. Casaubon had only held
the living, but the death of his brother had put him in possession
of the manor also. It had a small park, with a fine old oak here
and there, and an avenue of limes towards the southwest front,
with a sunk fence between park and pleasure-ground, so that from the
drawing-room windows the glance swept uninterruptedly along a slope
of greensward till the limes ended in a level of corn and pastures,
which often seemed to melt into a lake under the setting sun.
This was the happy side of the house, for the south and east looked
rather melancholy even under the brightest morning. The grounds here
were more confined, the flower-beds showed no very careful tendance,
and large clumps of trees, chiefly of sombre yews, had risen high,
not ten yards from the windows. The building, of greenish stone,
was in the old English style, not ugly, but small-windowed and
melancholy-looking: the sort of house that must have children,
many flowers, open windows, and little vistas of bright things,
to make it seem a joyous home. In this latter end of autumn,
with a sparse remnant of yellow leaves falling slowly athwart the dark
evergreens in a stillness without sunshine, the house too had an air
of autumnal decline, and Mr. Casaubon, when he presented himself,
had no bloom that could be thrown into relief by that background.
"Oh dear!" Celia said to herself, "I am sure Freshitt Hall would
have been pleasanter than this." She thought of the white freestone,
the pillared portico, and the terrace full of flowers, Sir James
smiling above them like a prince issuing from his enchantment
in a rose-bush, with a handkerchief swiftly metamorphosed
from the most delicately odorous petals--Sir James, who talked
so agreeably, always about things which had common-sense in them,
and not about learning! Celia had those light young feminine tastes
which grave and weatherworn gentlemen sometimes prefer in a wife;
but happily Mr. Casaubon's bias had been different, for he would
have had no chance with Celia.
Dorothea, on the contrary, found the house and grounds all
that she could wish: the dark book-shelves in the long library,
the carpets and curtains with colors subdued by time, the curious
old maps and bird's-eye views on the walls of the corridor,
with here and there an old vase below, had no oppression for her,
and seemed more cheerful than the easts and pictures at the Grange,
which her uncle had long ago brought home from his travels--they
being probably among the ideas he had taken in at one time.
To poor Dorothea these severe classical nudities and smirking
Renaissance-Correggiosities were painfully inexplicable, staring into
the midst of her Puritanic conceptions: she had never been taught
how she could bring them into any sort of relevance with her life.
But the owners of Lowick apparently had not been travellers,
and Mr. Casaubon's studies of the past were not carried on by means
of such aids.
Dorothea walked about the house with delightful emotion.
Everything seemed hallowed to her: this was to be the home
of her wifehood, and she looked up with eyes full of confidence
to Mr. Casaubon when he drew her attention specially to some
actual arrangement and asked her if she would like an alteration.
All appeals to her taste she met gratefully, but saw nothing to alter.
His efforts at exact courtesy and formal tenderness had no defect
for her. She filled up all blanks with unmanifested perfections,
interpreting him as she interpreted the works of Providence,
and accounting for seeming discords by her own deafness to the
higher harmonies. And there are many blanks left in the weeks
of courtship which a loving faith fills with happy assurance.
"Now, my dear Dorothea, I wish you to favor me by pointing out which
room you would like to have as your boudoir," said Mr. Casaubon,
showing that his views of the womanly nature were sufficiently
large to include that requirement.
"It is very kind of you to think of that," said Dorothea, "but I
assure you I would rather have all those matters decided for me.
I shall be much happier to take everything as it is--just as you
have been used to have it, or as you will yourself choose it to be.
I have no motive for wishing anything else."
"Oh, Dodo," said Celia, "will you not have the bow-windowed
Mr. Casaubon led the way thither. The bow-window looked down the
avenue of limes; the furniture was all of a faded blue, and there
were miniatures of ladies and gentlemen with powdered hair hanging
in a group. A piece of tapestry over a door also showed a blue-green
world with a pale stag in it. The chairs and tables were thin-legged
and easy to upset. It was a room where one might fancy the ghost
of a tight-laced lady revisiting the scene of her embroidery.
A light bookcase contained duodecimo volumes of polite literature
in calf, completing the furniture.
"Yes," said Mr. Brooke, "this would be a pretty room with some
new hangings, sofas, and that sort of thing. A little bare now."
"No, uncle," said Dorothea, eagerly. "Pray do not speak of
altering anything. There are so many other things in the world
that want altering--I like to take these things as they are.
And you like them as they are, don't you?" she added, looking at
Mr. Casaubon. "Perhaps this was your mother's room when she was young."
"It was," he said, with his slow bend of the head.
"This is your mother," said Dorothea, who had turned to examine
the group of miniatures. "It is like the tiny one you brought me;
only, I should think, a better portrait. And this one opposite,
who is this?"
"Her elder sister. They were, like you and your sister, the only
two children of their parents, who hang above them, you see."
"The sister is pretty," said Celia, implying that she thought
less favorably of Mr. Casaubon's mother. It was a new opening
to Celia's imagination, that he came of a family who had all been
young in their time--the ladies wearing necklaces.
"It is a peculiar face," said Dorothea, looking closely. "Those deep
gray eyes rather near together--and the delicate irregular nose with
a sort of ripple in it--and all the powdered curls hanging backward.
Altogether it seems to me peculiar rather than pretty. There is
not even a family likeness between her and your mother."
"No. And they were not alike in their lot."
"You did not mention her to me," said Dorothea.
"My aunt made an unfortunate marriage. I never saw her."
Dorothea wondered a little, but felt that it would be indelicate just
then to ask for any information which Mr. Casaubon did not proffer,
and she turned to the window to admire the view. The sun had lately
pierced the gray, and the avenue of limes cast shadows.
"Shall we not walk in the garden now?" said Dorothea.
"And you would like to see the church, you know," said Mr. Brooke.
"It is a droll little church. And the village. It all lies in a
nut-shell. By the way, it will suit you, Dorothea; for the cottages
are like a row of alms-houses--little gardens, gilly-flowers, that
sort of thing."
"Yes, please," said Dorothea, looking at Mr. Casaubon, "I should
like to see all that." She had got nothing from him more graphic
about the Lowick cottages than that they were "not bad."
They were soon on a gravel walk which led chiefly between grassy
borders and clumps of trees, this being the nearest way to the church,
Mr. Casaubon said. At the little gate leading into the churchyard
there was a pause while Mr. Casaubon went to the parsonage close
by to fetch a key. Celia, who had been hanging a little in the rear,
came up presently, when she saw that Mr. Casaubon was gone away,
and said in her easy staccato, which always seemed to contradict
the suspicion of any malicious intent--
"Do you know, Dorothea, I saw some one quite young coming up one
of the walks."
"Is that astonishing, Celia?"
"There may be a young gardener, you know--why not?" said Mr. Brooke.
"I told Casaubon he should change his gardener."
"No, not a gardener," said Celia; "a gentleman with a sketch-book. He
had light-brown curls. I only saw his back. But he was quite young."
"The curate's son, perhaps," said Mr. Brooke. "Ah, there is
Casaubon again, and Tucker with him. He is going to introduce Tucker.
You don't know Tucker yet."
Mr. Tucker was the middle-aged curate, one of the "inferior clergy,"
who are usually not wanting in sons. But after the introduction,
the conversation did not lead to any question about his family,
and the startling apparition of youthfulness was forgotten by every
one but Celia. She inwardly declined to believe that the light-brown
curls and slim figure could have any relationship to Mr. Tucker,
who was just as old and musty-looking as she would have expected
Mr. Casaubon's curate to be; doubtless an excellent man who would go
to heaven (for Celia wished not to be unprincipled), but the corners
of his mouth were so unpleasant. Celia thought with some dismalness
of the time she should have to spend as bridesmaid at Lowick, while the
curate had probably no pretty little children whom she could like,
irrespective of principle.
Mr. Tucker was invaluable in their walk; and perhaps Mr. Casaubon
had not been without foresight on this head, the curate being able
to answer all Dorothea's questions about the villagers and the
other parishioners. Everybody, he assured her, was well off in Lowick:
not a cottager in those double cottages at a low rent but kept a pig,
and the strips of garden at the back were well tended. The small
boys wore excellent corduroy, the girls went out as tidy servants,
or did a little straw-plaiting at home: no looms here, no Dissent;
and though the public disposition was rather towards laying
by money than towards spirituality, there was not much vice.
The speckled fowls were so numerous that Mr. Brooke observed,
"Your farmers leave some barley for the women to glean, I see.
The poor folks here might have a fowl in their pot, as the good French
king used to wish for all his people. The French eat a good many
fowls--skinny fowls, you know."
"I think it was a very cheap wish of his," said Dorothea, indignantly.
"Are kings such monsters that a wish like that must be reckoned
a royal virtue?"
"And if he wished them a skinny fowl," said Celia, "that would
not be nice. But perhaps he wished them to have fat fowls."
"Yes, but the word has dropped out of the text, or perhaps was
subauditum; that is, present in the king's mind, but not uttered,"
said Mr. Casaubon, smiling and bending his head towards Celia,
who immediately dropped backward a little, because she could not bear
Mr. Casaubon to blink at her.
Dorothea sank into silence on the way back to the house. She felt
some disappointment, of which she was yet ashamed, that there was
nothing for her to do in Lowick; and in the next few minutes her mind
had glanced over the possibility, which she would have preferred,
of finding that her home would be in a parish which had a larger
share of the world's misery, so that she might have had more active
duties in it. Then, recurring to the future actually before her,
she made a picture of more complete devotion to Mr. Casaubon's
aims in which she would await new duties. Many such might reveal
themselves to the higher knowledge gained by her in that companionship.
Mr. Tucker soon left them, having some clerical work which would
not allow him to lunch at the Hall; and as they were re-entering
the garden through the little gate, Mr. Casaubon said--
"You seem a little sad, Dorothea. I trust you are pleased with
what you have seen."
"I am feeling something which is perhaps foolish and wrong,"
answered Dorothea, with her usual openness--"almost wishing that
the people wanted more to be done for them here. I have known
so few ways of making my life good for anything. Of course,
my notions of usefulness must be narrow. I must learn new ways
of helping people."
"Doubtless," said Mr. Casaubon. "Each position has its
corresponding duties. Yours, I trust, as the mistress of Lowick,
will not leave any yearning unfulfilled."
"Indeed, I believe that," said Dorothea, earnestly. "Do not suppose
that I am sad."
"That is well. But, if you are not tired, we will take another way
to the house than that by which we came."
Dorothea was not at all tired, and a little circuit was made
towards a fine yew-tree, the chief hereditary glory of the grounds
on this side of the house. As they approached it, a figure,
conspicuous on a dark background of evergreens, was seated on
a bench, sketching the old tree. Mr. Brooke, who was walking
in front with Celia, turned his head, and said--
"Who is that youngster, Casaubon?"
They had come very near when Mr. Casaubon answered--
"That is a young relative of mine, a second cousin: the grandson,
in fact," he added, looking at Dorothea, "of the lady whose portrait
you have been noticing, my aunt Julia."
The young man had laid down his sketch-book and risen. His bushy
light-brown curls, as well as his youthfulness, identified him
at once with Celia's apparition.
"Dorothea, let me introduce to you my cousin, Mr. Ladislaw.
Will, this is Miss Brooke."
The cousin was so close now, that, when he lifted his hat,
Dorothea could see a pair of gray eves rather near together,
a delicate irregular nose with a little ripple in it, and hair
falling backward; but there was a mouth and chin of a more prominent,
threatening aspect than belonged to the type of the grandmother's
miniature. Young Ladislaw did not feel it necessary to smile,
as if he were charmed with this introduction to his future second
cousin and her relatives; but wore rather a pouting air of discontent.
"You are an artist, I see," said Mr. Brooke, taking up the sketch-book
and turning it over in his unceremonious fashion.
"No, I only sketch a little. There is nothing fit to be seen there,"
said young Ladislaw, coloring, perhaps with temper rather than modesty.
"Oh, come, this is a nice bit, now. I did a little in this way
myself at one time, you know. Look here, now; this is what I
call a nice thing, done with what we used to call _brio_."
Mr. Brooke held out towards the two girls a large colored sketch
of stony ground and trees, with a pool.
"I am no judge of these things," said Dorothea, not coldly, but with
an eager deprecation of the appeal to her. "You know, uncle, I never
see the beauty of those pictures which you say are so much praised.
They are a language I do not understand. I suppose there is some
relation between pictures and nature which I am too ignorant to
feel--just as you see what a Greek sentence stands for which means
nothing to me." Dorothea looked up at Mr. Casaubon, who bowed
his head towards her, while Mr. Brooke said, smiling nonchalantly--
"Bless me, now, how different people are! But you had a bad style
of teaching, you know--else this is just the thing for girls--sketching,
fine art and so on. But you took to drawing plans; you don't
understand morbidezza, and that kind of thing. You will come
to my house, I hope, and I will show you what I did in this way,"
he continued, turning to young Ladislaw, who had to be recalled
from his preoccupation in observing Dorothea. Ladislaw had made up
his mind that she must be an unpleasant girl, since she was going
to marry Casaubon, and what she said of her stupidity about pictures
would have confirmed that opinion even if he had believed her.
As it was, he took her words for a covert judgment, and was certain
that she thought his sketch detestable. There was too much cleverness
in her apology: she was laughing both at her uncle and himself.
But what a voice! It was like the voice of a soul that had once lived
in an AEolian harp. This must be one of Nature's inconsistencies.
There could be no sort of passion in a girl who would marry Casaubon.
But he turned from her, and bowed his thanks for Mr. Brooke's invitation.
"We will turn over my Italian engravings together," continued that
good-natured man. "I have no end of those things, that I have laid
by for years. One gets rusty in this part of the country, you know.
Not you, Casaubon; you stick to your studies; but my best ideas
get undermost--out of use, you know. You clever young men must
guard against indolence. I was too indolent, you know: else I
might have been anywhere at one time."
"That is a seasonable admonition," said Mr. Casaubon; "but now we
will pass on to the house, lest the young ladies should be tired
When their backs were turned, young Ladislaw sat down to go
on with his sketching, and as he did so his face broke into an
expression of amusement which increased as he went on drawing,
till at last he threw back his head and laughed aloud. Partly it
was the reception of his own artistic production that tickled him;
partly the notion of his grave cousin as the lover of that girl;
and partly Mr. Brooke's definition of the place he might have
held but for the impediment of indolence. Mr. Will Ladislaw's
sense of the ludicrous lit up his features very agreeably: it was
the pure enjoyment of comicality, and had no mixture of sneering
"What is your nephew going to do with himself, Casaubon?"
said Mr. Brooke, as they went on.
"My cousin, you mean--not my nephew."
"Yes, yes, cousin. But in the way of a career, you know."
"The answer to that question is painfully doubtful. On leaving Rugby
he declined to go to an English university, where I would gladly
have placed him, and chose what I must consider the anomalous course
of studying at Heidelberg. And now he wants to go abroad again,
without any special object, save the vague purpose of what he
calls culture, preparation for he knows not what. He declines
to choose a profession."
"He has no means but what you furnish, I suppose."
"I have always given him and his friends reason to understand
that I would furnish in moderation what was necessary for providing
him with a scholarly education, and launching him respectably.
I am-therefore bound to fulfil the expectation so raised,"
said Mr. Casaubon, putting his conduct in the light of mere rectitude:
a trait of delicacy which Dorothea noticed with admiration.
"He has a thirst for travelling; perhaps he may turn out a Bruce
or a Mungo Park," said Mr. Brooke. "I had a notion of that myself
at one time."
"No, he has no bent towards exploration, or the enlargement
of our geognosis: that would be a special purpose which I could
recognize with some approbation, though without felicitating him
on a career which so often ends in premature and violent death.
But so far is he from having any desire for a more accurate knowledge
of the earth's surface, that he said he should prefer not to know
the sources of the Nile, and that there should be some unknown
regions preserved as hunting grounds for the poetic imagination."
"Well, there is something in that, you know," said Mr. Brooke,
who had certainly an impartial mind.
"It is, I fear, nothing more than a part of his general inaccuracy
and indisposition to thoroughness of all kinds, which would be a bad
augury for him in any profession, civil or sacred, even were he
so far submissive to ordinary rule as to choose one."
"Perhaps he has conscientious scruples founded on his own unfitness,"
said Dorothea, who was interesting herself in finding a favorable
explanation. "Because the law and medicine should be very serious
professions to undertake, should they not? People's lives and fortunes
depend on them."
"Doubtless; but I fear that my young relative Will Ladislaw is
chiefly determined in his aversion to these callings by a dislike
to steady application, and to that kind of acquirement which is
needful instrumentally, but is not charming or immediately inviting
to self-indulgent taste. I have insisted to him on what Aristotle has
stated with admirable brevity, that for the achievement of any work
regarded as an end there must be a prior exercise of many energies
or acquired facilities of a secondary order, demanding patience.
I have pointed to my own manuscript volumes, which represent
the toil of years preparatory to a work not yet accomplished.
But in vain. To careful reasoning of this kind he replies
by calling himself Pegasus, and every form of prescribed work `harness.'"
Celia laughed. She was surprised to find that Mr. Casaubon could
say something quite amusing.
"Well, you know, he may turn out a Byron, a Chatterton,
a Churchill--that sort of thing--there's no telling," said Mr. Brooke.
"Shall you let him go to Italy, or wherever else he wants to go?"
"Yes; I have agreed to furnish him with moderate supplies for a year
or so; he asks no more. I shall let him be tried by the test
"That is very kind of you," said Dorothea, looking up at Mr. Casaubon
with delight. "It is noble. After all, people may really have
in them some vocation which is not quite plain to themselves,
may they not? They may seem idle and weak because they are growing.
We should be very patient with each other, I think."
"I suppose it is being engaged to be married that has made you
think patience good," said Celia, as soon as she and Dorothea
were alone together, taking off their wrappings.
"You mean that I am very impatient, Celia."
"Yes; when people don't do and say just what you like." Celia had
become less afraid of "saying things" to Dorothea since this
engagement: cleverness seemed to her more pitiable than ever.
"He had catched a great cold, had he had no other clothes
to wear than the skin of a bear not yet killed."--FULLER.
Young Ladislaw did not pay that visit to which Mr. Brooke had
invited him, and only six days afterwards Mr. Casaubon mentioned
that his young relative had started for the Continent, seeming by this
cold vagueness to waive inquiry. Indeed, Will had declined to fix
on any more precise destination than the entire area of Europe.
Genius, he held, is necessarily intolerant of fetters: on the one
hand it must have the utmost play for its spontaneity; on the other,
it may confidently await those messages from the universe which
summon it to its peculiar work, only placing itself in an attitude
of receptivity towards all sublime chances. The attitudes of
receptivity are various, and Will had sincerely tried many of them.
He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken
too much, simply as an experiment in that form of ecstasy; he had
fasted till he was faint, and then supped on lobster; he had made
himself ill with doses of opium. Nothing greatly original had resulted
from these measures; and the effects of the opium had convinced him
that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution
and De Quincey's. The superadded circumstance which would evolve
the genius had not yet come; the universe had not yet beckoned.
Even Caesar's fortune at one time was, but a grand presentiment.
We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes
may be disguised in helpless embryos.--In fact, the world is full
of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities.
Will saw clearly enough the pitiable instances of long incubation
producing no chick, and but for gratitude would have laughed
at Casaubon, whose plodding application, rows of note-books, and small
taper of learned theory exploring the tossed ruins of the world,
seemed to enforce a moral entirely encouraging to Will's generous
reliance on the intentions of the universe with regard to himself.
He held that reliance to be a mark of genius; and certainly it is no
mark to the contrary; genius consisting neither in self-conceit nor
in humility, but in a power to make or do, not anything in general,
but something in particular. Let him start for the Continent, then,
without our pronouncing on his future. Among all forms of mistake,
prophecy is the most gratuitous.
But at present this caution against a too hasty judgment interests
me more in relation to Mr. Casaubon than to his young cousin.
If to Dorothea Mr. Casaubon had been the mere occasion which had set
alight the fine inflammable material of her youthful illusions,
does it follow that he was fairly represented in the minds of those
less impassioned personages who have hitherto delivered their
judgments concerning him? I protest against any absolute conclusion,
any prejudice derived from Mrs. Cadwallader's contempt for a neighboring
clergyman's alleged greatness of soul, or Sir James Chettam's poor
opinion of his rival's legs,--from Mr. Brooke's failure to elicit
a companion's ideas, or from Celia's criticism of a middle-aged
scholar's personal appearance. I am not sure that the greatest man
of his age, if ever that solitary superlative existed, could escape
these unfavorable reflections of himself in various small mirrors;
and even Milton, looking for his portrait in a spoon, must submit
to have the facial angle of a bumpkin. Moreover, if Mr. Casaubon,
speaking for himself, has rather a chilling rhetoric, it is not
therefore certain that there is no good work or fine feeling in him.
Did not an immortal physicist and interpreter of hieroglyphs write
detestable verses? Has the theory of the solar system been advanced
by graceful manners and conversational tact? Suppose we turn
from outside estimates of a man, to wonder, with keener interest,
what is the report of his own consciousness about his doings or
capacity: with what hindrances he is carrying on his daily labors;
what fading of hopes, or what deeper fixity of self-delusion the
years are marking off within him; and with what spirit he wrestles
against universal pressure, which will one day be too heavy for him,
and bring his heart to its final pause. Doubtless his lot is
important in his own eyes; and the chief reason that we think
he asks too large a place in our consideration must be our want
of room for him, since we refer him to the Divine regard with
perfect confidence; nay, it is even held sublime for our neighbor
to expect the utmost there, however little he may have got from us.
Mr. Casaubon, too, was the centre of his own world; if he was
liable to think that others were providentially made for him,
and especially to consider them in the light of their fitness
for the author of a "Key to all Mythologies," this trait is not
quite alien to us, and, like the other mendicant hopes of mortals,
claims some of our pity.
Certainly this affair of his marriage with Miss Brooke touched him
more nearly than it did any one of the persons who have hitherto
shown their disapproval of it, and in the present stage of things I
feel more tenderly towards his experience of success than towards
the disappointment of the amiable Sir James. For in truth, as the
day fixed for his marriage came nearer, Mr. Casaubon did not find
his spirits rising; nor did the contemplation of that matrimonial
garden scene, where, as all experience showed, the path was to be
bordered with flowers, prove persistently more enchanting to him
than the accustomed vaults where he walked taper in hand. He did
not confess to himself, still less could he have breathed to another,
his surprise that though he had won a lovely and noble-hearted girl
he had not won delight,--which he had also regarded as an object
to be found by search. It is true that he knew all the classical
passages implying the contrary; but knowing classical passages,
we find, is a mode of motion, which explains why they leave
so little extra force for their personal application.
Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood
had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that
large drafts on his affections would not fail to be honored; for we
all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors,
and act fatally on the strength of them. And now he was in danger
of being saddened by the very conviction that his circumstances
were unusually happy: there was nothing external by which he could
account for a certain blankness of sensibility which came over him
just when his expectant gladness should have been most lively,
just when he exchanged the accustomed dulness of his Lowick library
for his visits to the Grange. Here was a weary experience in which
he was as utterly condemned to loneliness as in the despair which
sometimes threatened him while toiling in the morass of authorship
without seeming nearer to the goal. And his was that worst
loneliness which would shrink from sympathy. He could not but wish
that Dorothea should think him not less happy than the world would
expect her successful suitor to be; and in relation to his authorship
he leaned on her young trust and veneration, he liked to draw
forth her fresh interest in listening, as a means of encouragement
to himself: in talking to her he presented all his performance and
intention with the reflected confidence of the pedagogue, and rid
himself for the time of that chilling ideal audience which crowded
his laborious uncreative hours with the vaporous pressure of Tartarean
For to Dorothea, after that toy-box history of the world adapted
to young ladies which had made the chief part of her education,
Mr. Casaubon's talk about his great book was full of new vistas;
and this sense of revelation, this surprise of a nearer introduction
to Stoics and Alexandrians, as people who had ideas not totally
unlike her own, kept in abeyance for the time her usual eagerness
for a binding theory which could bring her own life and doctrine
into strict connection with that amazing past, and give the remotest
sources of knowledge some bearing on her actions. That more complete
teaching would come--Mr. Casaubon would tell her all that: she was
looking forward to higher initiation in ideas, as she was looking
forward to marriage, and blending her dim conceptions of both.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that Dorothea would have cared
about any share in Mr. Casaubon's learning as mere accomplishment;
for though opinion in the neighborhood of Freshitt and Tipton
had pronounced her clever, that epithet would not have described
her to circles in whose more precise vocabulary cleverness implies
mere aptitude for knowing and doing, apart from character.
All her eagerness for acquirement lay within that full current of
sympathetic motive in which her ideas and impulses were habitually
swept along. She did not want to deck herself with knowledge--to
wear it loose from the nerves and blood that fed her action; and if
she had written a book she must have done it as Saint Theresa did,
under the command of an authority that constrained her conscience.
But something she yearned for by which her life might be filled
with action at once rational and ardent; and since the time was gone
by for guiding visions and spiritual directors, since prayer heightened
yearning but not instruction, what lamp was there but knowledge?
Surely learned men kept the only oil; and who more learned than
Thus in these brief weeks Dorothea's joyous grateful expectation
was unbroken, and however her lover might occasionally be conscious
of flatness, he could never refer it to any slackening of her
The season was mild enough to encourage the project of extending
the wedding journey as far as Rome, and Mr. Casaubon was anxious
for this because he wished to inspect some manuscripts in the Vatican.
"I still regret that your sister is not to accompany us," he said
one morning, some time after it had been ascertained that Celia
objected to go, and that Dorothea did not wish for her companionship.
"You will have many lonely hours, Dorotheas, for I shall be
constrained to make the utmost use of my time during our stay in Rome,
and I should feel more at liberty if you had a companion."
The words "I should feel more at liberty" grated on Dorothea.
For the first time in speaking to Mr. Casaubon she colored
"You must have misunderstood me very much," she said, "if you think
I should not enter into the value of your time--if you think that I
should not willingly give up whatever interfered with your using
it to the best purpose."
"That is very amiable in you, my dear Dorothea," said Mr. Casaubon,
not in the least noticing that she was hurt; "but if you had a lady
as your companion, I could put you both under the care of a cicerone,
and we could thus achieve two purposes in the same space of time."
"I beg you will not refer to this again," said Dorothea, rather haughtily.
But immediately she feared that she was wrong, and turning towards
him she laid her hand on his, adding in a different tone, "Pray do
not be anxious about me. I shall have so much to think of when I
am alone. And Tantripp will be a sufficient companion, just to take
care of me. I could not bear to have Celia: she would be miserable."
It was time to dress. There was to be a dinner-party that day,
the last of the parties which were held at the Grange as proper
preliminaries to the wedding, and Dorothea was glad of a reason
for moving away at once on the sound of the bell, as if she needed
more than her usual amount of preparation. She was ashamed of being
irritated from some cause she could not define even to herself;
for though she had no intention to be untruthful, her reply had not
touched the real hurt within her. Mr. Casaubon's words had been
quite reasonable, yet they had brought a vague instantaneous sense
of aloofness on his part.
"Surely I am in a strangely selfish weak state of mind," she said
to herself. "How can I have a husband who is so much above me
without knowing that he needs me less than I need him?"
Having convinced herself that Mr. Casaubon was altogether right,
she recovered her equanimity, and was an agreeable image of serene
dignity when she came into the drawing-room in her silver-gray
dress--the simple lines of her dark-brown hair parted over her brow
and coiled massively behind, in keeping with the entire absence
from her manner and expression of all search after mere effect.
Sometimes when Dorothea was in company, there seemed to be as
complete an air of repose about her as if she had been a picture
of Santa Barbara looking out from her tower into the clear air;
but these intervals of quietude made the energy of her speech
and emotion the more remarked when some outward appeal had
She was naturally the subject of many observations this evening,
for the dinner-party was large and rather more miscellaneous
as to the male portion than any which had been held at the Grange
since Mr. Brooke's nieces had resided with him, so that the
talking was done in duos and trios more or less inharmonious.
There was the newly elected mayor of Middlemarch, who happened
to be a manufacturer; the philanthropic banker his brother-in-law,
who predominated so much in the town that some called him a Methodist,
others a hypocrite, according to the resources of their vocabulary;
and there were various professional men. In fact, Mrs. Cadwallader
said that Brooke was beginning to treat the Middlemarchers,
and that she preferred the farmers at the tithe-dinner, who drank her
health unpretentiously, and were not ashamed of their grandfathers'
furniture. For in that part of the country, before reform had
done its notable part in developing the political consciousness,
there was a clearer distinction of ranks and a dimmer distinction
of parties; so that Mr. Brooke's miscellaneous invitations seemed
to belong to that general laxity which came from his inordinate
travel and habit of taking too much in the form of ideas.
Already, as Miss Brooke passed out of the dining-room, opportunity
was found for some interjectional "asides"
"A fine woman, Miss Brooke! an uncommonly fine woman, by God!"
said Mr. Standish, the old lawyer, who had been so long concerned
with the landed gentry that he had become landed himself, and used
that oath in a deep-mouthed manner as a sort of armorial bearings,
stamping the speech of a man who held a good position.
Mr. Bulstrode, the banker, seemed to be addressed, but that
gentleman disliked coarseness and profanity, and merely bowed.
The remark was taken up by Mr. Chichely, a middle-aged bachelor
and coursing celebrity, who had a complexion something like
an Easter egg, a few hairs carefully arranged, and a carriage
implying the consciousness of a distinguished appearance.
"Yes, but not my style of woman: I like a woman who lays herself
out a little more to please us. There should be a little filigree
about a woman--something of the coquette. A man likes a sort
of challenge. The more of a dead set she makes at you the better."
"There's some truth in that," said Mr. Standish, disposed to be genial.
"And, by God, it's usually the way with them. I suppose it answers
some wise ends: Providence made them so, eh, Bulstrode?"
"I should be disposed to refer coquetry to another source,"
said Mr. Bulstrode. "I should rather refer it to the devil."
"Ay, to be sure, there should be a little devil in a woman,"
said Mr. Chichely, whose study of the fair sex seemed to have been
detrimental to his theology. "And I like them blond, with a
certain gait, and a swan neck. Between ourselves, the mayor's
daughter is more to my taste than Miss Brooke or Miss Celia either.
If I were a marrying man I should choose Miss Vincy before either
"Well, make up, make up," said Mr. Standish, jocosely; "you see
the middle-aged fellows early the day."
Mr. Chichely shook his head with much meaning: he was not going
to incur the certainty of being accepted by the woman he would choose.
The Miss Vincy who had the honor of being Mr. Chichely's ideal was
of course not present; for Mr. Brooke, always objecting to go too far,
would not have chosen that his nieces should meet the daughter
of a Middlemarch manufacturer, unless it were on a public occasion.
The feminine part of the company included none whom Lady
Chettam or Mrs. Cadwallader could object to; for Mrs. Renfrew,
the colonel's widow, was not only unexceptionable in point of breeding,
but also interesting on the ground of her complaint, which puzzled
the doctors, and seemed clearly a case wherein the fulness of
professional knowledge might need the supplement of quackery.
Lady Chettam, who attributed her own remarkable health to home-made
bitters united with constant medical attendance, entered with much
exercise of the imagination into Mrs. Renfrew's account of symptoms,
and into the amazing futility in her case of all, strengthening medicines.
"Where can all the strength of those medicines go, my dear?" said the
mild but stately dowager, turning to Mrs. Cadwallader reflectively,
when Mrs. Renfrew's attention was called away.
"It strengthens the disease," said the Rector's wife, much too
well-born not to be an amateur in medicine. "Everything depends on
the constitution: some people make fat, some blood, and some
bile--that's my view of the matter; and whatever they take is a
sort of grist to the mill."
"Then she ought to take medicines that would reduce--reduce
the disease, you know, if you are right, my dear. And I think
what you say is reasonable."
"Certainly it is reasonable. You have two sorts of potatoes,
fed on the same soil. One of them grows more and more watery--"
"Ah! like this poor Mrs. Renfrew--that is what I think.
Dropsy! There is no swelling yet--it is inward. I should say she ought
to take drying medicines, shouldn't you?--or a dry hot-air bath.
Many things might be tried, of a drying nature."
"Let her try a certain person's pamphlets," said Mrs. Cadwallader
in an undertone, seeing the gentlemen enter. "He does not want drying."
"Who, my dear?" said Lady Chettam, a charming woman, not so quick
as to nullify the pleasure of explanation.
"The bridegroom--Casaubon. He has certainly been drying up faster
since the engagement: the flame of passion, I suppose."
"I should think he is far from having a good constitution,"
said Lady Chettam, with a still deeper undertone. "And then his
studies--so very dry, as you say."
"Really, by the side of Sir James, he looks like a death's head
skinned over for the occasion. Mark my words: in a year from this
time that girl will hate him. She looks up to him as an oracle now,
and by-and-by she will be at the other extreme. All flightiness!"
"How very shocking! I fear she is headstrong. But tell me--you
know all about him--is there anything very bad? What is the truth?"
"The truth? he is as bad as the wrong physic--nasty to take,
and sure to disagree."
"There could not be anything worse than that," said Lady Chettam,
with so vivid a conception of the physic that she seemed to have
learned something exact about Mr. Casaubon's disadvantages.
"However, James will hear nothing against Miss Brooke. He says she
is the mirror of women still."
"That is a generous make-believe of his. Depend upon it, he likes
little Celia better, and she appreciates him. I hope you like my
"Certainly; she is fonder of geraniums, and seems more docile,
though not so fine a figure. But we were talking of physic.
Tell me about this new young surgeon, Mr. Lydgate. I am told he is
wonderfully clever: he certainly looks it--a fine brow indeed."
"He is a gentleman. I heard him talking to Humphrey. He talks well."
"Yes. Mr. Brooke says he is one of the Lydgates of Northumberland,
really well connected. One does not expect it in a practitioner
of that kind. For my own part, I like a medical man more on a footing
with the servants; they are often all the cleverer. I assure you
I found poor Hicks's judgment unfailing; I never knew him wrong.
He was coarse and butcher-like, but he knew my constitution.
It was a loss to me his going off so suddenly. Dear me, what a
very animated conversation Miss Brooke seems to be having with this
"She is talking cottages and hospitals with him," said Mrs. Cadwallader,
whose ears and power of interpretation were quick. "I believe
he is a sort of philanthropist, so Brooke is sure to take him up."
"James," said Lady Chettam when her son came near, "bring Mr. Lydgate
and introduce him to me. I want to test him."
The affable dowager declared herself delighted with this opportunity
of making Mr. Lydgate's acquaintance, having heard of his success
in treating fever on a new plan.
Mr. Lydgate had the medical accomplishment of looking perfectly grave
whatever nonsense was talked to him, and his dark steady eyes gave him
impressiveness as a listener. He was as little as possible like the
lamented Hicks, especially in a certain careless refinement about his
toilet and utterance. Yet Lady Chettam gathered much confidence in him.
He confirmed her view of her own constitution as being peculiar,
by admitting that all constitutions might be called peculiar,
and he did not deny that hers might be more peculiar than others.
He did not approve of a too lowering system, including reckless cupping,
nor, on the other hand, of incessant port wine and bark. He said "I
think so" with an air of so much deference accompanying the insight
of agreement, that she formed the most cordial opinion of his talents.
"I am quite pleased with your protege," she said to Mr. Brooke
before going away.
"My protege?--dear me!--who is that?" said Mr. Brooke.
"This young Lydgate, the new doctor.-He seems to me to understand
his profession admirably."
"Oh, Lydgate! he is not my protege, you know; only I knew an
uncle of his who sent me a letter about him. However, I think he
is likely to be first-rate--has studied in Paris, knew Broussais;
has ideas, you know--wants to raise the profession."
"Lydgate has lots of ideas, quite new, about ventilation and diet,
that sort of thing," resumed Mr. Brooke, after he had handed out
Lady Chettam, and had returned to be civil to a group of Middlemarchers.
"Hang it, do you think that is quite sound?--upsetting The old treatment,
which has made Englishmen what they re?" said Mr. Standish.
"Medical knowledge is at a low ebb among us," said Mr. Bulstrode,
who spoke in a subdued tone, and had rather a sickly air. "I, for
my part, hail the advent of Mr. Lydgate. I hope to find good reason
for confiding the new hospital to his management."
"That is all very fine," replied Mr. Standish, who was not fond of
Mr. Bulstrode; "if you like him to try experiments on your hospital
patients, and kill a few people for charity I have no objection.
But I am not going to hand money out of my purse to have experiments
tried on me. I like treatment that has been tested a little."
"Well, you know, Standish, every dose you take is an experiment-an
experiment, you know," said Mr. Brooke, nodding towards the lawyer.
"Oh, if you talk in that sense!" said Mr. Standish, with as much
disgust at such non-legal quibbling as a man can well betray towards
a valuable client.
"I should be glad of any treatment that would cure me without
reducing me to a skeleton, like poor Grainger," said Mr. Vincy,
the mayor, a florid man, who would have served for a study of flesh
in striking contrast with the Franciscan tints of Mr. Bulstrode.
"It's an uncommonly dangerous thing to be left without any padding
against the shafts of disease, as somebody said,--and I think it a
very good expression myself."
Mr. Lydgate, of course, was out of hearing. He had quitted the
party early, and would have thought it altogether tedious but for
the novelty of certain introductions, especially the introduction
to Miss Brooke, whose youthful bloom, with her approaching marriage
to that faded scholar, and her interest in matters socially useful,
gave her the piquancy of an unusual combination.
"She is a good creature--that fine girl--but a little too earnest,"
he thought. "It is troublesome to talk to such women. They are
always wanting reasons, yet they are too ignorant to understand
the merits of any question, and usually fall hack on their moral
sense to settle things after their own taste."
Evidently Miss Brooke was not Mr. Lydgate's style of woman any more
than Mr. Chichely's. Considered, indeed, in relation to the latter,
whose mied was matured, she was altogether a mistake, and calculated
to shock his trust in final causes, including the adaptation of fine
young women to purplefaced bachelors. But Lydgate was less ripe,
and might possibly have experience before him which would modify
his opinion as to the most excellent things in woman.
Miss Brooke, however, was not again seen by either of these
gentlemen under her maiden name. Not long after that dinner-party
she had become Mrs. Casaubon, and was on her way to Rome.
"But deeds and language such as men do use,
And persons such as comedy would choose,
When she would show an image of the times,
And sport with human follies, not with crimes."
Lydgate, in fact, was already conscious of being fascinated by a
woman strikingly different from Miss Brooke: he did not in the
least suppose that he had lost his balance and fallen in love,
but he had said of that particular woman, "She is grace itself;
she is perfectly lovely and accomplished. That is what a woman
ought to be: she ought to produce the effect of exquisite music."
Plain women he regarded as he did the other severe facts of life,
to be faced with philosophy and investigated by science. But Rosamond
Vincy seemed to have the true melodic charm; and when a man has seen
the woman whom he would have chosen if he had intended to marry speedily,
his remaining a bachelor will usually depend on her resolution
rather than on his. Lydgate believed that he should not marry for
several years: not marry until he had trodden out a good clear path
for himself away from the broad road which was quite ready made.
He had seen Miss Vincy above his horizon almost as long as it
had taken Mr. Casaubon to become engaged and married: but this
learned gentleman was possessed of a fortune; he had assembled his
voluminous notes, and had made that sort of reputation which precedes
performance,--often the larger part of a man's fame. He took a wife,
as we have seen, to adorn the remaining quadrant of his course,
and be a little moon that would cause hardly a calculable perturbation.
But Lydgate was young, poor, ambitious. He had his half-century
before him instead of behind him, and he had come to Middlemarch bent
on doing many things that were not directly fitted to make his fortune
or even secure him a good income. To a man under such circumstances,
taking a wife is something more than a question of adornment,
however highly he may rate this; and Lydgate was disposed to give
it the first place among wifely functions. To his taste, guided by
a single conversation, here was the point on which Miss Brooke
would be found wanting, notwithstanding her undeniable beauty.
She did not look at things from the proper feminine angle.
The society of such women was about as relaxing as going from your
work to teach the second form, instead of reclining in a paradise
with sweet laughs for bird-notes, and blue eyes for a heaven.
Certainly nothing at present could seem much less important to
Lydgate than the turn of Miss Brooke's mind, or to Miss Brooke than
the qualities of the woman who had attracted this young surgeon.
But any one watching keenly the stealthy convergence of human lots,
sees a slow preparation of effects from one life on another,
which tells like a calculated irony on the indifference or the
frozen stare with which we look at our unintroduced neighbor.
Destiny stands by sarcastic with our dramatis personae folded
in her hand.
Old provincial society had its share of this subtle movement: had
not only its striking downfalls, its brilliant young professional
dandies who ended by living up an entry with a drab and six children
for their establishment, but also those less marked vicissitudes
which are constantly shifting the boundaries of social intercourse,
and begetting new consciousness of interdependence. Some slipped
a little downward, some got higher footing: people denied aspirates,
gained wealth, and fastidious gentlemen stood for boroughs;
some were caught in political currents, some in ecclesiastical,
and perhaps found themselves surprisingly grouped in consequence;
while a few personages or families that stood with rocky firmness
amid all this fluctuation, were slowly presenting new aspects
in spite of solidity, and altering with the double change of self
and beholder. Municipal town and rural parish gradually made fresh
threads of connection--gradually, as the old stocking gave way to the
savings-bank, and the worship of the solar guinea became extinct;
while squires and baronets, and even lords who had once lived
blamelessly afar from the civic mind, gathered the faultiness of
closer acquaintanceship. Settlers, too, came from distant counties,
some with an alarming novelty of skill, others with an offensive
advantage in cunning. In fact, much the same sort of movement
and mixture went on in old England as we find in older Herodotus,
who also, in telling what had been, thought it well to take a woman's
lot for his starting-point; though Io, as a maiden apparently
beguiled by attractive merchandise, was the reverse of Miss Brooke,
and in this respect perhaps bore more resemblance to Rosamond Vincy,
who had excellent taste in costume, with that nymph-like figure
and pure blindness which give the largest range to choice in the flow
and color of drapery. But these things made only part of her charm.
She was admitted to be the flower of Mrs. Lemon's school,
the chief school in the county, where the teaching included all
that was demanded in the accomplished female--even to extras,
such as the getting in and out of a carriage. Mrs. Lemon herself
had always held up Miss Vincy as an example: no pupil, she said,
exceeded that young lady for mental acquisition and propriety
of speech, while her musical execution was quite exceptional.
We cannot help the way in which people speak of us, and probably if
Mrs. Lemon had undertaken to describe Juliet or Imogen, these heroines
would not have seemed poetical. The first vision of Rosamond would
have been enough with most judges to dispel any prejudice excited by
Mrs. Lemon's praise.
Lydgate could not be long in Middlemarch without having that agreeable
vision, or even without making the acquaintance of the Vincy family;
for though Mr. Peacock, whose practice he had paid something to enter on,
had not been their doctor (Mrs. Vincy not liking the lowering system
adopted by him), he had many patients among their connections
and acquaintances. For who of any consequence in Middlemarch was
not connected or at least acquainted with the Vincys? They were
old manufacturers, and had kept a good house for three generations,
in which there had naturally been much intermarrying with neighbors
more or less decidedly genteel. Mr. Vincy's sister had made a wealthy
match in accepting Mr. Bulstrode, who, however, as a man not born
in the town, and altogether of dimly known origin, was considered
to have done well in uniting himself with a real Middlemarch family;
on the other hand, Mr. Vincy had descended a little, having taken
an innkeeper's daughter. But on this side too there was a cheering
sense of money; for Mrs. Vincy's sister had been second wife
to rich old Mr. Featherstone, and had died childless years ago,
so that her nephews and nieces might be supposed to touch the
affections of the widower. And it happened that Mr. Bulstrode
and Mr. Featherstone, two of Peacock's most important patients,
had, from different causes, given an especially good reception to
his successor, who had raised some partisanship as well as discussion.
Mr. Wrench, medical attendant to the Vincy family, very early had
grounds for thinking lightly of Lydgate's professional discretion,
and there was no report about him which was not retailed at the
Vincys', where visitors were frequent. Mr. Vincy was more inclined
to general good-fellowship than to taking sides, but there was
no need for him to be hasty in making any new man acquaintance.
Rosamond silently wished that her father would invite Mr. Lydgate.
She was tired of the faces and figures she had always been used
to--the various irregular profiles and gaits and turns of phrase
distinguishing those Middlemarch young men whom she had known as boys.
She had been at school with girls of higher position, whose brothers,
she felt sure, it would have been possible for her to be more
interested in, than in these inevitable Middlemarch companions.
But she would not have chosen to mention her wish to her father;
and he, for his part, was in no hurry on the subject. An alderman
about to be mayor must by-and-by enlarge his dinner-parties,
but at present there were plenty of guests at his well-spread table.
That table often remained covered with the relics of the family breakfast
long after Mr. Vincy had gone with his second son to the warehouse,
and when Miss Morgan was already far on in morning lessons with the
younger girls in the schoolroom. It awaited the family laggard,
who found any sort of inconvenience (to others) less disagreeable
than getting up when he was called. This was the case one morning
of the October in which we have lately seen Mr. Casaubon visiting
the Grange; and though the room was a little overheated with the fire,
which had sent the spaniel panting to a remote corner, Rosamond,
for some reason, continued to sit at her embroidery longer than usual,
now and then giving herself a little shake, and laying her work
on her knee to contemplate it with an air of hesitating weariness.
Her mamma, who had returned from an excursion to the kitchen,
sat on the other side of the small work-table with an air
of more entire placidity, until, the clock again giving notice
that it was going to strike, she looked up from the lace-mending
which was occupying her plump fingers and rang the bell.
"Knock at Mr. Fred's door again, Pritchard, and tell him it has
struck half-past ten."
This was said without any change in the radiant good-humor of
Mrs. Vincy's face, in which forty-five years had delved neither
angles nor parallels; and pushing back her pink capstrings, she let
her work rest on her lap, while she looked admiringly at her daughter.
"Mamma," said Rosamond, "when Fred comes down I wish you would
not let him have red herrings. I cannot bear the smell of them
all over the house at this hour of the morning."
"Oh, my dear, you are so hard on your brothers! It is the only fault
I have to find with you. You are the sweetest temper in the world,
but you are so tetchy with your brothers."
"Not tetchy, mamma: you never hear me speak in an unladylike way."
"Well, but you want to deny them things."
"Brothers are so unpleasant."
"Oh, my dear, you must allow for young men. Be thankful if they
have good hearts. A woman must learn to put up with little things.
You will be married some day."
"Not to any one who is like Fred."
"Don't decry your own brother, my dear. Few young men have less
against them, although he couldn't take his degree--I'm sure I
can't understand why, for he seems to me most clever. And you know
yourself he was thought equal to the best society at college.
So particular as you are, my dear, I wonder you are not glad to have
such a gentlemanly young man for a brother. You are always finding
fault with Bob because he is not Fred."
"Oh no, mamma, only because he is Bob."
"Well, my dear, you will not find any Middlemarch young man who has
not something against him."
"But"--here Rosamond's face broke into a smile which suddenly revealed
two dimples. She herself thought unfavorably of these dimples and smiled
little in general society. "But I shall not marry any Middlemarch young
"So it seems, my love, for you have as good as refused the pick
of them; and if there's better to be had, I'm sure there's no girl
better deserves it."
"Excuse me, mamma--I wish you would not say, `the pick of them.'"
"Why, what else are they?"
"I mean, mamma, it is rather a vulgar expression."
"Very likely, my dear; I never was a good speaker. What should
"The best of them."
"Why, that seems just as plain and common. If I had had time
to think, I should have said, `the most superior young men.'
But with your education you must know."
"What must Rosy know, mother?" said Mr. Fred, who had slid in
unobserved through the half-open door while the ladies were bending
over their work, and now going up to the fire stood with his back
towards it, warming the soles of his slippers.
"Whether it's right to say `superior young men,'" said Mrs. Vincy,
ringing the bell.
"Oh, there are so many superior teas and sugars now. Superior is
getting to be shopkeepers' slang."
"Are you beginning to dislike slang, then?" said Rosamond,
with mild gravity.
"Only the wrong sort. All choice of words is slang. It marks
"There is correct English: that is not slang."
"I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write
history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang
"You will say anything, Fred, to gain your point."
"Well, tell me whether it is slang or poetry to call an ox
"Of course you can call it poetry if you like."
"Aha, Miss Rosy, you don't know Homer from slang. I shall invent
a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on slips,
and give them to you to separate."
"Dear me, how amusing it is to hear young people talk!" said Mrs. Vincy,
with cheerful admiration.
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