CLASSIC READ: Middlemarch Book III Chapter 30

Clan Fraser
Joined: September 17th, 2009, 3:16 am

June 13th, 2018, 10:29 am #1

Middlemarch Book III:  Waiting for Death

Chapter 30

Lydgate, with his stethoscope, is observing Mr. Casaubon.  He seems concerned for his patient but advises him to relax.  Mr. Casaubon, probably of the same opinion as Pascal,  is bitter at this news.  Lydgate is understanding.  Mr. Brooke, who visits, advises his friend to play backgammon with his niece, or his own personal favorite, shuttlecock.  He also recommends Smollett's work, and since Dorothea, who is a married woman, could read this out loud, one presumes the work is of a bawdy nature.  Mr. Casaubon is not convinced.  

Brooke, knowing his friend well, confides to the doctor that Mr. Casaubon doesn't have many hobbies.  "Casaubon has been a little narrow." This leaves him at a loss of how to entertain himself.  Brooke suggests that Lydgate discuss the matter with his niece; "she is clever for anything."

Lydgate is guarded on how to present his opinion on Mr. Casaubon's probable future.  Dorothea wants the truth.  Lydgate seems relieved, "What you say now justifies my own view."  Mr. Casaubon's case is difficult to predict.  He can live a long while with proper care.  "...if we are very careful."  Dorothea must distract her husband and moderate his work.  The disease could develop rapidly.  Dorothea pleads suggestions as to what to do.  The suggestion to travel abroad is quickly shut down.  Lydgate will tell Mr. Casaubon nothing else, other than the prescription to modify his work.    

Dorothea's pleading, "Oh, you are a wise man, are you not? You know all about life and death.  Advise me. Think what I can do.  He has been laboring all his life and looking forward.  He minds about nothing else.  And I mind about nothing else--" will stay with Lydgate for years to come.  

Once Lydgate leaves, Dorothea feels guilty and decides to remove the letters that caused Mr. Casaubon to fall ill.  She opens her own letter, but instead of answering it, gives it to her uncle to answer with the news that due to Mr. Casaubon's convalescence it would not be a good time to visit Lowick.  Brooke takes on the charge and without foresight decides that it would be a nice thing to invite Mr. Ladislaw to Tipton.  Mr. Laidislaw and himself could spend the time together, finding much to do.  Brooke doesn't tell Dorothea.  

--I never thought of when doctors started to employ stethoscopes.  Did you find that tidbit interesting?  There is more information

--Is it more stressful for Mr. Causabon to be kept from his work?  Do you think he will stay away?

--Do you think Dr. Lydgate handled this case well?  What if Mr. Casaubon asks Dr. Lydgate to speak plainly, should he avoid telling him in that case?

--Dr. Lydgate is deeply touched by Dorothea's tears but wonders about the marriage.  What else could he be wondering?

--Dorothea's plea, "Oh, you are a wise man..." ends with a dash.  "And I mind about nothing else--"  What didn't she say?  

--These words, taken from Lydgate's thoughts, struck me as important: "For years after Lydate remembered the impression produced in him by this involuntary appeal--this cry from soul to soul, without other consciousness than their moving with kindred natures in the same embroiled medium, the same troublous fitfully-illuminated life."  What do you think of this revelation, one that's to come in the future?  Do you think it might foreshadow something more?  What is your prediction? If Mr. Causabon passes, what do you foresee?

--Our author is 3rd person omniscient and transcends time, revealing bits to the reader.  What do you think of this device?  

--What did you think of Mr. Brooke's invitation to Ladislaw? How do you think this will go?  

--Other thoughts?  I look forward to your comments.
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings

Lisa SF
Clan Fraser
Joined: August 2nd, 2011, 11:43 pm

June 14th, 2018, 3:01 am #2

Great summary! It was interesting to me that Lydgate seems to believe the illness is only about Causubon's work. I'd agree that it doesn't sound like he gets enough fresh air or exercise, but if this was truly a heart attack, I'm not sure how staying away from him studies is the main prescription.

Mr Brooks is a tad hasty in inviting Ladislaw. He seems to have lost sight of the point of Dorothea's request, so yes, Will won't go to Lowick, but he'll be right there in the neighborhood anyway.

(I wish I had my book with me right now! I'd like to be able to add something more substantive, but don't have the language with me.)
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Clan Fraser
Joined: October 1st, 2009, 11:19 pm

June 16th, 2018, 9:29 pm #3

Your point about the future does make you wonder if there is a future between Lydgate and Dorothea although I think that she just feels guilty about getting into an argument just before he fell ill

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Joined: October 21st, 2014, 12:07 pm

June 17th, 2018, 8:39 pm #4

It seemed like a heart attack based on the description. Of course this comes from my modern point of view. I don't even know if the author knew what that was. She just described something that commonly happened and the advice that was usually given to heart attack patients up until not long ago (my grandparents for example received similar advice). I don't think it would be realistic to expect Lydgate to have handled the case differently.

As for Dorothea's reaction: she clearly feels guilty and she has no way of knowing that she couldn't possibly have caused the attack. She'll probably go overboard from now on in order to avoid arguments and she'll become even more submissive than before. I wonder if we'll see her more unhappy.

Mr. Brooke doesn't seem to know how to plan things out very carefully.
Da mi basia mille, deinde centum, dein mille altera, dein secunda centum, deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.

Donne-moi mille baisers, et puis cent, et puis mille autres, puis une seconde fois cent, puis encore mille autres, puis cent.

Clan Fraser
Joined: July 19th, 2010, 10:09 pm

June 18th, 2018, 3:24 am #5

Great summary and comments.  

I think the basic idea is to reduce his stress and a strong focus on his work to the exclusion of fresh air, exercise, or leisure activities is likely to cause stress.  That may not be the way people talked about it all at that time, but Lydgate's "prescription" is a good one.

I thought it was kind of funny that Mr. Brooke wrote such a long letter that by the end he was inviting Ladislaw to stay with him.  But, that said, I don't think his being so close to Lowick is going to work out well.

There was an authorial comment in an earlier chapter about Lydgate and Dorothea interacting somehow in the future, so I definitely think there's more to that, but I'm not quite sure what since I thought a future romance might be with Ladislaw, not Lydgate, but honestly, I'm not quite sure what to expect and there is plenty of story left.

Clan Fraser
Clan Fraser
Joined: September 25th, 2012, 9:08 am

June 25th, 2018, 6:17 am #6

Thanks ND. Dorothea is going to be more tied than ever now as she will feel she has to nursemaid her husband to ensure no further attacks. I suppose she will think that she cannot now put forward an opposing viewpoint for fear of the consequences.

Clan Fraser
Clan Fraser
Joined: May 26th, 2012, 7:06 am

June 27th, 2018, 3:35 pm #7

Thanks for the summary, NigheanDubh. Poor Dorothea. Not only is she disappointed in her husband, but now she cannot even help him with his work. I guess she will throw herself into looking after him, he will resent that, and things will become more uncomfortable.

Mr Brooke seems to be a bit dim. Imagine inviting Will to stay with him, when Dorothea asked that he should be told not to come. I can see trouble brewing on that front.

I wonder if Lydgate will marry at all - he seems too involved in his work.

Lady Jayne
Clan Fraser
Joined: October 4th, 2009, 7:41 pm

July 1st, 2018, 12:49 am #8

Thank you for another great summary, NigheanDubh.

Casaubon's declining health will definitely change Dorothea's circumstances. They haven't even been married for a year and have hardly gotten to know each other.

Mr. Brooke had me laughing with his various suggestions for leisure activity. According to Wikipedia, Tobias George Smollett (19 March 1721 – 17 September 1771) was a Scottish poet and author best known for his picaresque novels, such as The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751), and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), which influenced later novelists including Charles Dickens. The picaresque novel (Spanish: picaresca, from pícaro, for "rogue" or "rascal") is a genre of prose fiction that depicts the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by their wits in a corrupt society. Picaresque novels typically adopt a realistic style, with elements of comedy and satire.
Casaubon had most likely never spent time reading such novels.

Ladislaw seems to be impressed by Dorothea's devotion to her husband. I agree the references to his recalling these moments with Dorothea years later are important and insinuate a future where the two will be better acquainted.