Middlemarch Book III: Waiting for Death
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.
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.)