Chapters 9-12 (The Homes of Middlemarch)
The Brooke family visits Casaubon’s home at Lowick in anticipation of the wedding. Dorothea is charmed, but Celia thinks the place dark, depressing and dreary. Dorothea is already submissive, leaving all choices to Casaubon. They meet in the garden an artist sketching–Mr. Will Ladislaw, Casaubon’s second cousin, whom Casaubon supports. Will is young and handsome and thinks Dorothea has the voice of an Aeolian harp. Casaubon complains about Will’s lack of seriousness.
Will believes that his genius needs lots of room; he is extreme, like Dorothea. He expects the universe to support him.
The narrator suddenly switches from outside the characters to inside. We see Casaubon’s egotism in his own mind, his idea that everything exists for him. He is not really excited about his marriage and wants Dorothea to bring her sister on the honeymoon so she won’t be bored while he is engaged in scholarly research in Rome. Dorothea believes her marriage will be an initiation into a higher life.
At a dinner party at Brooke’s we meet the mayor of Middlemarch, Mr. Vincy, who is related to everyone important in the county, and Dr. Lydgate, the new doctor in town, and Mr. Bulstrode, the banker, who is courting Lydgate as the administrator of the hospital. Lydgate is young, poor, and ambitious but attracted to beautiful and blonde Rosamond Vincy. He thinks Dorothea too serious and severe for a man.
At breakfast in the Vincy household, we meet Fred and his sister, Rosamond. Fred is a likeable but lazy young man who has failed to take a degree and waits instead for his uncle Featherstone to die and leave him his money. The brother and sister ride off to Stone Court to pay a call to Uncle Featherstone to keep on his good side. He is ill, and all the relatives are gathered around, hoping to get their share.
Uncle Featherstone has heard Fred has gambling debts and threatens to change his will, but Fred denies the charges. He is in love with Mary Garth, the plain and poor housekeeper of Mr. Featherstone. She is as sensible as Fred is irresponsible and claims she would never marry Fred, even though he has not yet asked her.
We are introduced to a lot of new characters, all related by blood or circumstance. The lines connecting them will be pulled tighter and tighter, like a spider’s web.
The narrator takes care to point out over and over the egotism of each character: “Casaubon too was the center of his own world.” Will believes the world will support his genius; Casaubon believes Dorothea will be submissive to his needs; Dorothea believes she is entering a higher world; Fred believes Mr. Featherstone will leave him his money; Lydgate does not understand women and will choose the wrong one.
Eliot is outstanding at dissecting not only the social fabric, but the human soul as well. She is a master psychologist, entering into each character with complete sympathy and depth of understanding. Although she wishes to expose human flaws, she does it in a generous manner that gives credit to the nobility of human aspirations and the power of love.