HomeLiterature Study GuidesMiddlemarchBook 1 Chapters 7 10 Summary

Middlemarch | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Middlemarch | Book 1, Chapters 7–10 : Miss Brooke | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 7

As Casaubon courts Dorothea, he wonders at his own lack of enthusiasm. At first he thinks Dorothea's deficiencies may account for the "moderation of his abandonment," but when he can discern none, he concludes that "the poets had much exaggerated the force of masculine passion." Dorothea asks Casaubon if he can teach her enough Latin and Greek to read aloud to him, and he agrees to teach her to copy the letters, which may prove useful. She doesn't ask entirely out of altruism, the narrator tells us: "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."

Chapter 8

Sir James takes his rejection with poise. He continues to call at Tipton Grange and build Dorothea's cottages, and he pays more attention to Celia. Because of his genuine concern for Dorothea, he asks Rev. Cadwallader to intervene with Mr. Brooke to call off or postpone the marriage. "[H]as he got any heart?" Sir James asks. The reverend responds that Mr. Brooke is "pulpy," meaning he has no backbone, so it is unrealistic to expect him to stand up to his niece and her fiancé.

Chapter 9

The Brookes visit Casaubon's unhappy manor house at Lowick. Dorothea has been invited to make any changes she would like, but she wishes to leave everything as it is and won't even choose a bedroom. Celia intervenes to ensure she gets the front bedroom with a bow window looking out on the stately lime trees. In this room are some miniature portraits, including ones of Casaubon's mother and Aunt Julia, the disinherited relative who ran away with a Pole. When the Brookes walk out onto the property, they run into Casaubon's young cousin, Will Ladislaw. Dorothea immediately notices he resembles the portrait of Aunt Julia. He is sketching outside and when Dorothea apologizes for having no knowledge to judge secular art, he thinks she is making fun of him. Later, he laughs out loud in thinking about her response. Casaubon later describes Will as a dilettante (person with superficial interest in art or other areas of knowledge) who does not want to settle in any profession. He has already paid for his university education in Heidelberg and plans to finance Will's trip abroad.

Chapter 10

The narrator takes time to glimpse into the minds of the principal characters so far. Will is something of a bohemian and has tried various experiments—for example, fasting excessively and smoking opium—all in the service of sparking his genius. He believes he has some great talent which he has yet to tap. Not surprisingly, he scorns his cousin's lifelong project, since he believes that genius manifests as the power "to make or do." Casaubon is not joyful about his upcoming wedding, which has left him with "a blankness of sensibility." Nevertheless, he is encouraged by Dorothea's "young trust and veneration," which help him fend off his self-doubt. Dorothea is hoping she will better understand his work after they marry. She wants principles to guide her so that "her life might be filled with action at once rational and ardent."

Dorothea and Casaubon are presented as an engaged couple at a dinner party at the Grange, and the narrator introduces new characters in attendance: Mr. Vincy, a manufacturer and newly elected mayor; his brother in-law, Mr. Bulstrode, a banker and strict Evangelical Christian; and Dr. Lydgate, a young doctor who has bought Mr. Peacock's practice. Lydgate is a gentleman, somewhat unusual for a medical man. Also mentioned at the party is Miss Vincy, the beautiful daughter of the mayor. Shortly after the dinner party takes place, the Casaubons leave for an extended wedding journey to Rome, where the minister can study some manuscripts at the Vatican.

Analysis

Casaubon is revealed as an asexual being—either by nature or because he has kept his own company for so long. He himself is surprised that he feels so little for the beautiful and passionate young woman who is ready to serve him. At the same time he is gratified by Dorothea's apparent submissiveness. Clearly, this marriage is headed for disaster. Casaubon will soon learn that Dorothea is headstrong and has needs and desires of her own. Dorothea will learn the reason he has been struggling to write one book for a number of years. He is not a bad man but is too self-absorbed and damaged to provide emotional sustenance to a wife. Can such a man, who has spent his entire life alone with his books and his thoughts, satisfy the passion of a nineteen-year-old? Unlikely.

The reader learns important family history in Chapter 9. Casaubon's mother and Ladislaw's grandmother were sisters. Later chapters will reveal that the man Aunt Julia married was a musician. The disowned couple had children, and Will is Aunt Julia's grandson and Casaubon's second cousin. Casaubon received the entire family inheritance, which is why he feels obligated to educate Will. As he discusses with Mr. Brooke Will's desire to travel, he displays a deep criticism of the younger man, who seems lazy and self-indulgent. Casaubon compares Will's flitting from one interest to another with his own steady application to his "manuscript volumes, which represent the toils of years preparatory to work not yet accomplished." Still, he is willing to "furnish him with moderate supplies" to "test his freedom."

Will Ladislaw is first introduced as an artist with a sketchbook. His resemblance to Aunt Julia is not only in physical appearance, but also in temperament. Will clearly has a radical and rebellious side. He is disposed to think poorly of Dorothea because he doesn't especially like his cousin and can't think of any reason why a young girl might marry him unless she herself were deficient. That is why he thinks she is mocking him. Will has a sense of playfulness, evident when he laughs aloud in thinking about Mr. Brooke's overblown sense of himself, Dorothea's seeming disdain, and the unlikely union of his dour cousin with a young, beautiful woman.

The theme of vocation figures prominently in these chapters: Dorothea anticipates the world of knowledge opening to her, Casaubon hopes to more easily complete his magnum opus, and Will waits for his muse to indicate where his genius lies. Meanwhile, Mr. Brooke speaks of missed opportunities and wasted potential. The conversation between Will and Mr. Brooke foreshadows the struggles of the principal characters who are attempting to make their marks on the world.

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