Literature Study GuidesMiddlemarchBook 7 Chapters 66 68 Summary

Middlemarch | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Middlemarch | Book 7, Chapters 66–68 : Two Temptations | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 66

As Lydgate waits for the horse trader at the Green Dragon, he notices the billiard room. Soon he is playing, becoming more excited as he wins money and thinks that perhaps gambling is a good way to raise cash. The game is going in his favor until Mr. Hawley arrives and proves to be a better player. In the meantime, Fred Vincy has come in to observe the play. He has been to his old haunt five times now but has not yet resumed playing. While he has every intention of staying on his new path, he is thinking at some point that he might put ten pounds at risk. When he sees Lydgate he feels shock and even embarrassment and manages to get him away from the table before he loses much money. Mr. Farebrother has called Fred out of the billiard parlor to have a heart-to-heart talk. Farebrother reminds Fred that he has a rival and can still lose Mary. "Do you understand me?" he says. "I want you to make the happiness of her life your own."

Chapter 67

Lydgate has one final idea for solving his financial problems, which is to ask Bulstrode for a loan. He gets an opportunity to open this humiliating subject when Bulstrode calls him to the bank to confer about his current symptoms, caused by mental strain. Bulstrode mentions he might temporarily withdraw from management of many of his business concerns and leave town for a time. If he does leave Middlemarch, he intends to withdraw his support from the new hospital. Mrs. Casaubon may be willing to take his place as a benefactor, he says, but more general support for the hospital can be obtained by merging it with the old hospital and thus bringing in many more people to manage. Lydgate finally turns the conversation to his own personal difficulties. Bulstrode refuses a loan, but not before he says he regretted Lydgate's alliance with the Vincys, who always had "prodigal habits" and already are indebted to him. He suggests that Lydgate declare bankruptcy.

Chapter 68

Raffles returns at Christmas to haunt Bulstrode at his home. His alcoholism has gotten worse, along with his erratic behavior. Bulstrode takes care of him through the night and meditates on his predicament. Early on Christmas morning he packs Raffles off, telling him that if he chooses to spread gossip about him he will cut him off financially. He drives Raffles out of town and gives him another 100 pounds. Nonetheless, Bulstrode begins making preparations to leave town so that he will not have to deal directly with "the contempt of his old neighbors." He asks Caleb Garth to find and manage a tenant at Stone Court. Garth agrees happily and proposes Fred, who can also use the property as a training ground. Bulstrode agrees, partly to make up for turning down Lydgate. Garth holds off on telling Fred and Mary until he gets a better notion of the state of the premises at Stone Court.

Analysis

Lydgate's reversal of fortune follows a course in which fate seems to chastise him for every prideful presumption that he has ever held or voiced. For example, he had been extremely critical of Mr. Farebrother's gambling, even though he knew the clergyman played to supplement his income. He even thinks of this "vice" to justify his vote for Mr. Tyke as the hospital chaplain. Now here he is, playing for small sums, just as he looked down on Farebrother for doing. Another irony is that he has held himself much above Fred Vincy and his ilk, and now he is embarrassing Fred with his behavior. Moreover, Fred is kind enough to save him from himself. Fred also needs saving, however, and Farebrother steps in to do so, saying it occurred to him to watch Fred stumble and fall so that he can get what he wants. Farebrother is the most moral character in the novel and has the deepest understanding of evil because he is the most honest with himself.

Lydgate's asking Bulstrode for money strips away much of his remaining self-respect. At the beginning of Lydgate's story, he is proud to say that he is independent of Bulstrode, whom he neither likes nor respects, except as an instrument for medical reform. Now he seeks to become indebted to him to stave off his own creditors, and the banker turns him down. If that weren't bad enough, he matter-of-factly tells him that his pet project, the fever hospital, will likely have to be joined with the old infirmary, which means that Lydgate will lose control of how the new institution operates. Bulstrode was happy enough to support medical reform when it was convenient for him, but now he has no compunction about leaving Lydgate in the lurch. The doctor ironically says, "I can't be expected to rejoice in it all at once, since one of the first results will be that the other medical men will upset or interrupt my methods, if it were only because they are mine."

Bulstrode's own troubles resurface on Christmas Eve in the form of a drunk and disorderly Raffles demanding lodging for the night. Bulstrode takes him in, thinking about whether Providence ultimately plans to smite him, with Raffles as its instrument, or whether it was "the Divine glory that he should escape dishonor." He most fears being disgraced in front of his neighbors, which is why he is making preparations to leave town. Better safe than sorry is his thinking. At the same time, he is deferring his final steps of preparation in the hope that "something would happen to hinder the worst, and that to spoil his life by a later transplantation might be over-hasty." When Mr. Garth proposes putting Fred at Stone Court, he readily agrees, since it gives him an easy way to do something for one of the Vincys now that he has turned down the other (in the form of Lydgate).

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