Study Guide

Middlemarch Book 2, Chapter 18

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Book 2, Chapter 18

  • Lydgate wouldn't have cared much about the chaplain position at the new hospital if he hadn't gotten to be such good friends with Farebrother.
  • One thing that continues to bother him about his new friend, though, is Farebrother's habit of playing cards or billiards for money.
  • Lydgate has never wanted for money (his rich relatives have kept him pretty well supplied), and although he's not rich, he's never felt poor.
  • So he doesn't understand Farebrother's desire to make small amounts of money at gambling, but he does kind of see where Bulstrode is coming from when he says that Farebrother isn't a model clergyman.
  • But the trouble is, he likes Farebrother. He's a likeable guy! And no one likes Mr. Tyke.
  • But Mr. Tyke is a model clergyman – no one has anything to say against him, other than that they kind of hate him.
  • So Lydgate doesn't know how to vote.
  • The two physicians, Dr. Sprague and Dr. Minchin, are for Farebrother and Tyke respectively.
  • The other two surgeons, Mr. Wrench and Mr. Toller, haven't decided yet whether to vote for Tyke or Farebrother.
  • But they have decided that they don't like Lydgate.
  • Lydgate's a surgeon, as we explained in an earlier chapter. This means that he doesn't have an advanced degree, and he's lower in the profession than Dr. Sprague and Dr. Minchin, the physicians.
  • Traditionally, surgeons were called on to prescribe medicine as well as to perform minor surgeries (there were no major surgeries at this point, because there was no anesthesia).
  • But Lydgate thinks that it's bogus to prescribe medicine for any little ailment – surgeons and pharmacists (who make the medicine) often had little agreements about how to split the money they made off of their patients, and that led to over-prescribing.
  • And Lydgate, as we know, is all about trying to reform the medical profession and make it more scientific and progressive.
  • So Toller and Wrench think that Lydgate is an upstart, and is trying to be above his peers.
  • The chapter continues with a discussion amongst all of these men (and some other Middlemarchers who are on the board of directors for the hospital) about the relative merits of Tyke and Farebrother.
  • Finally it gets called to a vote, and Lydgate ends up voting for Tyke.
  • He's not sure whether Farebrother would have done a better job, but he still feels bad about not voting for his friend. And worse, he feels bad that he voted with Mr. Bulstrode, in part because it would be more convenient for himself to stay on Mr. Bulstrode's good side.
  • Farebrother doesn't blame him, though.

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