Study Guide

Middlemarch Book 4, Chapter 37

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Book 4, Chapter 37

  • The chapter opens with historical and political context: the old King (George IV) has died and so Parliament's session has ended.
  • This tells us the exact date: it's the summer of 1830.
  • Historical Context Time: George Eliot assumes her readers in the 1870s would remember this, so the context she gives is short on detail. We're going to give you the low-down on the political situation in England at the time, because, unless you specialize in the history of British politics, a lot of it might be unfamiliar.
  • King George IV was pretty unpopular during his life because he spent money like crazy and was a little too excited about his ceremonial rights as a king. In fact, the British system (a constitutional monarchy) requires the king to divide power with the two houses of Parliament (the House of Commons is elected by the people, and the House of Lords is made up of aristocrats), and old George didn't like sharing power with anyone. So George IV wasn't popular either with the people or with Parliament because of his extravagance, and no one was sorry when he died.
  • His death meant all kinds of changes, politically speaking – a new monarch means that they have to hold new elections. But because change is in the air, everything seems topsy-turvy. No one knows what party is going to be elected. The two parties in England at this point are the Whigs (liberals) and the Tories (conservatives). There are also some more radically liberal politicians out there, who think that maybe more people should have the right to vote (at this point, only adult men who owned a certain amount of property were allowed to vote), but no one really takes the Radicals seriously.
  • And back to the story. The new election has all the residents of Middlemarch pretty excited.
  • Word gets around town that Mr. Brooke has bought a local newspaper, called the Pioneer, which had a reputation as a liberal rag.
  • Rumor also has it that Brooke has hired some new outsider, possibly a foreigner, named Ladislaw, to edit the newspaper.
  • Brooke thinks that Casaubon will be delighted that he's hired his young relative.
  • Casaubon isn't so happy about this. He never liked Will, and likes him even less now that Will is independent.
  • Will knows that Casaubon hates him, and uses that as an excuse to go on disliking Casaubon, despite Casaubon's past generosity to him.
  • Will wants to see Dorothea, but knows that Casaubon might not like it.
  • He goes to sketch at Lowick (the Casaubon estate), hoping that he might run into Dorothea as if by accident in the garden.
  • But it starts raining, so he's forced to take shelter in the house.
  • The butler informs him that Mr. Casaubon is out, but that Mrs. Casaubon is alone in the library.
  • Will, inspired by Dorothea's simplicity, tells her the truth: he's come on purpose to see her alone.
  • He has a crush, but he honestly does just want to talk with her. They'd had such a good understanding at Rome.
  • Dorothea doesn't suspect the crush, though, and is happy to see him again. She's been lonely.
  • They discuss Casaubon's work, as they did in Rome – and again Will feels an irrepressible desire to burst Dorothea's bubble. He wants to deflate her over-inflated sense of Casaubon's intelligence and importance.
  • But Dorothea's already figured out that Casaubon's work isn't as important as she originally thought, and has also figured out that Casaubon is at least partly aware of it himself. And so she feels sorry for him.
  • Will tells her about his own family, acknowledging that Casaubon had been generous to him, but also adding that it was only fair, considering that his grandmother (Casaubon's aunt) had been unfairly cut out of the family will because of her marriage to a Polish musician.
  • He also tells her that his mother had run away from her family, too, but had never told him why. She had become an actress to escape from her family for some reason, and had later married his father.
  • Will then tells Dorothea about the newspaper that Brooke wants him to edit, and asks her advice: does she think he should stay in the neighborhood to work for Brooke?
  • Dorothea wants him to stay, and says so, but then remembers that Casaubon might not agree. She suggests that Will wait and ask Casaubon himself.
  • Will asks Dorothea to mention it to her husband for him; he can't wait around.
  • When Dorothea does tell Casaubon that Will is planning on staying in the neighborhood to work for a liberal newspaper, Casaubon sends a very stiff, formal letter to Will, telling him that it's not an appropriate profession for him.
  • Dorothea, meanwhile, knows nothing about the letter, and is reflecting on what Will told her about his family.
  • Dorothea thinks that she and Casaubon should give Will a portion of their income, since it really would have been his if his grandmother hadn't been disinherited.
  • Casaubon is naturally irritated when Dorothea suggests this. After all, he put the kid through school, despite the fact that he never liked him, and now Dorothea says that they aren't doing enough?
  • So Casaubon tells Dorothea to mind her own business.
  • And Will sends Casaubon a polite letter telling him (politely!) to mind his. He's planning on staying in town and working for Mr. Brooke's newspaper, so there.
  • Casaubon doesn't think that Will is trying to seduce Dorothea, but he is suspicious that Will is trying to win her over and make her disrespect her husband.
  • But Casaubon doesn't say anything to anybody – he doesn't want people to know how insecure and jealous he is.
  • He tells Will not to visit Lowick as long as he's working for a newspaper, but that's it.

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