Middlemarch HTML version

Chapter 16
"All that in woman is adored
In thy fair self I find--
For the whole sex can but afford
The handsome and the kind."
The question whether Mr. Tyke should be appointed as salaried chaplain to the
hospital was an exciting topic to the Middlemarchers; and Lydgate heard it
discussed in a way that threw much light on the power exercised in the town by
Mr. Bulstrode. The banker was evidently a ruler, but there was an opposition
party, and even among his supporters there were some who allowed it to be
seen that their support was a compromise, and who frankly stated their
impression that the general scheme of things, and especially the casualties of
trade, required you to hold a candle to the devil.
Mr. Bulstrode's power was not due simply to his being a country banker, who
knew the financial secrets of most traders in the town and could touch the
springs of their credit; it was fortified by a beneficence that was at once ready
and severe--ready to confer obligations, and severe in watching the result. He
had gathered, as an industrious man always at his post, a chief share in
administering the town charities, and his private charities were both minute and
abundant. He would take a great deal of pains about apprenticing Tegg the
shoemaker's son, and he would watch over Tegg's church-going; he would
defend Mrs. Strype the washerwoman against Stubbs's unjust exaction on the
score of her drying-ground, and he would himself-scrutinize a calumny against
Mrs. Strype. His private minor loans were numerous, but he would inquire strictly
into the circumstances both before and after. In this way a man gathers a domain
in his neighbors' hope and fear as well as gratitude; and power, when once it has
got into that subtle region, propagates itself, spreading out of all proportion to its
external means. It was a principle with Mr. Bulstrode to gain as much power as
possible, that he might use it for the glory of God. He went through a great deal
of spiritual conflict and inward argument in order to adjust his motives, and make
clear to himself what God's glory required. But, as we have seen, his motives
were not always rightly appreciated. There were many crass minds in
Middlemarch whose reflective scales could only weigh things in the lump; and
they had a strong suspicion that since Mr. Bulstrode could not enjoy life in their
fashion, eating and drinking so little as he did, and worreting himself about
everything, he must have a sort of vampire's feast in the sense of mastery.
The subject of the chaplaincy came up at Mr. Vincy's table when Lydgate was
dining there, and the family connection with Mr. Bulstrode did not, he observed,
prevent some freedom of remark even on the part of the host himself, though his
reasons against the proposed arrangement turned entirely on his objection to Mr.
Tyke's sermons, which were all doctrine, and his preference for Mr. Farebrother,