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Chapter 11
"But deeds and language such as men do use,
And persons such as comedy would choose,
When she would show an image of the times,
And sport with human follies, not with crimes."
Lydgate, in fact, was already conscious of being fascinated by a woman strikingly
different from Miss Brooke: he did not in the least suppose that he had lost his
balance and fallen in love, but he had said of that particular woman, "She is
grace itself; she is perfectly lovely and accomplished. That is what a woman
ought to be: she ought to produce the effect of exquisite music." Plain women he
regarded as he did the other severe facts of life, to be faced with philosophy and
investigated by science. But Rosamond Vincy seemed to have the true melodic
charm; and when a man has seen the woman whom he would have chosen if he
had intended to marry speedily, his remaining a bachelor will usually depend on
her resolution rather than on his. Lydgate believed that he should not marry for
several years: not marry until he had trodden out a good clear path for himself
away from the broad road which was quite ready made. He had seen Miss Vincy
above his horizon almost as long as it had taken Mr. Casaubon to become
engaged and married: but this learned gentleman was possessed of a fortune; he
had assembled his voluminous notes, and had made that sort of reputation which
precedes performance,--often the larger part of a man's fame. He took a wife, as
we have seen, to adorn the remaining quadrant of his course, and be a little
moon that would cause hardly a calculable perturbation. But Lydgate was young,
poor, ambitious. He had his half-century before him instead of behind him, and
he had come to Middlemarch bent on doing many things that were not directly
fitted to make his fortune or even secure him a good income. To a man under
such circumstances, taking a wife is something more than a question of
adornment, however highly he may rate this; and Lydgate was disposed to give it
the first place among wifely functions. To his taste, guided by a single
conversation, here was the point on which Miss Brooke would be found wanting,
notwithstanding her undeniable beauty. She did not look at things from the
proper feminine angle. The society of such women was about as relaxing as
going from your work to teach the second form, instead of reclining in a paradise
with sweet laughs for bird-notes, and blue eyes for a heaven.
Certainly nothing at present could seem much less important to Lydgate than the
turn of Miss Brooke's mind, or to Miss Brooke than the qualities of the woman
who had attracted this young surgeon. But any one watching keenly the stealthy
convergence of human lots, sees a slow preparation of effects from one life on
another, which tells like a calculated irony on the indifference or the frozen stare
with which we look at our unintroduced neighbor. Destiny stands by sarcastic
with our dramatis personae folded in her hand.
Old provincial society had its share of this subtle movement: had not only its
striking downfalls, its brilliant young professional dandies who ended by living up
an entry with a drab and six children for their establishment, but also those less