English, Department of



Kate Osborne

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 46 (2015)


Published by The George Eliot Review Online https://GeorgeEliotReview.org


A scene in Middlemarch's thirtieth chapter describes how the creative process can slip out of a writer's control.! A letter has arrived from Mr. Casaubon's estranged cousin, Will Ladislaw, asking whether Will may visit Casaubon and Dorothea at their home at Lowick. But Casaubon is gravely ill and Dorothea is so overwhelmed by her husband's illness and also by the thought of seeing Will that she cannot even read the letter. She asks her uncle, Mr. Brooke, to reply in her stead, 'to let Will know that Casaubon had been ill, and that his health would not allow the reception of any visitors' (291). She is unwise to trust him with the task.

No one more ready than Mr. Brooke to write a letter: his only difficulty was to write a short one, and his ideas in this case expanded over the three large pages and the inward foldings. He had simply said to Dorothea- 'To be sure, I will write, my dear. He's a very clever young fellow - this young Ladislaw - I dare say will be a rising young man. It's a good letter - marks his sense of things, you know. However, I will tell him about Casaubon.' But the end of Mr. Brooke's pen was a thinking organ, evolving sentences, especially of a benevolent kind, before the rest of his mind could well overtake them. It expressed regrets and proposed remedies, which, when Mr. Brooke read them, seemed felicitously worded - surprisingly the right thing, and determined a sequel which he had never before thought of. In this case, his pen found it such a pity young Ladislaw should not have come into the neighbourhood just at that time, in order that Mr. Brooke might make his acquaintance more fully, and that they might go over the long-neglected Italian drawings together - it also felt such an interest in a young man who was starting in life with a stock of ideas - that by the end of the second page it had persuaded Mr. Brooke to invite young Ladislaw, since he could not be received at Lowick, to come to Tipton Grange. Why not? They could find a great many things to do together, and this was a period of peculiar growth - the political horizon was expanding, and - in short, Mr. Brooke's pen went off into a little speech which it had lately reported for that imperfectly edited organ the 'Middlemarch Pioneer'.

Mr. Brooke's letter is a turning point for the most central of the novel's several marriage plots. Will is encouraged rather than deterred by Mr. Brooke's pen's speechifying, and he takes up Mr. Brooke's offer to stay with him at Tipton Grange, remaining in Middlemarch when Mr. Brooke offers him the editorship of the Middlemarch Pioneer. Will and Dorothea are now in close enough proximity to fall in love properly.