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Will departs for Europe. The author describes him as a believer in spontaneity and "receptivity towards all sublime chances." He is not an addict, yet he has experimented with alcohol, opium, and fasting, in the search for knowledge.
Long having been resigned to loveliness, Casaubon now expects a joyful married life with his beautiful thoughtful and respectful wife-to-be. Yet, as the wedding draws closer, he is surprised to find he is not as delighted as he ought to be. He fights the feeling, but to all her affection and enthusiasm can help him. Their discussion of their "wedding journey" ends in anger and hurt. Casaubon is anxious that Celia should accompany Dorothea when they visit Rome. He feels he should feel more at liberty if she had a companion while he proceeded with his research at the Vatican. Dorothea is outraged not because her husband plans to abandon her on her honeymoon - but because he believes her capable of selfish interference in his work! He cannot understand her hurt, and the matter remains unresolved. Later, Dorothea repents and believes she has been petty.
Soon after a large dinner party is held at Tipton Grange to celebrate the approaching marriage. Reflecting Mr. Brooke’s liberal views and associations the guest lest crosses the class boundaries of Middlemarch. The "Middlemarchers" or townsfolk are present, along with the landed gentry - the flashy mayor Vincy, his pious banker brother-in-law Bulstrode; an old lawyer, Standish; the new physician, Lydgate; and a couple of professional men. The ladies are all of the gentry, as Mr. Brooke would not care to introduce his nieces to the female relatives of manufacturers!
Mrs. Cadwallader and Sir James Chettam’s mother discuss their illness. They talk favorably of the new doctor, Lydgate. Their approval is obviously linked with his being "well connected" "a sort of philanthropist," and tactful in conversation with them. Both Brooke and Bulstrode have expressed support to his new methods.
Lydgate, unaware of being discussed, is talking to Dorothea. He is mildly interested by the contrast between her fresh beauty and "that faded scholar" Casaubon. Still, Lydgate dismisses her as "a good creature ... but a little too earnest."
The ladies leave the men to their drinks and the talk of the later becomes more relaxed. A lawyer and a hunting enthusiast discuss Miss. Brooke. Both think her to be an uncommonly fine woman," but not to their taste. They prefer women to be more "coquettish" and try to please them. Both express admiration for Miss Vincy, the mayor’s lovely daughter. She is the town beauty.
The chapter doesn’t move the action forward, but serves to depict social relations. It also draws together the threads of the plot.
George Eliot has earlier shown the reader the characters of Casaubon through the married viewpoints of Dorothea, Celia, Mr. Brooke, Chettam and the Cadwalladers. She now attempts to enter his own mind, as omniscient novelist, and bring him closer to the reader.
The dinner party is an important device to several socio- economic links and barriers between the different classes. Brooke, an aspiring politician plays a co-ordinating role by drawing together different classes of people. With reference to the plot, several major characters - Dorothea, Lydgate, Rosamond Vincy, Bulstrode are brought in this chapter. The two "beauties," Dorothea and Rosamond, have already been contrasted in the casual gossip of the men. This contrast will deeper as the novel progresses.