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BOOK II: OLD and YOUNG
Mr. Vincy calls on Mr. Bulstrode at the Bank. He is busy in a discussion with Lydgate. Bulstrode’s subdued profound manner has been disliked by many, but Lydgate merely concludes that his constitution is unhealthy, and that he is mentally rather than physically active. Lydgate is enthusiastic about a separate hospital for fevers and the setting up of a medical school there. Bulstrode offers to support his plan, but warns of opposition within the local medical fraternity. He says it is made up of men known for low professional standards and for being well connected among the prosperous townspeople. Lydgate is confident about his capacity to fight opposition. Bulstrode then introduces a condition to his support. He wants to replace the parish priest’s visits to the old hospital with those of one Mr. Tyke, of another parish. He is opposed to the liberal ways of Mr. Farebrother, the current chaplain at the hospital Lydgate is unwilling to get involved in petty local politics of this kind. He is happy to be interrupted by Vincy.
Vincy, a "florid, sociable personage" is very different from his pious and puritanical brother-in-law. The tension is enhanced by Bulstrode’s disapproval of the Vincys rash business dealings and family life. When Vincy makes his request for a letter backing Fred, Bulstrode attempts to lecture him. Vincy reacts furiously charging him with "wanting to play bishop and banker everywhere." He also points out that Bulstrode’s refusal to help would strain their family ties seriously. Finally, Bulstrode is obliged to comply. He says he "will probably send ... a letter."
In Middlemarch, George Eliot is interested not only in telling love stories, but also in studying a provincial community at a transitional period. She wants always to connect the lives and motives and loves of individuals with the complicated forces at work in the larger social milieu. Here in this chapter, one moves away from the marriage of Dorothea and Casaubon to the world of the "Middlemarchers." The growing clout of the townspeople is outlined. Lydgate, the chief male protagonist, is explored as a new kind of doctor. His family connections make him acceptable to both gentry and merchants. His dedication to his work forces him to enter into town politics. Bulstrode is another major character. His personality is established through the two meetings he has here.