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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 17

Summary

One more of the rich character portraits in the novel is sketched in here. Lydgate unites the home of the bachelor Camden Farebrother. He lives with his mother, aunt, and elder unmarried sister. Given the slimness of a parish priestís salary, the household is threadbare but charming and hospitable. Each lady is visualized in detail the white-haired mother, "befrilled and kerchiefed with dainty cleanliness," to Miss Noble her sister "a tiny old lady of meeker aspect, with frills and kerchief decidedly more worn and mended." The vicarís sister though good looking like himself, is nipped and subdued as single women are apt to be who spend their lives in uninterrupted subjection to their elders." Mrs. Farebrother welcomes the guest but assures him they need no medical aid, as she has trained her children not to over eat. She takes great pride in her sonís preaching and mentions that his rival priest, type, has been threatening his parishioners not to attend Farebrotherís services.

Farebrother carries Lydgate off to admire his collection of beetles, and offers to exchange specimens with him. Farebrother explains his early interest in Lydgate as originating from a common friend. They also discuss town intrigues. The vicar warns Lydgate that he will make an enemy of Bulstrode if he votes against him.

Farebrother mentions the Garth family very favorably and Mary as one of his favorite parishioners.


Notes

Farebrotherís liberal, humane approach to religion makes him a favorite character in the book. He and the Garths have been called a "moral center" of the novel as they are shown to be clear about their principles, their limitations and are modest and warm-hearted. Critics have pointed out that they are among the least altered by the events in the novel.

Lydgate and the vicar being scholars they could be friends, but their aims in life are very different. George Eliot herself was deeply interested in the ethical meaning of religion and in this part of the book; she dwells on the different approaches to religion of Farebrother, Bulstrode, Tyke and others.

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