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Lydgate and Rosamond’s differences have been surfacing rapidly. He finds his impression that she was docile was an illusion. She finds herself disappointed in the notion that his talent and "high" connections would lead to advancement and wealth. Meanwhile, their debts are multiplying. One of his "noble" cousins, a military officer comes to stay. Lydgate is impatient with him and ignores his flirtation with Rosamond. But he is furious when the pregnant twice goes riding with the cousin against his advice, and ends up losing the baby. Both husband and wife expect to have the best of goods and clothes, but have little idea of budgeting. Finally, Lydgate runs up a debt of about four hundred pounds and has to mortgage his silver ware and furniture. Rosamond's response is to hold herself aloof, as if he has failed her. She refuses to help even in small ways. Having the more affectionate nature, he finds all the compromise is on his side. Her only suggestion is that they should move to London to a more prosperous life.
In his own way, Lydgate is as blind as Dorothea in his choice of a mate. Having the greater life experience, he still refuses to see the pitfalls. Like Casaubon, he believes his wife will be a docile, malleable helpmate, and makes a more serious error in underestimating his wife’s ambitions. His noble ambition to do pioneering research runs aground against her determination to shine in Middlemarch society, and later in London. His extravagant lifestyle does not match his attempts to treat the needy patient at a subsidized rate. Thus his entire professional hopes and ideals are in confusion. While the author blames Rosamond for her share of the problem, she shows her incapable of anything else. Lydgate is betrayed by his need for affection and by his "spots of commonness."
Rosamond’s obstinacy is compared with "a blank unreflecting surface; while Lydgate’s condition is compared to a swamp, which tempts men towards it with a pretty covering of flowers." Lydgate, silently contrasting Rosamond with Dorothea during her husband’s illness here extends the theme of possibilities.