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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: March 2012

8 - Developing the ‘Outer Conscience’ in Daniel Deronda

from Part Two - ‘The Mercy for Those Sorrows’—Syntax and Sympathy


Middlemarch is a novel that focuses on the difficulty of existing within a marriage that lacks both love and intimacy—the pain of a relationship, like the family relationships in Adam Bede, where the two people involved should be close. But George Eliot also had an interest in relationships that were not so outwardly straightforward. We see a hint of this in Middlemarch, when she chooses to introduce the character of Tertius Lydgate at a dinner-party celebrating Dorothea Brooke's engagement to Edward Casaubon. Lydgate and Dorothea are observed by fellow guests to be having ‘a very animated conversation’ about ‘cottages and hospitals’, but there is no indication that the characters’ first meeting involves the discussion of anything more personal than a shared interest in philanthropy. This particular chapter then closes, and the beginning of the next continues, with narratorial announcements that further block the possibility of a deeper mutual intimacy between the pair in the most traditional romantic sense—announcements of Dorothea's actual marriage and Lydgate's attraction to a very different kind of woman. Still the narrator breaks in soon after with an observation from the opposite angle, offering a possible future link between them in spite of their present distance:

Certainly nothing at present could seem much less important to Lydgate than the turn of Miss Brooke's mind, or to Miss Brooke than the qualities of the woman who had attracted this young surgeon. […]

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