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View Full Version : Fred Vincy's problems (Middlemarch)



kev67
01-13-2014, 04:22 PM
SPOILER Alert

I am currently reading the section describing Fred Vincy's debt problems. For some reason, I found this section even more painful to read than Dorothea's unwise marriage to Mr Casaubon. When Fred devised the plan to buy a farmer's horse and sell it at the horse fair for a profit, it sounded like a deal that was certain to go wrong. Then I thought, no, this is George Elliot. Her plot lines are realistic and unpredictable. She may wrong foot us. Fred may discover a talent for horse trading and become immensely rich. When the plan went wrong the next day, and Fred had to tell the family friend, Caleb Garth, who had unwisely secured his debt, that he could not pay it, it was awful. Especially when Mr Garth's wife had to use the 92 she had saved to pay for her son's apprenticeship, and even his daughter, Mary, had to hand over 20 she had saved working as a governess. Reminds me a bit of Pip's trouble from Great Expectations.

I am a bit concerned about developments in the Tertius Lydgate - Rosamund Vincy situation. Just marry her and cut out ten chapters from the book.

Prince Smiles
01-14-2014, 04:50 AM
I love Caleb Garth. Caleb and Mr. Farebrother are the real salt-of-the-earth characters in the novel.
The unsung heroes.


I am a bit concerned about developments in the Tertius Lydgate - Rosamund Vincy situation. Just marry her and cut out ten chapters from the book.

Elliot develops Lydgate and Rosamund fantastically. Their evolving relationship can be contrasted/compared to the Dorothea and Edward Casaubon "monied/ moneyed" wedlock if you care.

I would be interested to hear your opinions regarding how Elliot deals with the Lydgate - Rosy marriage once you get to the later stages of the novel. The pair are superb, according to Forster, 'round characters'.
IMHO the unfolding of characters in the book is a major reason as to why this work is often cited as the best novel in the English language.


Best of luck with the rest of the book old bean.

kev67
01-19-2014, 02:48 PM
I haven't got much further into Lydgate and Rosamund's marriage yet. No doubts there will be problems. He is mounting up enemies, but also some powerful friends. I gather he will get into debt, and will struggle to keep his adorable wife in the manner she has become accustomed to. Still, in the end, at least so long as Lydgate remains healthy, he has good skills, so can turn around his fortunes, even if they has to move away.

Poor Fred still does not have much luck. I wonder whether he will turn his situation around.

Gladys
01-20-2014, 03:31 AM
I gather he [Lydgate] will get into debt, and will struggle to keep his adorable wife in the manner she has become accustomed to...

Poor Fred still does not have much luck. I wonder whether he will turn his situation around.

Fred and Rosamund, brother and sister, are an interesting pair but unlucky and adorable are hardly adjectives I would use to describe them. Whether her husband eventually turns around his fortunes is indeed a fascinating question.

Aylinn
01-20-2014, 04:50 AM
Fred and Rosamund, brother and sister, are an interesting pair but unlucky and adorable are hardly adjectives I would use to describe them.
Yes, words like spoiled and selfish fit them much better, but Fred 's ability to see reality and attempts to change himself makes him at least more sympathetic than his sister.

kev67
01-29-2014, 09:37 AM
Fred's wondering what he wants to do for a living seems very modern. He's 24, has a degree but no work experience in anything. The degree qualifies him for nothing except becoming a clergyman, and the job he eventually takes did not require degree standard education.

I thought Caleb Garth's rant at Fred's hand writing was amusing. Fred's education must have been too expensive. In A Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell, set about 100 years later, Dorothy does not approve of all time her pupils have to spend on practising their copper-plate handwriting at their third-rate private school. My grandfather had beautiful copper-plate handwriting.

Jackson Richardson
01-30-2014, 04:56 PM
I can't remember Fred buying a horse. It sounds more like Trollope than George Eliot, but quite believable. He's sweet, charming, sexy and feckless, possibly selfish but at least, unlike his sister, redeemable.

I've just finished re-reading War and Peace (I'm a bit older than you, kev, so I've had more time to read these things) and it struck me that though Pierre and Andrei are far more interesting than Lydgate and the dreary Ladislaw, Helene and Marya are far less interesting than Rosamund and Dorothea. (Rosamund Vincey is the great triumph of Middlemarch. It shows Mary Ann Evans was a woman after all - any man would be too gallant to show a woman's petty selfishness so unremittingly.)

Gladys
01-31-2014, 12:35 AM
...Helene and Marya are far less interesting than Rosamund and Dorothea.

The two woman are masterpieces, and that final meeting between them is the high-point of the novel.

mal4mac
01-31-2014, 07:21 AM
I've just finished re-reading War and Peace ... and it struck me that though Pierre and Andrei are far more interesting than Lydgate and the dreary Ladislaw...

I re-read both these great novels about a year ago and Lydgate and Ladislaw stick in my mind more than Pierre and Andrei. Maybe Pierre and Andrei are more romantic, have more adventures, etc., but I think Lydgate and Ladislaw are characters that any thinking person can identify with more readily. I just don't get how you can find them uninteresting: Lydgate the creative man of science thwarted at every turn, Ladislaw the failed romantic poet in search of his calling, and the hoops the author puts them through! What could be more interesting? It's not surprising that dons at Cambridge were in awe of George Eliot's formidable intellect.

mal4mac
01-31-2014, 07:27 AM
I haven't got much further into Lydgate and Rosamund's marriage yet. No doubts there will be problems. He is mounting up enemies, but also some powerful friends. I gather he will get into debt, and will struggle to keep his adorable wife in the manner she has become accustomed to. Still, in the end, at least so long as Lydgate remains healthy, he has good skills, so can turn around his fortunes, even if they has to move away.

Poor Fred still does not have much luck. I wonder whether he will turn his situation around.

Sounds like you were rooting for Lydgate, and not really bothered about daft Fred. These were my reactions as well. George Eliot undermines our hopes, in a totally convincing manner. Our hopes were sentimental, her developments far more true to life. Let's bow to her genius.

kev67
01-31-2014, 09:11 AM
Sounds like you were rooting for Lydgate, and not really bothered about daft Fred. These were my reactions as well. George Eliot undermines our hopes, in a totally convincing manner. Our hopes were sentimental, her developments far more true to life. Let's bow to her genius.

Well Fred is less gifted than Tertius Lydgate, and not as hard working or ambitious. Even his name, Fred Vincy, is humble compared to Tertius Lydgate. I hoped both would succeed. I felt hard for Fred when he had to confess to the Garths that he could not afford to repay them after Caleb had agreed to guarantee his debts. Still, thinking about it, he fell into a good line of work for 19th century Englishman. Britain's population increased fourfold in that century, and they all needed somewhere to live. What with all the new railway infrastructure, drainage, sewerage systems, new hospitals, factories, etc, I think he landed on his feet.

kelby_lake
02-06-2014, 06:54 AM
Fred irritates me. I did like Lydgate though. Ladislaw, urgh. Glowing angelic locks, beacon of goodness...I didn't think much of his character.

As for male authors showing petty selfishness, Becky Sharp is ruthlessly selfish, although I suppose she has charm. Also, it probably didn't bother them as much.

mal4mac
02-06-2014, 07:25 AM
Fred irritates me. I did like Lydgate though. Ladislaw, urgh. Glowing angelic locks, beacon of goodness...I didn't think much of his character.

I agree about Fred and Lydgate, and maybe my first impression of Ladislaw was "urgh", but he grew on me, as he himself grew in character. I admired his self knowledge and humility in realising that he couldn't be the next Wordsworth, but that he could be a decent journalist, and that this was a worthwhile, if second best, thing to be.

Jackson Richardson
02-08-2014, 07:03 AM
As for male authors showing petty selfishness, Becky Sharp is ruthlessly selfish, although I suppose she has charm. Also, it probably didn't bother them as much.

I'm reading Vanity Fair at the moment. Becky and Rosamund are quite different, except in so far they are not good news for the men they marry. Rosamund is comfortably off, stupid and totally unselfconscious of her selfishness.

Becky is poor and intelligent and consciously determined to exploit men (and women if need be) to survive. I believe at the end of the novel she is responsible for a generous action to enable Amelia to marry Dobbin.

kev67
02-18-2014, 01:13 PM
One thing I wondered today was that if I had been Fred's father, I might have been angry about him getting into so much debt and have been reluctant to pay it off for him. On the other hand, if I had learnt that another family had been put into financial difficulty for acting as security for the debt, so much so that they could not not afford to apprentice their son, I would have been livid. It does seem rather unlikely that Mr Vincy would have allowed that to happen, despite his business not doing very well.

Gladys
02-19-2014, 03:16 AM
On the other hand, if I had learnt that another family had been put into financial difficulty for acting as security for the debt, so much so that they could not not afford to apprentice their son, I would have been livid. It does seem rather unlikely that Mr Vincy would have allowed that to happen, despite his business not doing very well.

Your faith in Mr Vincy does you credit but I fear that he, like his beautiful daughter, would have had more pressing matters to occupy his mind. Don't you remember that son Fred just wallowed in self pity when he could not reimburse Caleb Garth and, again, after Mr Featherstone failed to bequeath Fred even his gold-headed cane?

Jackson Richardson
02-22-2014, 05:47 AM
Gladys got there first to say Mr Vincy is his daughter’s father and probably her equal in selfishness.

He is a self made man and probably has no sympathy for anyone he has done better than financially.

On the other hand he is aspirational and wants to be gentry rather than trade. He might well be pleased at Fred acting like a “gentleman” gambling and ripping off those “beneath” him.

Give Fred is considerable due – he is sufficiently confident of himself that he can learn to appreciate the intelligent, humane self respect of the Garths and is prepared to loose social kudos by aligning himself to both Caleb and Mary.