chapter  2
16 Pages

Textual Healing: George MacDonald’s Adela Cathcart

Deerbrook and Middlemarch, in their very different ways, show that the Victorian courtship and marriage plot was difficult to reconcile with the rise of modern medicine, which the figure of the doctor exemplifies in his personal struggles between disinterested professionalism (Deerbrook) or empirical knowledge (Middlemarch), and romantic social practices. With Deerbrook, Martineau imagines a community that largely learns to forgo the consolations of romance for the sturdier truths of Positivism. Eliot’s Middlemarch, over thirty years later, devastatingly shows that the inclinations of a world-view shaped by literary love are as seductive as they are misleading, and the compromise of Tertius Lydgate testifies to the human weakness for “love’s fairy fancies” even amidst the cold light of science.