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. Camden followed the rhythm: twice fast, twice slow, then a pause with a slight tremor. Was this science or seduction? Camden, at 10, did not know the difference. But he could feel both. Camden Farebrother was on a quest to find the illusive African monarch and the Goliathus beetle. Each, it was rumored, had migrated to England aboard ships carrying future stable hands and maids. Camden’s tutor claimed he had seen both. So Camden, determined to find the monarch and the beetle, had been crawling through the meadow behind his grandfather’s stable since dawn. George Noble’s stable fit the needs of a vicar in the most affluent parish (1) in Middlemarch (2). He kept three well-groomed horses, two for his carriage and one that could handle short rides in any weather, any time of the day or night. Camden fed the horses and led them out into the paddock before starting his expedition. One of the horses gazed
2) Although Farebrother’s mother says she was “born and bred in Exeter,” (Middlemarch, chapter 17), Eliot suggests that the parsonage in which we meet the Farebrothers is the same one the vicar grew up in, so I set his early and later life in Middlemarch. 1) In 1790, the approximate year of Camden Farebrother’s birth, the “living” of a parish vicar was based on the mandatory tithing of his parishioners. Daniel Pool, What Jane Austen Ate and Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist - the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993) By the time Farebrother receives a parish in chapter 52 of Middlemarch, many were under the control of local landowners (as with Dorothea Casauban and Lowick parish). With this change, a vicar’s “living” depended on the whim of landed gentry, not their parishioners. Ibid
at Camden now as he dragged himself along 1
a creek that traced the paddock’s back edge. Beetles loved the damp moss on rocks lining the creek and butterflies flocked to clumps of sage like the one Camden lay under, staring up at his treasure. Camden’s heart filled with love and wonder, even though this monarch was missing the red flame of Africa. He closed his eyes to savor the moment. His mind drifted to the mild sting of sun and sweat penetrating bramble cuts across his face. His stomach growled. It must be time for breakfast. Would there be fresh bread? The monarch. Camden knew before his eyes flew open that it was gone. He had offended it by looking away. His treasure could not be far off. (3) “Mr. Farebrother, like another White of Selbourne, having
continually something new to tell of his inarticulate guests…” George Eliot, Middlemarch, chapter 80. Eliot hints here that Farebrother has a serious interest in science. Gilbert White, the man she connects to Farebrother, was a British naturalist, a Church of England curate and author. His book, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1788), would have been a primary reference for Farebrother, as it was for Charles Darwin. But White and Farebrother were not of the same mind on religion. While Farebrother is comfortable exploring Methodism, White was loyal to the Church of England. White’s great grandnephew, Rashleigh Holt White, wrote The Life and Letters of Gilbert White of Selbourne in 1901, in part, to argue that his great uncle should not be “taxed with pluralism.” New York Times book review, 6/22/1901.
Camden rose, clenching the stained doily that held two common dung beetles. They were the latest additions to a collection he
(4) Farebrother would have been about 20 years older than Charles Darwin, but I believe Eliot intended to suggest a few parallels. Here’s Darwin, discussing his beetle collection: “One day, on tearing off some old bark, I saw two rare beetles and seized one in each hand; then a third and new kind, which I could not bear to lose so I popped the one in my right hand into my mouth. Alas it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as well as the third one.” Darwin, Charles. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin. London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1887, p 9.
dreamed would one day rival his hero, Gilbert White (3). “Camden.” His mother’s voice, floating across the field, was so faint, he could pretend he didn’t hear. He
kept moving slowly through the tall grass, squinting to focus his concentration on anything small, dark and airborne. One of the beetles (4) wiggled through the lace border of his doily. “Camden!” The whisper of a voice gained an edge. Camden frowned. He’d finished his chores on this beautiful Sunday in June. Oh, Sunday. His grandfather would expect to see Camden between his mother and father in the front pew. His sister, Winifred would be on the other side of his mother, ignoring imploring looks from Solomon Featherstone (5). Camden turned slowly away from his celebration of nature. His magical day was about to be stolen by the church. Camden loved and resented church. He marveled at the grand building that used the best of man’s stone, wood and glass talents to imitate the beauty of God’s sky, trees 5) In chapter 52, Farebrother tells his mother, sister and aunt he has the “Lowick living.” “As for you, Winny,” the vicar went on, “I shall make no difficulty about your marrying any Lowick bachelor Mr. Solomon Featherstone, for example - as soon as I find you are in love with him.”
and animals but shut them out. His soul soared with the organ every Sunday only to have his grandfather’s sermons about sin and retribution beat it back down. Camden longed to linger in the field with the music of trilling birds, the gurgling brook and currents in the wind. His god was in anthills, moth cocoons, spider webs and beehives. Camden could not connect to the God who required starched knickers and stillness on a hard bench beneath his grandfather’s withering gaze.
But that’s where Camden found himself an hour after flirting with the monarch that he now imagined was an African queen. He squirmed on the bench as the heat of the day set in. Sweat, again, seeped into his bramble scrapes and sores. He looked longingly towards a window at the end of his pew and saw her. His queen; she had come for him. The butterfly, with light bouncing off her stained glass wings, flew over Camden towards the back of the church. Camden stood, in a trance, and followed his queen past the hissed reproach of his own parents, the shudders of other mothers, the stunned looks of parish elders and the wonder of other Sunday slaves, longing to be free. With one final leap he was back in the gleaming unfiltered sunlight. He would celebrate the Lord in his outdoor sanctuary (6). As the boy became a young man, he followed Gilbert White’s example with a vengeance. Camden fashioned drawers for his more than 300 (6) CF will struggle with the tension between specimens of spiders, moths, science and the church his whole life. While to the public, the church appears to win, it water bugs, bees and his does not claim his heart. favorite, beetles. He had 12 versions of the Seven Spot Ladybird alone. Camden loved In ch. 50 Lydgate tells Dorothea that the vicar often hints he’s in the wrong profession, “He is very fond of natural stable on a cold morning, 10 or history and various scientific matters, and he is hampered in reconciling these tastes 12 on top of each other to with his position.” to find them hibernating in the keep warm. Sketches of his In ch. 52, when accepting the Lowick living, Farebrother seems ready to reconcile himself to a life in the church. He tells Lydgate, “I often used to wish I had been 4 something else than a clergyman, but perhaps it will be better to try and make as good a clergyman out of myself as I can.” There are at least three references to this tension. We learn in chapter 17 that “the vicar felt himself not altogether in the right vocation.”
treasured collection covered Camden’s walls. But by the time Camden turned 16, Vicar Noble made it clear, he was grooming his only grandson for a future inside the church. Camden did not resist, but he dreaded the daily drills. “Have we reviewed the ‘Songs of the Suffering Servant’?, and can you tell me how this image applies to our Lord?” his grandfather asked as Camden entered the study one gorgeous morning in May. “Yes grandfather,” Camden answered with a small sigh. “We read ‘Isaiah’ twice last year and the Suffering Servant is our Lord Jesus Christ.” Vicar Noble did not favor interpretive preaching (7) . His grandson must have a firm grasp of the Bible’s direct meaning. The pair had completed the entire Bible twice so far in their studies. Camden wanted a break. It was planting season. He would offer to sow a new field; one rich with orthoptera, although he wouldn’t mention this attraction to his grandfather. The buzz of crickets, locusts and grasshoppers were pulling him back outdoors. Camden was late, as usual, for his morning lesson. He often lingered in the paddock after cleaning the stable. He couldn’t tear himself away from the drama: an execution in the spider webs or a major colonial expansion among the termites. The dung beetles were sluggish. Was it the chilly night (7) In ch. 17, Mrs. Farebrother tells Lydgate when she was growing up, “every respectable Church person had the same opinions.” Her father, continued Mrs. Farebrother, was a consistent, reliable clergyman. “My father never changed, and he preached plain moral sermons without arguments, and was a good man-few better.
air or could there be a more troubling problem affecting the whole pod? A
colony of bees was building a hive in the tree that shaded the north corner. Camden wondered if they were related to the colony across the road or were they an invading tribe? He must catch one and compare. Glancing towards the native bees, Camden saw a gentleman inspecting their work. The stranger’s head bounced back and forth between the nest and a book cradled on his left arm. He was writing furiously. Or was he drawing? Camden thought about the beetle sketch tucked into the cover of the Bible he carried. He wanted to say hello to the stranger, to show him the sketch. But he was already late. Camden hurried towards his grandfather’s house. It was a handsome stone cottage, a miniature of the manor house at the end of the long drive. Camden and his family moved in when he was eight. His father, a lawyer, had come down with tuberculosis and was too weak to work or maintain a house. Erasmus Farebrother faded quickly after the move despite the best efforts of his wife. Camden and Winifred were left to the care of a spinster aunt, Henrietta Noble, who fawned over them. “Oh Henrietta, you’ve spoiled the children forever,” worried Mrs. Farebrother when she was back in charge, reminding Camden and Winifred “to wear flannel and not over-eat themselves” (Middlemarch, ch. 17). Henrietta died years later with lumps of sugar she’d saved for the children in her pockets. ( 8) Lydgate in chapter 18 says of When Camden Farebrother, “very few men could have been as filial and chivalrous as he was to entered the study, his the mother, aunt and sister, whose dependence on him had in many ways grandfather was pacing, shaped his life rather uneasily for himself…” And in ch. 50, when recommending Farebrother to Dorothea, Lydgate says, “his mother, sister and aunt all live with him and 6 depend on him. I believe he has never married because of them.”
lost in thought. Camden sat down, suddenly unsure how to approach the idea of taking a break. Should he suggest that his studies are complete? Should he stress work that lay neglected in the fields? It didn’t matter. The elder gentleman was ready with his own plan. “Camden, I believe you know it has always been my wish that you should enter the clergy,” Camden’s grandfather never bothered with pleasantries. “Serving the church is a noble profession and one that will allow you, as the man of the house, to take care of your mother and sister for as long as they may need you (8). Oh, and your aunt too.” Henrietta Noble was always an afterthought, even to herself (9). “I have decided it is time…” Camden’s (9) In Ch. 50, Lydgate describes Miss Noble as a “wonderfully quaint grandfather paused and looked towards picture of self-forgetful goodness.” a knock on the study door. It opened and a timid Miss Noble, asking her father’s forgiveness, wondered if he might have time to greet a gentleman visitor. “He says his name is William Kirby (10) and that he’s an old friend from Cambridge,” explained Miss Noble, breathless with excitement. Mr. Kirby had just paid her the deepest compliment by noticing the delicate mend of her old lace.
(10) William Kirby is considered the founder of entomology. He, unlike many naturalists of the time, was not a member of the clergy (even Charles Darwin’s family assumed he would enter the clergy after he gave up medicine). Kirby’s best-known work “Monograph on the Bees of England,” was published in 1802. He wrote about God’s overarching presence in science and religion in this passage from 1800: ‘The author of Scripture is also the author of Nature: and this visible world, by types indeed, and by symbols, declares the same truths as the Bible does by words. To make the naturalist a religious man – to turn his attention to the glory of God, that he may declare his works, and in the study of his creatures may see the loving-kindness of the Lord – may this in some measure be the fruit of my work…’ Kirby, William, On the Power Wisdom and Goodness of God. As Manifested in the Creation of Animals and in Their History, Habits and Instincts; Bridgewater Treatises, W. Pickering, 1835 (reissued by Cambridge
“Kirby, Kirby” muttered Camden’s grandfather. He did not like interruptions and did not store sentimental memories. But he was a loyal Cambridge man and followed most rules of etiquette. “Show him in.” Camden recognized the man who entered before his grandfather did. He hugged his book close to this chest and extended his right hand in greeting.
“Pardon my interruption,” said Mr. Kirby, including the teacher and the student with one nod. “I don’t know if you remember me, Vicar? It’s been thirty years since we shared meals at Cambridge. I was walking this lovely country when I saw your nameplate at the road. I thought I might pay my respects and ask permission to observe the bee colonies on your land.”
Camden’s grandfather blanched. He had heard of these naturalists, (11) I’m intrigued by the question, is Farebrother a man of the old science (naturalism) or the new science that Lydgate represents? Does GE use man from Cambridge (11). Farebrother as another way to illustrate how dense Lydgate can be or is Farebrother lost to a world of The gentlemen sat down for dead bugs? but did not expect one in a tea and lapsed into that idle exchange that has no beginning or end. Camden watched a warbler add twigs, leaves and bits of grass to its nest outside the window. How wonderful it would be to spend an afternoon rocking in the nest, looking towards heaven through the flickering new green of spring leaves. The warbler flew off and Camden returned to Sally Shuttleworth’s investigation of science focuses on Lydgate as the symbol of advancement. She does challenge Lydgate who “dismisses Farebrother’s practice of natural history” when the two men discuss science for the first time in Farebrother’s study (ch. 17). But Marc Wormald argues that this scene establishes Farebrother as both a forward thinking scientist and as a sort of twin narrator. Farebrother and the narrator both act as a “a cautious microscopist,” says Wormald. In science, Farebrother shows a sophistication Lydgate doesn’t appreciate. “If only Lydgate knew it, the amateur natural historian has much to offer his own quest for organic origins and structure”. (pg. 23) On the narrative level, Wormald argues that for Farebrother and the narrator, “the lenses of their developing instruments are focused on the same objects, that ‘water-drop’ of provincial life and the primitive creatures moving obscurely within it.” Here Wormald refers both to the scene in Ch. 36 when Farebrother comes to Lydgate’s room” with some pond products he wanted to examine under a better microscope than his own” and in the way in which he becomes a lens through with the reader sees Lydgate, Fred Vincy and others.
the room. He slid the beetle sketch from the back cover of his Bible and worked quietly on shading the wings. A shadow fell across the page as Camden heard his grandfather say, “I’m sorry you can’t stay for dinner, Kirby, but do stop in again sometime.” The shadow didn’t move. Camden
looked up. “Well sir, that’s a fine image of a black clock beetle. You’ve captured the layering of the front and back wings exactly as I would myself,” said Kirby with surprise. “And the half eaten slug is an imaginative addition. I didn’t realize I had a colleague in the room. What’s your name, young man?” Camden blushed. He was proud of his sketches even though everyone in the family shuddered when they found him at work on “portraits” of crawling creatures. “I’m Camden Farebrother, sir, Vicar Noble’s grandson,” said Camden, rising as his voice dropped. “I’ve collected beetles and other insects since I was a young boy. I follow the work of Gilbert White with my sketches and notes. Perhaps you know Mr. White of Selbourne?” A slow smile spread across Mr. Kirby’s face. It was true, what he’d heard, that a passion for nature and science was spreading across the land. This young man might be just the person Mr. Kirby needed to help him finish the manuscript that would put bees at the forefront of natural history. Turning back to his host he nodded. “Thank you sir, if the dinner invitation is still open, I accept.” Five days later, Camden left with Mr. Kirby for Ipswich. He was to spend the last six months of 1808 helping Mr. Kirby catalogue and sketch bees for his book. Camden would postpone study for exams he needed to enter the clergy, a disappointment his grandfather bore in silence. In that
moment before Mr. Kirby arrived, Vicar Noble had been ready to announce that Camden would begin his exam preparations. The Vicar could not understand wasting a minute on bees unless you needed to smash one. Still, his grandson seemed young to sit for exams. Perhaps a little time in a bustling port town would add some wisdom to his age. Camden’s sheltered view of the world cracked the first day of his journey with Mr Kirby. The wizened traveler and his 18 year old apprentice stopped for the night in the “gently-swelling meadow and wooded valley” of the village, Hayslope (Adam Bede, ch.2). The carriage driver let them out at the village green. It was crowded with men, women and children, looking towards a maple tree and a small cart that was “to serve as a pulpit.” (Ibid) They were waiting to hear the Methodist “preacher-woman.” Camden had never heard a woman preach. His grandfather warned him about Methodists (12) There are several references to Farebrother as “Methodistical” (see Mr. Hawley using the word as an insult in ch. 18). But he does not fit the mold either personally or professionally. Farebrother feeds “a weakness or two (tobacco and gambling) lest they should get clamorous” (ch. 17), which would not be allowed of a Methodist. In addition, he preaches with “plain and easy eloquence,” according to Lydgate in ch. 50, not the passion ascribed to Methodists of the time. Farebrother sounds more like the Reverend Irwine in Adam Bede whom Elizabeth Ermarth describes as an “honorable, effective clergyman, comfortable in his elegant habits but mindful of his duties to a widowed mother and sickly sister, and far better for his parishioners than a more dogmatic and consistent man could ever be.” Ermarth, Elizabeth Reeds. George Eliot. Boston: 11 (12), those disrespectful men who urged parishioners to speak directly to God. But a woman preacher; what could that mean? Camden’s grandfather had not prepared him for this possibility. In a moment she
appeared, a small, plainly dressed woman, with large gray eyes. She was not much older than Camden’s sister Winifred, but she moved with a presence he had never felt before. She spoke, calmly at first, then with increasing agitation and urgency as she pleaded with the crowd to “turn to God while there was yet time.” (ibid) Somehow Camden had drifted to the front of the crowd as it ebbed and flowed with the passion of Dinah Morriss’s words. He was mesmerized. He would follow her anywhere. Suddenly, Dinah turned and looked directly at him. “You, who spoil the Lord’s body,” (how did she know he had tasted drink). “You, who waste the Lord’s talents on idle pursuits,” (how did she know he played cards?) “You, who trifle with the wisdom of your elders,” (how did she know he had just left home, disappointing his mother, grandfather and probably Aunt Noble, whom he hadn’t bothered to consult?) Camden was shaking as Dinah Morriss stretched her arms to encompass the crowd. “Dear Friends, Jesus stands ready to help you now. But if you wait until the judgment day, he will turn from you and say, ‘Depart from me into everlasting fire!’” (ibid) Flickering lights danced in Camden’s eyes. His mind went blank. A firm but gentle arm guided him out of the crowd to a bench at the far end of the Green. “Well, now we know a woman can preach,” smiled Mr. Kirby,
handing Camden a piece of peppermint. “Myself, I’m reminded that while my bees buzz and occasionally sting, they don’t carry the power of those biting words,” continued Kirby. “There is order in nature, Camden, and that order serves the glory of our Lord. You can depend on it.” It took Camden a long time to finish the peppermint and gather his wits. He resolved to admire powerful women from a distance from now on. In Ipswich, Camden’s days were a blur of bees, the docks and men with ideas that baffled the young mind. They talked about similarities between the habits of bees, birds and even bears. A few visitors to Mr. Kirby’s home described slicing open mice and dissecting their organs with the help of a microscope. Camden had seen but never used a microscope. He was curious but he didn’t understand the point of looking at how animals were put together on the inside. Somehow what these men could see in small slices lead them to argue that the rules of nature were separate from the will of God (13). They challenged the Bible and 13) Farebrother illustrates a central theme in Middlemarch, the growing influence of science in Victorian England at the expense of the church. In the early 19th Century, the prevailing view was that “natural objects show evidences of design, thus showing the existence of a designing God.” Fyfe, Aileen. “Victorian Science and Religion.” Victorian Web. Ed. George P. Landow. Brown University. 11 June 2002. http://www.victorianweb.org/science/science&r eligion.html. But this view of nature as God’s creation was starting to break down. Broadview says “the predominance of scientific rationalism and empiricist method” along with a “destabilized Christian certainty,” created a tide of “religious skepticism.” Black, Joseph, ed. The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. Toronto: Broadview Press, 2006, p. xlviii. 13 We know that George Eliot was, during the writing of Middlemarch, also translating The
showed no fear of retribution. Camden listened with fascination, but he was scared too. By day, Camden organized, catalogued, cleaned and sketched Kirby’s collection of hundreds of bees. By night he worked on his beetle drawings and listened to men who were shaping the new field of entomology. Mr. Kirby was their leader although his position as the leading thinker of the time was beginning to slip. There were heated arguments about who could take credit for discoveries, names and ideas. Camden watched the passion of these men with great interest. He loved his insects but could not understand claiming ownership of nature. It did not belong to man. Creation belonged to the creator, God. Most of the men who stopped by Mr. Kirby’s house in the evenings ignored Camden. But one night Mr. James Stephens stopped to look at one of his beetle sketches. Stephens was beginning work on a book about beetles and he invited Camden to submit a few drawings from his collection. “Your current samples are not unique,” he warned Camden. “But if you find something unusual, can define its generic and specific distinctions and 14) Both Farebrother and his friends describe a man for whom it is too late to be what he might have been (to paraphrase a quote attributed to George Eliot). establish its common location, then send me a sketch.”
The invitation sent Camden In ch. 18, the vicar tells Lydgate, “the world has been too strong for me…I shall never scurrying out into the woods have been a man of renown.” Lydgate, to himself, concludes “that there was a pitiable many early mornings and for infirmity of will in Mr. Farebrother.” But we could also conclude that Farebrother longer excursions on Sundays. was caught in the conflicted roles of a son, a scientist and a clergyman in an age of rapid change. And of course, there’s the 14 question, what does it mean to achieve renown?
He crawled across fields and through bogs, gently pulling moss off damp rocks and bark off trees, holding his breath in anticipation of what might lay underneath. After two months he found what appeared to be the Sherwood Forrest hazel pot beetle. Camden produced a drawing that Mr. Kirby called “sublime.” 20 years later it appeared in Stephens’ highly acclaimed, Illustrations of British Entomology. Camden’s last name was misspelled, C. Farbother (14). It would be the only time Camden’s name, in any form,
appeared in a publication. While Camden finished the sketches for Mr. Kirby’s treatise on bees, his mentor wrote the text for the book and prepared a series of lectures he was to deliver at Cambridge University that fall. Mr. Kirby hoped the lectures and book would help him win an open position for a professor of Botany. Kirby, a Tory, was not politically popular among the Cambridge elite and he faced stiff competition. The final decision would rest on a debate between Kirby and John 15) John Stevens Henslow may be best remembered as a tutor and mentor for Charles Darwin, but he also held weekly science soirees that Farebrother would have attended while at Cambridge. Henslow, a botanist, gave his students plants and told them to dissect and define the inner structure and then compare notes. He influenced many leading scientists of the times. John Audubon named the Henslow Sparrow for him. Henslow was a vicar in a parish outside Cambridge. He did have a sister named Charlotte. I don’t know if she had a pet spider. Walters, S.M and Stow, E.A. Darwin’s Mentor: John Stevens Henslow, 1796-1861. Cambridge: Stevens Henslow (15), a brilliant, but not well established, young scientist. The gentle Camden tried to assume Henslow’s fiery speech as he helped his mentor prepare for the match. Inside the Cambridge lecture hall, supporters of Kirby and Henslow mingled in the front row. Camden sat
down next to Charlotte Henslow, John’s sister. Charlotte was Henslow’s acknowledged partner even though she had never studied at university. Camden had heard stories about her jaunts across the countryside dressed as man. For many years, the naturalist community assumed Henslow had a twin brother. Charlotte carried her trademark tarantula, nestled in a green velvet shawl on her shoulder for warmth. Camden, fascinated by the woman and the spider, leaned towards the hairy creature for a closer look. Charlotte turned large grey eyes on Camden, studying him, Camden felt, as she would a specimen. Their eyes locked. Charlotte, with calm control, broke the spell. “Don’t get too close,” she warned. “Cedric is my protector”. As if on cue, the spider shifted and shot a silk thread into Camden’s eye. He shouted and leapt from his chair. Several Henslows seated nearby burst into laughter. Charlotte moved Cedric to her opposite shoulder and patted the chair. “It’s all right. He won’t bother you any more. I told him you aren’t dangerous.” Camden was sure this woman didn’t need a protector. He remembered his resolve to keep powerful women at a distance, but returned to the seat next to Charlotte. He pulled out his sketch pad, intending to take a few notes, but paused on a half finished sketch of an unusual specimen he had spotted, by chance, on a walk the previous week. Charlotte saw the picture from the corner of her eye and quickly bent closer to the pad. “That’s a Crucifx Ground Beetle,” she whispered, pointing
to the black marks that crossed both wings. “Have you seen one?” Camden nodded, surprised and delighted by the subtle power shift. “Where!” Charlotte demanded in a low hiss. But the debate host had just stepped on stage to introduce the dueling lecturers. Charlotte would have to wait for her answer. Kirby did not do well in the debate. His idea that the characteristics of every animal and insect were fixed and could not be altered sounded trite next to Henslow’s findings that plants and animals adjusted and changed under different conditions. When the formal debate ended and audience members stood with questions, they grilled Kirby on the future of his field and the connections to other branches of science. One man asked whether Kirby had ever dissected an insect. “No,” Kirby admitted, he was more interested in the history, habits and instincts of insects and animals. The results would not be announced for several weeks, but Kirby knew Henslow would get the position. Camden watched his mentor extend a hand and graciously congratulate the opponent. “Let me know if there is anything I can do to assist in your move to Cambridge,” Kirby offered. Henslow took Kirby’s hand and smiled. This moment of good will would translate into a lifelong friendship. Camden stood to congratulate Henslow’s supporters. He turned to Charlotte, taking care to stay on the side opposite Cedric. He was ready with an answer to her question about the location of the apparently rare beetle, but Charlotte was ready too, ready to let Camden know she would not be
beholden to him for information. “I was mistaken about your sketch,” Charlotte said. “I believe what you have there is one of the many species of tiger beetles. They are interesting as fierce predators, but they are common.” Her eyes dared him to disagree. Camden did not. He would not invoke the anger of another stormy eyed woman. Camden changed the subject. “Do you expect to move to Cambridge with your brother?” he blurted, realizing immediately that the question was inappropriate. Charlotte did not blanche. “We are a team, in the field and in the laboratory,” Charlotte replied, again challenging Camden to response. Camden nodded with respect, “Your brother is a lucky man.” He saw Charlotte’s reserve soften. Her full lips suggested a smile but Camden’s chance to draw it out was interrupted. Kirby stepped between the two, nodded politely to Charlotte, threw his arm over Camden’s shoulder and pulled him away. “Camden,” said Kirby, “I want you to meet a man of the future.” Camden found himself face to face with the dissection enthusiast whose question had shamed Kirby during the debate. Theodore Trawley was studying medicine at Cambridge but planned to move beyond human physiology and prove that all organic elements are anchored to an underlying order. “Pythagoras proved thousands of years ago that there is a structure to which all life adheres. Dissect anything, anything,” Trawly emphasized, stabbing his finger into the air, “and you will find that structure.” The tall
blonde gentlemen paused and gazed at the slight young man with unruly brown curls, waiting for a reply. “It’s an interesting theory,” Camden stammered, his mind still fixed on Charlotte’s gray eyes. “Are you using a microscope?” Trawley persisted, pulling Camden into the conversation. “No, I don’t own one,” Camden said, looking up. He caught sight of Charlotte, standing just behind Trawley, listening. “But I certainly plan to purchase one,” Camden added quickly. “Which one do you recommend?” “Why don’t you stop by my laboratory next week,” said Trawley, his chest filling, “and you can try the latest models. You won’t believe the magnifying power of some of the newest lenses. I’m testing a design from Robert Bate, the premier shop in London. It has a condenser so powerful that you can see…” Trawley lost Camden again as Charlotte stepped into full view. “Well good-bye,” she said, offering her hand. “Your mentor, Mr. Kirby, is an admirable man. I wish you both the best,” and Camden had his smile. “Perhaps I’ll see you again, maybe here in Cambridge,” Camden said hopefully. Charlotte nodded, pulled her hand from his, raised it to make sure Cedric was in place and covered, and moved towards the rest of her family, waiting at the door. Suddenly, the prospect of returning to the path his grandfather suggested, to begin preparation for clerical exams at Cambridge University, seemed a brilliant idea. Trawley continued as though Charlotte had not interrupted. “But you must come next week, because I must begin packing all of my things for
Paris shortly. I am embarking on a critically important endeavor…”. Camden pretended to listen as Trawley explained that he would join his friend Tertius Lydgate in Paris. The two visionaries would work with a team of scientists, said Trawley, who were proving that the secret to understanding illness lay outside the boundaries of 16) Trawley is the man who describes Lydgate to Farebrother before the new doctor arrives in Middlemarch (ch. 17). He is the unseen medical man who foreshadows Lydgate’s defeat. Trawley, with Farebrother as the lense, warns that “the medical profession was an inevitable system of humbug.” As Lilian Furst writes, Lydgate’s “defeat shows the strength of the entrenched conservative forces aligned against him.” I would argue that Farebrother falls victim to the same conservative forces, although in his case they are moral and social. He follows his duty to his family rather than his passions.
Furst, Lilian R., Struggling for Medical Reform in Middlemarch, NineteenthCentury Literature, the 48, No. 3 spilled conventional medicine (16). Camden tried to absorb Vol. ideas that(Dec. out of Trawley. They didn’t fit Camden’s understanding of nature, created by God, in his own image. Camden excused himself for a little sedation. Fishing in a pocket he found and lit his trusted pipe. As Camden’s tenure with Kirby drew to a close, he felt confused about the world of science. He was more excited than ever about watching ants build a nest or mapping the stages of a cocoon, but scientific discovery was moving quickly beyond simple observation. Camden did not like the endless arguments among the men who gathered in Kirby’s study and often retreated to a chair near the window to continue a sketch. Later, Camden would see many of these men become Full Fellows in the Linnean Society, the London-based association of natural history leaders. He would wonder if
he could have been among them. When the letter from Camden’s grandfather arrived, reminding him that it was time to begin university studies, Camden followed the expected path. He moved to Cambridge to prepare for exams that would establish his place in the church, perhaps even in his grandfather’s parish. He didn’t care much about church politics or the controversies that riled some of his classmates. Camden preferred the drama and risk of whist or billiards. When he lost money at those tables, he made a few trades in the market for exotic bugs he had discovered through some of Kirby’s distant associates. By accident, or so Camden imagined, he renewed ties to the scientific community at Cambridge University. It happened on a cold and rainy afternoon. Camden was walking full tilt, head down against the wind that whipped across Merton Court, when he hit the shoulder of a fellow voyager and felt prickly fur bush his cheek. Cedric landed on Camden’s ear and Charlotte stumbled backwards. Camden grabbed her arm to prevent a fall and she scooped Cedric off Camden just as the spider raise his front legs to bite. Charlotte nestled the angry beast back where he belonged and adjusted her hat. “Well, perhaps you are dangerous after all,” she said, her grey eyes, again, consuming Camden’s. “I’m so sorry,” Camden stammered more stunned by the sight of Charlotte than by their collision. They stared, waiting for the other to chart the direction of the conversation. Charlotte, used to being in control, had already decided that she wanted to know more about this thoughtful man. “It
seems,” she said, smiling, “that you are in too much of a hurry to escort me, but could you direct me to the School of Pythagoras? My brother is hosting a soiree for students there tonight.” Camden smiled back. He answered by taking her arm (the one opposite Cedric) and guiding the two, the woman and her protector, towards the school. For the rest of that term Camden became a regular guest at Henslow’s weekly soirees. He felt at home among the curious, uncertain young men there, most of whom Henslow had taken under his wing. But Camden went to see Charlotte. They took turns trying to outsmart each other with specimens under Henslow’s microscope. They sketched the sketched the flowering stalks and varieties of ferns that would later become Henslow’s landmark, Catalogue of British Plants, and then forced the other guests to decide whose drawing was best. They argued, sometimes, when Charlotte made fun of Camden’s commitment to God as the route of all scientific discovery. Officially, Camden moved into the final stages of preparing for his clerical exam. In reality, he was home again, in science. And he was in love. A week before his exam, Camden was feeding a caterpillar and using it as the object of a practice speech. It was a speech he hoped to find the courage to deliver to his grandfather. Camden would explain, with respect, that he could not become a man of the church. He realized that he could not be effective or successful in the life his grandfather had lived so well. Camden was in the middle of the speech when there was a knock at the door. A page handed Camden an unexpected letter from the parsonage in
Middlemarch. Camden carried the letter back to the caterpillar. He waited until it had finished eating the leaf and then opened the letter. His grandfather was dead. Camden’s mother said he must arrange to take the exams early and come home as soon as possible. She would ask that Camden be considered to replace Vicar Noble so the family would not have to move. Did Camden have a sermon or two that he could send for review? The hand holding the letter dropped to the desk. Camden’s eyes drifted to the window where a (17) Here’s one last twist. Eliot makes Farebrother the vicar of St. Botolph’s, the moth was hitting the glass, intent patron saint of travelers. In Farebrother’s case we might stretch the on getting out. He felt the urge image to wanderers. The St. Botolph’s of Eliot’s day is in to open the window and follow Cambridge and, according to the church site, Darwin’s family members were the moth over the ledge. A life he parishioners. To bring it home for me, the name Boston comes from “Botolph’s had been poised to leave behind Town.” was now his only option, indefinitely (17). For a few days before leaving Cambridge, Camden held out hope that Charlotte would follow him to Middlemarch. He would make sure she had a small lab. She would not need to have children right away. His mother and aunt (who would, of course, live with them) could take care of many of the house and parish duties. Charlotte cried as Camden began speaking. She was calm and hardened by the time he finished. How could Camden, she wondered, imagine her in the life he described? Ten years later, Camden was in his study, admiring a Bombardier
beetle that had wandered across his path that morning, even though it did not belong in Middlemarch. Camden was finding so many beetles that should not be there of late. It must have something to do with the new railroad – perhaps these beetles came in on wood used to lay the tracks? Camden must write to Kirby for guidance. This lovely Bombardier had shot it’s trademark burning liquid into Camden’s face, but missed his eye, unlike Cedric, Camden thought with a wry smile. Camden had adjusted to life without Charlotte. He was a good son, one of the county’s best preachers and a member of the hospital board. His mother, aunt and sister could not understand why he didn’t marry. They were upset about the rumors that Camden frequented the billiard hall in town and that he was, occasionally, in debt after a late night game of whist. Camden never revealed the aching passion these indulgences helped displace. “Camden,” his mother called, “your new confirmation pupil has arrived.” The vicar sighed and tried to focus his mind on the duties of the day. He could return to sketching and cataloging the Bombardier after lessons, a few visits to ailing parishioners and dinner. Camden stepped into the living room and caught his breath. A small girl waited there. Her large grey eyes looked directly into his. She held out a jar. Inside was a spider. Not a tarantula, just a
(18) Farebrother mentions Mary in a conversation with Lydgate in ch. 17. “I prepared her for confirmation, she is a favourite of mine.” Farebrother’s mother, aunt and sister, as well as Mary’s mother hope the two will marry. Farebrother holds out hope that Mary might chose him over Fred when the vicar speaks to Mary on Fred’s behalf in ch. 52. He is disappointed.
regular brown barn spider, but it had already started weaving a web. “I’m Mary Garth,” said the young girl (18). “I found this while I was cleaning out the barn today. My father said I should bring it to you. Do you like it?” Camden looked from the girl to the spider and back again. “I do,” said the vicar, nodding, “I do.”
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