No. 10. Rosamund Vincy and Dr Lydgate from Middlemarch
Rosamund and Lydgate: One of the many gems to be found in George Eliot’s Middlemarch is the genius psychological portraits of Dr Tertius Lydgate and Miss Rosamund Vincy (soon Mrs Lydgate) – including how their marriage faired from early pleasure, through crisis and life-sapping compromise and eventually to Lydgate’s premature death at 50.
This is a clear case of two decent people who might have been happy if only they had married someone else. Lydgate’s plan for his future was:
“to do good small work for Middlemarch, and great work for the world”.
Self-centred Rosamund does not respect Lydgate’s profession, enjoys things being done her way, and proves disastrous for his work and intellectual ambitions.
‘He once called her his basil plant; and when she asked for an explanation, said that basil was a plant which had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man’s brains.’
Lydgate does not spot that they are not an ideal match partly because he’s looking for a wife that will provide pretty, light relief from his anticipated professional and intellectual toils and partly because Rosamund is a virtuoso at hiding her weaknesses:
‘… with eyes of heavenly blue, deep enough to hold the most exquisite meanings an ingenious beholder could put into them, and deep enough to hide the meanings of the owner if these should happen to be less exquisite.’
Fault is rarely on one side. When Rosamund eventually remarries a wealthy and indulgent older man she considers it her reward for putting up with everything she has had to put up with from Tertius. So our no.10 was not a marriage made in heaven.
The Long Victorian
A brief summary of Lydgate and Rosamund’s relationship (Youtube, 4 min 02)
Worst couples in literature – The complete list
No. 11. Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
No. 10. Rosamund Vincy and Dr Lydgate from Middlemarch (George Eliot)
No. 9. Lydia and George Wickham from Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
No. 8. Dorothea and Edward Casaubon from Middlemarch (George Eliot)
No. 7. Arabella Donn and Jude Fawley from Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
No. 6. Anna Karenina and Alexei Vronsky from Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
No. 5. Bertha and Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)
No. 4. Madeline Bray and Arthur Gride from Nicholas Nickleby (Charles Dickens)
No.3. Laura Fairlie and Sir Percival Glyde from The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)
No.2. Angel & Tess and Alec & Tess from Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
No.1 Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)