Lydgate is also entranced by “a woman strikingly different to Miss Brooke:” Rosamond Vincy. He does not plan to marry until he has made progress in his career. He is currently “young, poor, [and] ambitious,” and thus knows he has some way to go before he becomes an attractive match. He imagines that marrying someone like Dorothea would be hard work, whereas being married to Rosamond would be a heavenly respite from work. Rosamond was educated at Mrs. Lemon’s school, the best of its kind in England, where she excelled as a model pupil.
Like Celia, Rosamond is the model of the ideal woman. Again, Dorothea’s unusual personality becomes more pronounced when compared to these two more “typical” Middlemarch women. Lydgate’s belief that being married to Dorothea would be hard work suggests that ambitious men do not want wives who share that ambition.
Though he is not their personal doctor, Lydgate got to know the Vincy family very soon after moving to Middlemarch. The family have been successful manufacturers for three generations, and over this time members have married into both higher- and lower-ranking families. Mr. Vincy himself went “down” by marrying the daughter of an innkeeper. The Vincys are very wealthy, particularly after the death of the childless old Mr. Featherstone, who had been married to Mr. Vincy’s sister. The Vincy family’s personal doctor is named Mr. Wrench. Rosamond wishes her parents would invite Lydgate over, because she is bored of seeing the same old people.
In the world of the novel, those of the highest social status have not gained their money through work, but rather through landowning. People who have acquired wealth exist lower down the social hierarchy, and different kinds of professions each have their respective rank. Being a manufacturer, for example, is considered “better” than being an innkeeper.
One morning after breakfast, Rosamond is doing embroidery by the fire while Mrs. Vincy asks their servant to wake Rosamond’s brother, Fred, who is still asleep at 10:30 am. Rosamond asks her mother to forbid Fred from eating herrings for breakfast, because she can’t stand the smell. She laments having brothers. Mrs. Vincy, meanwhile, speaks highly of Fred, saying he is very smart even though he didn’t finish his degree. Mrs. Vincy says no man from Middlemarch is flawless, and Rosamond suddenly announces that she will not marry a man from Middlemarch.
From this initial introduction to the Vincy household, both Fred and Rosamond come off as entitled in different ways: Fred because he is sleeping late and failed to acquire his university degree, and Rosamond because she wants to marry “better” than a man from Middlemarch. In Rosamond’s case her entitlement becomes a form of ambition, whereas for Fred it manifests as laziness.
Fred enters, and he, Mrs. Vincy, and Rosamond discuss manners of speech and how these betray a person’s class. Rosamond and Fred bicker until Mrs. Vincy requests that they stop. Mrs. Vincy asks about Lydgate, whom Fred saw at dinner the night before. She notes that Lydgate comes from “a good family,” and Rosamond suddenly wishes that she weren’t the daughter of a manufacturer and the granddaughter of an innkeeper. Rosamond mentions that Mary Garth has probably taken a liking to Lydgate, but Fred replies unhappily that he doesn’t know and leaves.
It is important to note that Rosamond was not invited to Mr. Brooke’s dinner party because she is the daughter of a manufacturer, but her brother Fred was. This shows how gender and class intersect. Presumably, if Rosamond had been invited it would have been as a potential marriage prospect, but her rank is too low for this to have happened.
Mrs. Vincy says that she wishes Rosamond had gone to live with her uncle, a younger Mr. Featherstone, who would have been very generous with her. Mary Garth is living with him now and will surely benefit immensely from it. Rosamond replies that nothing would have been worth putting up with her uncle and his “ugly relatives.” Mrs. Vincy replies that Featherstone will likely die soon. Fred sees Rosamond going to the piano and asks if he can play with her; she replies that men look silly playing the flute. However, she relents in exchange for Fred taking her out horse-riding later.
This is one of the few moments in the novel where we explicitly witness men being chastised for not conforming to gender-based expectations. Rosamond’s fairly traditional ideas about gender emerge when she tells Fred that men look silly playing the flute. However, her desire to go horse-riding suggests that all people fail to conform to gender roles to some degree.