Casaubon recovers within a few days, but Lydgate remains worried and stresses that Casaubon needs to stop working so hard. Casaubon protests that this will be miserable, and Lydgate commiserates. Lydgate speaks with Dorothea, assuring her that Casaubon’s health is improving. He tells her that it is possible that Casaubon might live for another 15 years, provided that he is “careful against mental agitation of all kinds.” He suggests travel, mentioning the trip to Rome, but Dorothea immediately replies that this would not work. She pleads for Lydgate’s advice, imploring him to consider Casaubon’s attachment to his work.
Lydgate’s diagnosis presents a dilemma for Casaubon (and, by extension, Dorothea). Casaubon’s best chance of extending his life is to stop working, but without work he essentially doesn’t have a life. Dorothea’s pleas to Lydgate suggest that she is in denial about the reality facing her husband: if he keeps working, he will not live much longer.
Lydgate feels he cannot answer, and so he leaves. Dorothea sobs and returns to Casaubon’s study, where she finds the letters from Will, which she decides to tidy away so Casaubon will not see them and get upset again. She reads Will’s letter to her husband. Will reiterates his plan to become financially independent on returning to England, and adds that Naumann has requested that a painting he made for Casaubon be brought to him at Lowick—hence Will’s plan to visit. Dorothea gives the letters to Mr. Brooke, asking him to write and explain that Casaubon is too ill for visitors.
It is odd that Casaubon refused to allow Will to come and visit, considering that his letter was kind and he is clearly not requesting any further financial support from Casaubon. Casaubon’s wish not to see Will can perhaps only be explained by jealousy over Will’s friendship with Dorothea.
Mr. Brooke writes a long letter complimenting Will and explaining that he cannot come to Lowick. However, Brooke then suggests that Will come to stay at Tipton instead, as Brooke is interested in discussing politics with him. He sends the letter without telling Dorothea, who is busy tending to Casaubon.
Many twists of fate in the novel take place because the characters act in secret, without telling one another what they have done. Brooke’s secrecy is not malicious, but it will come to have a big impact on the remainder of the story.