All of Featherstone’s relations are hoping to receive something in his will, even the poor ones to whom he never showed any generosity in his life. As Featherstone lies on his deathbed, countless relatives arrive at his house. He won’t see any of them, so Mary carries their messages to him. Some of the guests, such as Featherstone’s brother Jonah, simply refuse to leave the house. A great many of them are now crowded in the kitchen, which distresses Mary. The relatives eventually confront Featherstone, who is enraged by their presence. He declares: “I’ve made my will, I tell you, I’ve made my will.”
The scene of Mr. Featherstone’s relatives descending like vultures around his deathbed (alongside Mr. Vincy’s joy at the news of his imminent death in the previous chapter) is decidedly sinister. It highlights how greed not only corrupts people’s morals, but also leads them to behave in unbecoming, dishonorable ways.
Mr. Trumbull, the Middlemarch auctioneer, has a meeting with Featherstone, and as he is waiting to go up to Featherstone’s room the crowd of relatives asks for an update on Featherstone’s current state of mind. Trumbull gives an evasive answer, but subtly implies that Featherstone’s land may not be inherited by anyone in the family at all. In reality Trumbull doesn’t know anything about Featherstone’s will. He discusses Mary’s books with her, claiming to be “a great bookman myself.” The relatives mutter about Mary, supposing that Featherstone will have certainly left her something in the will.
Mr. Trumbull’s decision to stir up controversy among Featherstone’s relatives is highly irresponsible. It shows how the proclivity for gossip and temptation to seem like an authority can make people behave in reckless ways. Once again, selfishness and ego make the characters reveal the ugliest sides of themselves.