Lydgate is over £1000 in debt and has no way to supplement his rather meager income. He is now constantly in a bad mood, which further distances him from Rosamond. He tells her that they will need to cut back on expenses, including letting go two of their three servants. Rosamond replies that “it would be very injurious to your position for us to live in a poor way”—yet Lydgate insists they have no choice. He points out that some people who are of their same rank live in a much more simple way.
Rosamond’s claim that cutting back on expenses would hurt Lydgate’s career is transparent. We know that she does not really care about Lydgate’s career because she has basically admitted as such herself. She remains in denial about their desperate financial situation, simply refusing to believe that changing their lifestyle is an option.
Rosamond angrily points out that Bulstrode should pay Lydgate for his work at the New Hospital, but Lydgate says he agreed to do it for free from the beginning. He then sadly suggests that they should sell their house to Ned Plymdale and his new wife, Sophy Toller. Rosamond begins to cry and tries to hide this from her husband. She again suggests that they sell their things and leave Middlemarch, but Lydgate replies angrily that he won’t abandon his work there. Rosamond chastises him for not being nicer to his relatives, but Lydgate says he refuses to “beg” from people.
In this scene Lydgate’s similarities to Caleb Garth emerge, and these similarities make it more clear why Lydgate has gotten himself in so much debt. Both Caleb and Lydgate have a problem of offering to work for free, and at the same time refusing to ask for financial help when they need it (recall Mary’s comment that the Garths prefer to work for their money than beg). This is a problematic combination.
Furious, Lydgate walks out of the house. He feels bitterly disappointed in his marriage, and particularly in Rosamond’s refusal to care about what he wants and needs. They make up later that evening, but Lydgate still feels uneasy. The next day Rosamond goes to see Mrs. Toller and congratulates her on Sophy’s marriage to Ned. Rosamond asks where they will live and Mrs. Toller says they are still choosing; she asks Rosamond if she knows anywhere that’s available, and Rosamond says she doesn’t.
Rosamond’s duplicity here is striking. It would have been scandalous for a woman both to lie and to defy her husband in such an obvious way at the time. Although she is behaving recklessly, there is something almost admirable in Rosamond’s refusal to concede any ground to Lydgate. At the same time, her tactic seems bound to end in disaster.
After this visit, Rosamond stops at Mr. Trumbull’s office. Trumbull says that Lydgate came by that morning, and Rosamond pleads with him to halt the plans to give her house to Ned Plymdale but to keep it a secret that she has come to him. She says that Ned and his wife are going to move into a different house and that “Lydgate would be annoyed that his order should be fulfilled uselessly.” Trumbull assures her that he will take care of it.
It is so unimaginable that a married woman should be acting how Rosamond is that Mr. Trumbull does not hesitate for a second to wonder about the truth of her story. He is certain that she is telling the truth.
That evening, Rosamond—who is in a surprisingly happy mood—tells Lydgate that she went to Mrs. Plymdale’s and learned that Ned already has a house. She says she told Trumbull to keep an eye out for another person who might want their house. Rosamond asks how much money Lydgate would need for them to stay in their house; Lydgate replies “at least” £1000, and Rosamond says nothing. The next day she writes to Lydgate’s uncle Sir Godwin, telling him that she thinks she and Lydgate should leave Middlemarch for the sake of his career. She adds that they would need £1000 to do this.
Rosamond’s web of lies gets bigger and bigger. She shows surprisingly little remorse for all this duplicity—it has even put her in a cheerful mood! This is somewhat frightening, and actually recalls the remorseless behavior of Laure after she stabbed her husband. Although Rosamond’s crime is clearly nowhere near as serious, it appears that when it comes to women, Lydgate has a type.
The morning of the Vincys’ New Year’s Day party, Lydgate says he is going to Trumbull’s office, and Rosamond admits that she told Trumbull not to look for another house for them. Lydgate is furious that she secretly disobeyed his wishes. Rosamond says that people can get over debt if they have good social status. She asks that Lydgate promise he won’t go immediately back to Trumbull, but Lydgate replies that it is she who should promise that she won’t disobey him again. Miserable, Lydgate reluctantly considers going to see Sir Godwin, knowing that a letter won’t be enough to persuade his uncle to help.
Rosamond’s belief that social status alone is enough to get someone out of debt shows how painfully naïve she is when it comes to matters of money. Of course, for someone unfamiliar with the English class system it might be confusing to understand how status and wealth do not always correlate. Yet Rosamond does not have this excuse, as she has been living in English society her whole life.