This articles sets Middlemarch into the context of medical history, particularly the movement for reform advocated by the radical Thomas Wakley in the Lancet, which he founded in 1823, and which was widely read. The profession's hierarchical structure with its division into physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries is outlined, with special reference to Lydgate's infringement of the established conventions. His position in relation to the five other medical men in the town is examined. His superior diagnostic and therapeutic abilities are seen as the outcome of his education in London, Edinburgh, and notably Paris, then the mecca of advanced medicine, in addition to the custormary, and often perfunctory apprenticeship. His refusal to dispense durgs is symptomatic of his disturbing non-conformity because it flaunts the practices usually associated with his status as a surgeon. In the plants for the new hospital he is avant-garde in his campaign to isolate fever cases, but naive in his disregard for Middlemarch politics. His idealism and sensitivity as a doctor form a puzzling contrast to the "spots of commonness" in his character. He fails in Middlemarch because he misreads the town's mood and is in turn misread by its inhabitants.
- Copyright 1993 The Regents of the University of California.