1. Henry James on the ‘vastness and variety ‘ of Middlemarch: c. 100 named characters, held by four main plots (Casaubons, Lydgates, Bulstrodes, Garths), themselves interwoven in terms of plot and theme.

Main themes: include idea of vocation (inc. special problem of role of ‘ardent’ women), which in turn suggests questions about relation of individual to others/society. This question leads to others, about the difficulties of knowledge of self and of other persons.

These questions about the knowledge of self and of others lead to GE’s interest in egoism and sympathy, and self-consciousness about the way the novelist/narrator knows characters.

2. Dorothea and Casaubon.
‘Everyday things with us would mean the greatest things.’ Dorothea doesn’t find outlet for ‘ardent’ nature, but does learn to escape moral egoism (‘equivalent centre of self’). In doing so, she duplicates the narrator’s task: she becomes a kind of surrogate for GE? Ref. to GE and Feuerbach.

3. Lydgate and Rosamund.
Cf GE on ‘gradual action of causes ordinary rather than exceptional’: here (e.g.) ‘small solicitations of circumstance’, allied to ‘spots of commonness’, give what James calls the ‘tragedy of unpaid butcher’s bills’. GE traces this in ways parallel to Lydgate’s research (see Ch 16): by close ‘tracking’, microscopic close-up followed by wider reflection, reference to imagination where direct observation fails. Lydgate thus becomes another surrogate for GE?

4. Two modes of knowledge: Dorothea’s (empathy) and Lydgate’s (scientific study)?
(a) Dorothea’s: cf ‘Janet’s Repentance’ — ‘surely the only true knowledge of our fellow-man is that which enables us to feel with him’. (Cf chapters 72, 76, where Dorothea’s moral sense tells her that Lydgate must be innocent, unlike cautious weighing of evidence of Chettam and Farebrother: this might be reference to imagination as reqd by Lydgate’s style of research, but seems rather a different mode of knowledge.)
(b) Lydgate’s: prompts questions, e.g., feminist questions about ‘male’ patterns of knowledge, where knowledge leads to power or mastery (over an intellectual field, or over other people).
Other questions about the scientific/Lydgate mode of knowledge:
(a) leads to relativism (the lens can always be better adjusted)
(b) questions determine answers (Lydgate’s research asks the wrong question, or asks it in the wrong way for the ‘awaiting’ answer)
(c) scientific tracing of cause and effect hints at determinism?

5. Determinism and free will:
These felt by GE to be reconcilable, following J. S. Mill’s arguments (see the material in the Handbook). Novel treats this non-philosophically. Cf Bulstrode, ‘locked in a train of causes’, and Mrs Bulstrode locking herself in, then coming down to him. Effect is to lighten the sense of being ‘locked’ in to future of disgrace and misery. Not really related to determinism, but to sympathy: as if GE made parallels of egoism (such as Bulstrode’s) and being determined, and of sympathy (such as Mrs Bulstrode’s, but pre-eminently Dorothea’s) and freedom. Cf Ch 81, where egoist Rosamund, locked into her own poor spirit, is released by Dorothea’s visit.

6. Moral egoism and epistemological egoism.
GE’s position not without logical force: moral egoism (a failure of sympathy in the ordinary sense of the word) reduces the range of impulses open to us, inhibits the number of causes to which we can respond and in that sense leaves us less free. But GE doesn’t seem to answer question of epistemological egoism: that is, following her pier-glass analogy, that we all necessarily see others egocentrically (as Dorothea does Casaubon, Rosamund does Lydgate, etc.).

Perhaps only in fiction is it possible to make the epistemological leap, which leads to knowledge as love/sympathy, in the way GE seems to wish: the narrator has the powers of omni-understanding usually ascribed to the Christian God GE no longer believed in. Lydgate’s scientific mode of knowledge is flawed, as well as indispensable; Dorothea’s mode of knowledge as mode of sympathy is logically unattainable. Only the novelist can combine these in ways which (notionally) can be without flaw or limit. Perhaps Middlemarch in this sense written to create the narrator, as exemplar of knowledge?