Chapters 48-51 (Casaubon’s Death; the Election)
Dorothea is upset at the alienation between Will and Casaubon. Casaubon had been ill and unable to preach that Sunday. Dorothea longs for a fuller companionship. Because of her husband’s bad health, Dorothea is working harder, sifting through his notes. Casaubon believes her devotion belongs strictly to himself and tries to make her promise to obey his wishes even after his death. She dreads what he may ask of her and begs to think on it till the next day. She goes through mental anguish but finally decides to surrender to him, yet when she goes to him in the garden, she finds him already dead.
Dorothea becomes ill, and her family is afraid for her to see Casaubon’s will. They argue about sending Ladislaw away so it won’t cause scandal when people hear of the codicil prohibiting Dorothea to marry Ladislaw on pain of disinheritance. Sir James is angry at the negative implications about their relationship that Casaubon has thus unjustly attributed to his wife.
Dorothea recuperates with Celia and Sir James, who have lately had a baby. Celia tells her sister about the codicil, and it changes Dorothea’s pity for Casaubon and makes her yearn towards Will. Dorothea assigns Farebrother to her husband’s church, at Lydgate’s suggestion.
Meanwhile, the air is full of the dissolution of Parliament and reform issues. Will stays away from Dorothea, so he won’t be thought a needy adventurer. He is ignorant of the codicil. He stays to coach Brooke who wants to stand for the election as an independent committed to the Reform Bill. As Brooke canvasses for votes, he tells a merchant, “This Reform Bill will touch everyone; it is a sort of ABC.”
The day before the election, Brooke speaks to a crowd in the square. Will has been writing his speeches and coaching him but despairs of anything sticking in Brooke’s wandering mind. Brooke makes a fool of himself, rambling without sense, and the crowd pushes him off by throwing eggs.
Will resolves to go away to make his own mark in the new political world, but not before he has a sign from Dorothea that there is hope for them. Brooke yields to family pressure to try to get Will away before there is a scandal and tells him he is not needed on the newspaper any more. Will knows they are trying to get rid of him, but decides he will only leave when he is ready.
Casaubon’s plan of controlling Dorothea even after his death backfires as the codicil reveals his lack of nobility. She realizes at once that she had put him on a pedestal he did not deserve and that she had made a mistake giving her devotion to his projects. His gesture actually makes her think of Will in a way she had not before. Thus, like Featherstone, Casaubon’s money and wishes have no power over the living because he tries selfishly to control.
The brutal world of English politics is revealed in Brooke’s incompetent and quixotic attempt to stand for the new reform. Though a benevolent and kindly figure, he is too mushy to be of real use. Will begins to see his own powers and wants to exercise them directly in the larger world to make his own mark, instead of trying to bolster Brooke, but he doesn’t want to be pushed around to leave town, and he does not want to leave Dorothea. He is still unaware of Casaubon’s will.