As Robert Hardy recently passed away on August 3 at the age of 91, Admin and I thought it would be a good time to remember him by discussing some of his performance in “Middlemarch” (1994). He played Arthur Brooke, uncle and guardian to Celia (Caroline Harker) and Dorothea Brooke (Juliet Aubrey), the latter of whom eventually becomes the Rev. Edward Casaubon’s (Mr. Malahide) bride. But we should start with their first meeting.
In this scene, Uncle Brooke has invited Mr. Casaubon and Sir James Chettam (Julian Wadham), a well-to-do and handsome young neighbour, to dine at Tipton Grange. Casaubon already has the reputation of being “the most learned man in the county”, as Dorothea admiringly tells Celia. She doesn’t mention anything about Chettam, though.
Uncle Brooke: Sir Humphry Davy, now… I dined with him years ago at Cartwright’s. Wordsworth was there, you know, Wordsworth the poet? Davy was a poet too, did you know that? Or as you might say, Wordsworth was Poet One and Davy was Poet Two, do you follow?
[Casaubon waves away a servant attempting to replenish his drink.]
Uncle Brooke: Wordsworth was Poet One and Davy was Poet Two.
[Everyone laughs except for Casaubon, who is eating his soup with deadly seriousness.]
RF: You can already tell Uncle Brooke is delighted by all the company and has been dominating the conversation, in a very broad, friendly sort of way. You can also tell that he keenly appreciates his own wit. 😉 I had to google Sir Humphry Davy, but Uncle Brooke is right; he was indeed a poet, although he later became known as an inventor and scientist. It would be interesting to know what he and Wordsworth talked about, but Uncle Brooke doesn’t bother with those details. Of course, while all this joviality is going on, Casaubon seems to be in his own little universe, concentrating on his soup with great intensity. Celia will later complain to Dorothea that he was noisy about it, but I think she’s just being a bit unfair. Chettam laughs dutifully (he’s trying to impress Dorothea), but Casaubon doesn’t seem to care much for Uncle Brooke’s sense of humour. Or maybe he just hasn’t noticed Uncle Brooke made a joke.
Admin: Well, Casaubon made one definite slurp sound at the beginning there, but I bet Uncle Brooke was slurping just as much when he wasn’t yelling about random poets. Poor Casaubon doesn’t seem to eat much beyond soup, probably of the thin brothy nature no less, so I can’t really blame him for working on it intently. He’s got to get some calories in for that big brain of his. I really like Casaubon’s intense “I’m trying to eat soup” expression. It is ever so fetching in its raven-like severity.
RF: Yes, he’s concentrating so hard on that one bowl of soup, he keeps waving the servants away as though they’re distracting him. 😀
Admin: His elegant hand-waves are strangely mesmerizing. 🙂