Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by English author George Eliot, first published in eight instalments (volumes) during 1871-2. The novel is set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829-32, and it comprises several distinct (though intersecting) stories and a large cast of characters. Significant themes include the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform, and education. Although containing comical elements, Middlemarch is a work of realism that refers to many historical events: the 1832 Reform Act, the beginnings of the railways, the death of King George IV, and the succession of his brother, the Duke of Clarence (the future King William IV). In addition, the work incorporates contemporary medical science and examines the deeply reactionary mindset found within a settled community facing the prospect of unwelcome change. Middlemarch is written as a third-person narrative, centering on the lives of the residents of Middlemarch, a fictitious Midlands town, from 1829 onwards - the years preceding the 1832 Reform Act. The narrative is variably considered to consist of three or four plots of unequal emphasis: the life of Dorothea Brooke; the career of Tertius Lydgate; the courtship of Mary Garth by Fred Vincy; and the disgrace of Bulstrode. The two main plots are those of Dorothea and Lydgate. Each plot happens concurrently, although Bulstrode's is centred in the later chapters. Dorothea Brooke appears set for a comfortable and idle life as the wife of neighbouring landowner Sir James Chettam, but to the dismay of her sister Celia and her uncle Mr Brooke, she marries The Reverend Edward Casaubon. Expecting fulfilment by sharing in his intellectual life, Dorothea discovers his animosity towards her ambitions during an unhappy honeymoon in Rome. Realising his great project is doomed to failure, her feelings change to pity. Dorothea forms a warm friendship with a young cousin of Casaubon's, Will Ladislaw, but her husband's antipathy towards him is clear and he is forbidden to visit. In poor health, Casaubon attempts to extract from Dorothea a promise that, should he die, she will "avoid doing what I should deprecate and apply yourself to do what I desire." He dies before she is able to reply, and she later learns of a provision to his will that, if she marries Ladislaw, she will lose her inheritance.