Though there are perhaps many St. Theresa metaphors actively working in Middlemarch, I feel Eliot’s prelude refers to any whose ambitions and lofty goals are dispersed by the mundane commonalities of life. There is perhaps no greater example of this thwarted ambition than Dr. Tertius Lydgate. Perhaps the idea for a medical hero first came to George Eliot through her husband (or more accurately, her partner), Mr. Lewes’ treatment in hydrotherapy (Eliot MS). It’s certain Eliot would have been familiar with and as skeptical of treatments as her contemporaries, if not more so. The studies of Mr. Lewes himself would have provided her with the vocabulary and knowledge necessary to set such a construct into place in Middlemarch.
Stacey Hoffer, “Dr. Middlemarch,” George Eliot Scholars, accessed September 20, 2021, https://georgeeliotscholars.org/items/show/337.