The context of this quote can be found in "Middlemarch" Book VI - Chapter LVIII
How this came about may be easily seen without much arithmetic or
knowledge of prices. When a man in setting up a house and preparing
for marriage finds that his furniture and other initial expenses come
to between four and five hundred pounds more than he has capital to
pay for; when at the end of a year it appears that his household
expenses, horses and et caeteras, amount to nearly a thousand, while
the proceeds of the practice reckoned from the old books to be worth
eight hundred per annum have sunk like a summer pond and make hardly
five hundred, chiefly in unpaid entries, the plain inference is that,
whether he minds it or not, he is in debt. Those were less expensive
times than our own, and provincial life was comparatively modest; but
the ease with which a medical man who had lately bought a practice,
who thought that he was obliged to keep two horses, whose table was
supplied without stint, and who paid an insurance on his life and a
high rent for house and garden, might find his expenses doubling his
receipts, can be conceived by any one who does not think these details
beneath his consideration. Rosamond, accustomed from her childhood to
an extravagant household, thought that good housekeeping consisted
simply in ordering the best of everything—nothing else "answered;" and
Lydgate supposed that "if things were done at all, they must be done
properly"—he did not see how they were to live otherwise. If each head
of household expenditure had been mentioned to him beforehand, he
would have probably observed that "it could hardly come to much," and
if any one had suggested a saving on a particular article—for example,
the substitution of cheap fish for dear—it would have appeared to him
simply a penny-wise, mean notion. Rosamond, even without such an
occasion as Captain Lydgate's visit, was fond of giving invitations,
and Lydgate, though he often thought the guests tiresome, did not
interfere. This sociability seemed a necessary part of professional
prudence, and the entertainment must be suitable. It is true Lydgate
was constantly visiting the homes of the poor and adjusting his
prescriptions of diet to their small means; but, dear me! Has it not
by this time ceased to be remarkable— is it not rather that we
expect in men, that they should have numerous strands of experience
lying side by side and never compare them with each other?
Expenditure—like ugliness and errors—becomes a totally new thing when
we attach our own personality to it, and measure it by that wide
difference which is manifest (in our own sensations) between ourselves
and others. Lydgate believed himself to be careless about his dress,
and he despised a man who calculated the effects of his costume; it
seemed to him only a matter of course that he had abundance of fresh
garments—such things were naturally ordered in sheaves. It must be
remembered that he had never hitherto felt the check of importunate
debt, and he walked by habit, not by self-criticism. But the check had
You can read it here :
Reading the quote, it is a rhetorical question and in order to understand it, let's break this quote up into pieces.
Is it not rather what we expect in men...
The question is making a statement indicating that it is what is expected in men.
... that they should have numerous strands of experience lying side by side...
This should be self-explanatory but putting the first part with this, it is stating that men should have "numerous strands of experience lying side by side"
...and never compare them with each other
and never compare the experiences of themselves and other men.