The second Hardy we’ve read for Great Books – what an interesting and weird book! I loved the description of Egdon Heath and how Thomasin feels at home there while Damon hates it. Eustacia Vye is a fascinating character, and timorous Christian provides good comic relief.
- “his painfully circular eyes, surrounded by concentric lines like targets”
- “‘When folks are just married ’tis as well to look glad o’t, since looking sorry won’t unjoin ’em.'”
- “the hearty tones natural when the words demanded by politeness coincide with those of deepest feeling”
- Contrast of Eustacia’s mouth with the locals “whose lips met like the two halves of a muffin”
- “‘Little children think there’s only one cuckoo, one fox, one giant, one devil, and one reddleman, when there’s lots of us all.'”
- “thought is a disease of flesh… ideal physical beauty is incompatible with emotional development and a full recognition of the coil of things”
- “To be yearning for the difficult, to be weary of that offered; to care for the remote, to dislike the near… This is the true mark of the man of sentiment.”
- “men are drawn from their intentions even in the course of carrying them out”
- “the players appeared only in outline against the sky; except when the circular mouths of the trombone, ophicleide, and French horn gleamed out like huge eyes from the shade of their figures”
- A hot, dry day: “large-leaved plants of a tender kind flagged by ten o’clock in the morning; rhubarb bent downward at eleven; and even stiff cabbages were limp by noon”
- “the quiet way of one who, though willing to ward off evil consequences by a mild effort, would let events fall out as they might sooner than wrestle hard to direct them” (Eustacia)
- Eustacia again: “instead of blaming herself for the issue she laid the fault upon the shoulders of some indistinct, colossal Prince of the World, who had framed her situation and ruled her lot.”
- “oozing lumps of fleshy fungi, which at this season lay scattered about the heath like the rotten liver and lungs of some colossal animal”
- Dickens said it better but differently: “Resources do not depend upon gross amounts, but upon the proportion of spendings to takings”
- A toddler: “of the age when it is a matter of doubt with such characters whether they are intended to walk through the world on their hands or on their feet; so that they get into painful complications by trying both.”
“I ha’n’t been [to church] these three years,” said Humphrey; “for I’m so dead sleepy of a Sunday; and ’tis so terrible far to get there; and when you do get there ’tis such a mortal poor chance that you’ll be chose for up above, when so many bain’t, that I bide at home and don’t go at all.”
In an ordinary village or country town one can safely calculate that, either on Christmas day or the Sunday contiguous, any native home for the holidays, who has not through age or ennui lost the appetite for seeing and being seen, will turn up in some pew or other, shining with hope, self-consciousness, and new clothes. Thus the congregation on Christmas morning is mostly a Tussaud collection of celebrities who have been born in the neighbourhood.
A traditional pastime is to be distinguished from a mere revival in no more striking feature than in this, that while in the revival all is excitement and fervour, the survival is carried on with a stolidity and absence of stir which sets one wondering why a thing that is done so perfunctorily should be kept up at all. Like Balaam and other unwilling prophets, the agents seem moved by an inner compulsion to say and do their allotted parts whether they will or no. This unweeting manner of performance is the true ring by which, in this refurbishing age, a fossilized survival may be known from a spurious reproduction.
On Egdon there was no absolute hour of the day. The time at any moment was a number of varying doctrines professed by the different hamlets, some of them having originally grown up from a common root, and then become divided by secession, some having been alien from the beginning. West Egdon believed in Blooms-End time, East Egdon in the time of the Quiet Woman Inn. Grandfer Cantle’s watch had numbered many followers in years gone by, but since he had grown older faiths were shaken. Thus, the mummers having gathered hither from scattered points each came with his own tenets on early and late; and they waited a little longer as a compromise.
Neither the man nor the woman lost dignity by sudden death. Misfortune had struck them gracefully, cutting off their erratic histories with a catastrophic dash, instead of, as with many, attenuating each life to an uninteresting meagreness, through long years of wrinkles, neglect, and decay.
In this book I learned about
- coup-de-Jarnac – sneak attack