the return of the seasoned story

The writer may state here that the original conception of the story did not design a marriage between Thomasin and Venn. He was to have retained his isolated and weird character to the last, and to have disappeared mysteriously from the heath, nobody knowing whither — Thomasin remaining a widow. But certain circumstances of serial publication led to a change of intent.

Readers can therefore choose between endings, and those with an austere artistic code can assume the more consistent conclusion to be the true one.

That’s a footnote in the penultimate chapter of The Return of the Native, taking away the only tolerably cheerful thing about this book, which begins with the remark that “men have oftener suffered from the mockery of a place too smiling for their reason than from the oppression of surroundings oversadly tinged”. Yes, life is HARD.

I like reading old books because of the drama between almost any thinking and feeling person and the society that wants to control her. But sometimes a cranky old book will come along and seem to agree with society rather than the unfortunates who are getting on society’s bad side, which is how this one seemed to me.

One redeeming aspect of the book are the chapter titles: A Face on Which Time Makes But Little Impression. Humanity Appears upon the Scene, Hand in Hand with Trouble. A Lurid Light Breaks In upon a Darkened Understanding.

And however much I didn’t like the tone of the whole story, it still kept me reading where The Golden Notebook and even Persepolis are still half-finished. Ye olde England, indeed.


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