|Harper's Weekly, 31 December 1859, Vol.III, No.157, p.841.
Illustrations by John McLenan
Weekly Part 6.
I really enjoyed the story. I thought that the story progression in the first epoch was rather slow so it took me a while to get into the book. It sets out lots of unanswered questions. You see the questions mounting and foresee the numerous permutations of possible distasters without clue to which one will really happen, and you start to think that you might not get any answers. However, in the second epoch there is a lot more action and the final epoch does satisfy your questions (whether the outcome is to your liking is another matter).
My favourite bit is Miss Halcombe’s diary. Marian is my favourite character in the book. She’s a wonderfully strong female character, especially for the period. Here are a few of my favourite lines relating to Marian:
- Walter meeting Marian for the first time and noticing her masculine features at odds with the more conventional feminine graces she possessed. He described the feeling he got on discovering this as:
"I... saw a lady standing at [the window], with her back turned towards me. The instant my eyes rested on her, I was struck by the rare beauty of her form, and by the unaffected grace of her attitude... She turned towards me immediately. The easy elegance of every movement of her limbs and body as soon as she began to advance from the far end of the room, set me in a flutter of expectation to see her face clearly. She left the window - and I said to myself, The lady is dark. She moved forward a few steps - and I said to myself, The lady is young. She approached nearer - and I said to myself (with a sense of surprise which words fail me to express), The lady is ugly!"
"akin to the helpless discomfort familiar to us all in sleep, when we recognise yet cannot reconcile the anomalies and contradictions of a dream."Marian is described (and describes herself) at many points as possessing 'masculine' qualities both in her appearance and her character. She is confident, forceful, forthright, intelligent and passionate. A balance of weakness and strength.
"I only answered by drawing her close to me again. I was afraid of crying if I spoke. My tears do not flow so easily as they ought - they come almost like men's tears, with sobs that seem to tear me in to pieces, and that frighten every one about me."
- Marian consoling her sister, Laura
"Are you to break your heart to set his mind at ease? No man under heaven deserves these sacrifices from us women. Men! They are the enemies of our innocence and our peace - they drag us away from our parents' love and our sisters' friendship - they take us body and soul to themselves, and fasten our helpless lives to theirs as they chain up a dog to his kennel."
- Marian to Laura, discussing her husband and his behaviour.
"The bare anticipation of seeing that dear face and hearing that well-known voice tomorrow, keeps me in a perpetual fever of excitement. If I only had the privileges of a man, I would order out Sir Percival's best horse instantly, and tear away on a night gallop, eastward to meet the rising sun - a long, hard, heavy, ceaseless gallop of hours and hours, like the famous highwayman's ride to York."
- Marian restlessly looking forward to her sister's return.
There are a lot of striking and strong characters in the novel. Count Fosco is a terrifying character who is both enormously overweight and yet graceful and refined. His wife, Madame Fosco is a cold reserved woman but holds a jealous passion for her husband. Mrs Catherick is a woman convinced of her own beauty and power over men in her youth but now with a strict need to be accepted as possessing high moral status in her old age. Mr Fairlie, a selfish hypochondriac, will do anything for an easy life. Professor Pesca is an excitable, enigmatic Italian who embraces English life. With such interesting characters our lovers Walter Hartright and Laura Fairlie could get lost amongst them, but it is their love that is the central strand of the story, as Walter says: "This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve."