Lorna Doone and Andrée de Charny
“I cannot go through all my thoughts, so as to make them clear to you, nor have I ever dwelt on things, to shape a story of them. I know not where the beginning was, nor where the middle ought to be, nor even how at the present time I feel, or think, or ought to think. If I look for help to those around me, who should tell me right and wrong (being older and much wiser), I meet sometimes with laughter, and at other times with anger...
...I think; and nothing ever comes of it. Nothing, I mean, which I can grasp, and have with any surety; nothing but faint images, and wonderment, and wandering...
...Often too I wonder at the odds of fortune, which made me (helpless as I am, and fond of peace, and reading), the heiress of this mad domain...
...You must be tired of this story, and the time I take to think, and the weariness of my telling; but my life from day to day shows so little variance. Among the riders there is none whose safe return I watch for- I mean none more than any other- and indeed there seems no risk...”
It's a while since I read Lorna Doone, and its frankly forbidding size makes thinking about reading it again a bit of a non-starter. It's not got so much of the swashbuckling that one might like from a Victorian novel, but it did teach me a great deal about how to work the land of Devon. It also features a beautiful central story of love between John Ridd and Lorna herself, much like the even grander sweep of the story of Olivier and Andrée de Charny (her married name; she is 'de Taverney'). I actually think the Marie Antoinette sequence is even better than either the Musketeers or the Count, but I do not have many allies in that opinion. Anyway, to illustrate (and at the possible risk of a spoiler):
"But I have something to ask you," said the queen.
"Will you pardon me?"
There was an instant's silence as if Andrée hesitated.
"Yes," she replied at length, "for tomorrow I will be with him."
Andrée de Taverney is possibly Dumas' most fully-realised female character, the one with the most affecting story of all, the one into which he poured his heart and soul. I can't help but think that she was the great man's favourite, as well, in amongst all the beautiful heroines. I think she might have been the one that he fell in love with while writing her. There's no doubt for me that RD Blackmore wrote Lorna as a sort of fantasy woman, impossibly beautiful, innocent, in need of rescue. That is not Andrée, although she is a victim of some terrible male behaviour. Dumas - I think, although I do not pretend to know the inner workings of his mind - wrote her into existence and then developed something of a passion for her. Blackmore created a woman to love. Dumas created a woman, and found her to be so rich that he couldn't help but fall in love with her.
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When to the sessions of sweet silent thought