This week I have been reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman and a couple of passages caught my eye and I thought I would share them (and my thoughts) with you.
In this book there is no question but that John Fowles is the narrator even when he writing as if in one of his character’s head (albeit a narrator with special access to their thoughts and emotions). This is in sharp distinction to the way that Marcia writes: each scene is written from within one character’s head: we see what they see, hear what they hear and share their thoughts and emotions. By definition anything else is off limits. I happen to believe this is one of Marcia’s greatest strengths as a novelist even though it is an approach which is hugely tiring.
Anyway, here we are inside Charles Smithson’s head but this section (as so many others) is not designed to carry the story line forward but to enter more deeply into Charle’s psyche.
There was worse: he had an unnatural fondness for walking instead of riding; and walking was not a gentleman’s pastime except in the Swiss Alps. He had nothing very much against the horse itself, but he had the born naturalist’s hatred of not being able to observe at close and at leisure.
Here I am at one with Charles. Indeed I have to confess that going for a walk with me could easily become a tedious affair for people with the odd and totally mistaken idea that the purpose of walking is to get from A to B. Indeed, at certain times of the year when there is much happening in hedgerow and woodland, an entire morning could be lost while progressing less than a few hundred yards.
There are two aspects of nature that I find important to me: hills and the minutia. I need to be able to ‘lift mine eyes up unto the hills’ in order for me to see myself within the whole of existence. At this stage, of course, that me is tiny – totally overshadowed to the immensity of creation (of which, of course, those hills on this planet are themselves infinitesimally small when one takes into consideration the whole universe. It is not too good for men to feel the weight of such a burden without something to help them carry the burden and that is where the minutia becomes important. Creation may be huge but it is made up of uncountable small fragments and all are important for without them all there would be nothing.
Back inside Charles’ head: What little God he managed to derive from existence, he found in Nature, not in the Bible; a hundred years earlier he would have been a deist, perhaps even a pantheist.
I am not entirely sure about the reference to a ‘hundred years earlier’ (which would have been about 1750) but I must confess that what God I have managed to derive from existence I have found in nature. Within various churches, as choirboy, chorister and choirmaster, I have been enriched by the fellowship that is to be found whenever a group of people are working towards a specific aim but for me it is the intimate contact with nature that brings me closer to a sense of the eternal. What is it that I then feel? A very difficult question. Whatever it is it has little to do with any of the dogmas associated with the various religions all of which seem to me to be far too concerned with petty rules and regulations. No. it is something far bigger than that, and a something that by some unfathomable process seems to give one a sense of great security and of joy. As has been used many times: I cannot explain but I will not deny. I suspect that makes me a deist.
Oh - no, I haven't forgotten. The raised beds need a bit mor going on but I will put up a picture soon.