Oh my god, I can't believe how good The Mayor of Casterbridge is. It's like Piers Plowman fucked D. H. Lawrence and their baby was raised by Sir Walter Scott. I chose this book in part because I didn't know what it had to offer - back in my days teaching wops and frogs how to speak English, an intermediate edition of Headway featured excerpts from the wife-auctioning chapter - that's all I knew of the book, though it was enough to pique my interest as it was a pretty great excerpt.
The great prose and the hijinks just don't stop, and there are some stunningly good portraits of really unacceptable people, sort of circling like pre-occupied sharks around Elizabeth Jane . . . I suppose he had a thing about nice girls . . . there's always a nice girl somewhere in his books that I've read, a nice, natural girl like Thomasin or Tess or Elizabeth-Jane who gets buffeted about by the passions and pretensions of everybody else whilst cherishing healthy and strong emotions herself.
"There's husks and dust on you. Perhaps you don't know it?" he said, in tones of extreme delicacy. "And it's very bad to let rain come upon clothes when there's chaff on them. It washes in and spoils them. Let me help you--blowing is the best."
As Elizabeth neither assented nor dissented Donald Farfrae began blowing her back hair, and her side hair, and her neck, and the crown of her bonnet, and the fur of her victorine, Elizabeth saying, "O, thank you," at every puff. At last she was fairly clean, though Farfrae, having got over his first concern at the situation, seemed in no manner of hurry to be gone.
"Ah--now I'll go and get ye an umbrella," he said.
She declined the offer, stepped out and was gone. Farfrae walked slowly after, looking thoughtfully at her diminishing figure, and whistling in undertones, "As I came down through