Sunday, March 2, 2014

silas marner

Silas Marner is one of those books I saw the smart kids carrying in high school, and the journalism kids carrying in college, but I never got around to it. I found copy a few years ago in McIntyre and Moore, Booksellers, in Davis Square, so I guess its been a while; they're gone now. The copy I bought is a pretty little hardcover, clothbound in bright blue buckram, with a blue burnished top, and gray and white endpapers decorated with the publisher's (Collins) logo, two back-to-back, linked "c"s, set in a diamond grid. Looks a lot like the Chanel logo, if you ask me, but it probably predates it. The book jacket is almost perfect. click on the cover for a blow up

This copy also has an interesting provenance: it was printed in the UK by Collins,* of London and Glasgow, in 1970, as part of their Collins Classics, and is numbered on the spine as 523, and then purchased in South Australia, according to a sticker placed on the inside cover, which reads:

New and Secondhand Booksellers
ADELAIDE, S.A. 5000.

There is a half title page, which includes an etching of the author on the verso, and a handwritten dedication on the recto, in French, which reads:

A mes petites amies Ariane et Daphnaé avec mes meilleurs voeux et gros baisers. Canberra, 1976, Tania Joukovsky

Which I've translated as:

To my little friends Ariane and Daphnae with my best wishes and big kisses. Canberra, 1976, Tania Joukovsky

Assuming the book was purchased in Adelaide, and mailed out from Canberra, a two hour flight, or 11 hour drive from Adelaide, I assume our Miss Joukovsky was traveling in the southern part of Australia and mailed this to two young girls (sisters?) here in the States, or maybe Canada?

So how was the read? Silas Marner was pretty good. There are a few other, shorter stories in this volume, and few poems. The other short stories reminded me of Henry James, particularly; The Turn of the Screw, and Daisy Miller: A Study. Its not that those short stories were similar in plot, its more a similarity of subject matter and writing style. Both The Turn of the Screw and The Lifted Veil deal with vaguely occultist matter, and both Daisy Miller and Brother Jacob are studies of a particular character.

George Elliot--a pseudonym for Miriam Evans--is a very careful writer, and pays close attention to the writing and character development. It doesn't seem as if the plot is the driver in her stories, its the writing. A similarity she also seems to share with James.

Silas Marner: The Weaver of Ravelow is about 175 pages, and it is a study of a bachelor who is torn from the place he knows and transplanted in a new place: Ravelow. Elliot then studies what happens to him as various things befall him, and writes about the results. This is also true with the supporting characters, and even some of the minor characters. Elliot seems very interested in what makes people tick, and examines it in her writing.

* I assume this is William Collins and Sons, acquired by HarperCollins, who still prints Collins Classics under the name New Collins Classics.

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