Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
"But, nevertheless, he desired something more than money. The triumph of being preferred to John Grey,--of having John Grey sent altogether adrift, in order that his old love might be recovered, would have been too costly a luxury for him to seek, had he not in seeking it been able to combine prudence with the luxury...It was on a calculation of the combined advantage he made his second offer to his cousin."
So, cousins are getting engaged, but that was just fine in those days. I had nearly come to accept George Vavasor, even though I knew he was marrying Alice for her money. Alice knew it too, so who was I to judge? But than he wanted her to speak words of love and act all maidenly and blushing, so that his triumph could be complete. What an ass! I knew I liked John Grey better for some reason. Grey visits Alice after she writes him a Dear John I'm Marrying George letter. He quickly realizes that not only does Alice not love George, she actually dreads marrying him and that is the real reason she's waiting a year before she'll agree to get married. She's hoping that in a year she will be able to repress her shuddering whenever George enters the room. Why she agreed to marry George is a bit of mystery, even to Alice. But this book is not called Can You Understand Her?
'Alice,' he [Grey] said, speaking still very slowly, 'nothing has ever yet been done which need to a certainty separate you and me. I am a persistent man, and I do not give up all hope. A year is a long time. As you say yourself, I do not as yet quite understand you. But Alice, -- and I think that the position in which we stood a few months since justifies me in saying so without offense, -- I love you now as well as ever, and should things change for you, I cannot tell you with how much joy and eagerness I should take you back to my bosom. My heart is yours now as it has been since I knew you.'
And I know John Grey is the solid, dependable type that ladies are supposed to despise, but I swooned a little bit when I read that. Solid, dependable men are, and have always been, vastly underrated.
I have been reading this 830-page Victorian novel in installments. It was originally published in serial format, four chapters at a time. I'm nearly half way through and it is getting harder to stop after four chapters each month. I don't know if I have the self-discipline to continue this reading plan. But, even if I abandon it, the plan will have served its purpose in helping me tackle a book I would never have started otherwise. I like to think of Victorian readers eagerly waiting for the next installment of Can You Forgive Her? or Great Expectations much as I look forward to the next episode of Mr. Robot. I'm old enough to prefer a weekly series to binge-watching an entire season in one weekend. Or maybe it is just nostalgia for the pleasures of anticipation that seem to be rare these days?
The Victorian Serial Novels website is where I found the serial schedule for this novel. It's a gem!
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