The French Lieutenant's Woman
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Perhaps the most beloved of John Fowles's internationally bestselling works, The French Lieutenant's Woman is a feat of seductive storytelling that effectively invents anew the Victorian novel. "Filled with enchanting mysteries and magically erotic possibilities" (New York Times), the novel inspired the hugely successful 1981 film starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons and is today universally regarded as a modern classic.
well-born English gentleman can have his pick of some very beautiful young women—pour la dot comme pour la figure—if he so inclines.” Charles smiled: whether at the idea of the doubly beautiful young women or at the knowledge, not yet imparted to Montague, that his passage was already booked, must be left to the imagination. 59 Weary of myself, and sick of asking What I am, and what I ought to be, At the vessel’s prow I stand, which bears me Forwards, forwards, o’er the starlit sea.
stratification of society had, by the mid-century, begun. Nothing of course took the place of good blood; but it had become generally accepted that good money and good brains could produce artificially a passable enough facsimile of acceptable social standing. Disraeli was the type, not the exception, of his times. Ernestina’s grandfather may have been no more than a well-to-do draper in Stoke Newington when he was young; but he died a very rich draper—much more than that, since he had moved
with all her contempt for the provinces, fell a victim to this vanity. At least here she knew she would have few rivals in the taste and luxury of her clothes; and the surreptitious glances at her little “plate” hat (no stuffy old bonnets for her) with its shamrock-and-white ribbons, her vert esperance dress, her mauve-and-black pelisse, her Balmoral boots, were an agreeable compensation for all the boredom inflicted at other times. She was in a pert and mischievous mood that evening as people
could never reveal the anger she ascribed to him. But there seemed to him something only too reminiscent of the draper’s daughter in her during those first minutes; of one who had been worsted in a business deal, and who lacked a traditional imperturbability, that fine aristocratic refusal to allow the setbacks of life ever to ruffle one’s style. He handed Ernestina back to the sofa from which she had sprung. An essential reason for his call, a decision he had come to on his long return, he now
she carried back into the other room and put in a drawer of the mahogany chest, just as the kettle lid began to rattle. Charles’s purse had contained ten sovereigns, and this alone—never mind what else may have been involved—was enough to transform Sarah’s approach to the external world. Each night since she had first counted those ten golden coins, she had counted them again. Not like a miser, but as one who goes to see some film again and again—out of an irresistible pleasure in the story,