October 30, 2015

A favorite remembering a favorite

      Oh, the dreary evenings sitting with my father while he read Hardy aloud to me. I'm sure he read very well with a fine rendering of Wessex speech, for he was a Devon man, but to me in my early teens there was an inexpressible tedium about those rustics under their greenwood tree. Today I find Jude too painful to read and The Return of the Native almost suicidally grim, but there was none of that then, only stratagems milling about in my head as to how escape might be effected without hurting the feelings of dearly beloved parent.
      Not that Victorian fiction was unacceptable. A lifelong fondness for Trollope was about to begin.... I found [Dr. Thorne] on the shelves in the house of an aunt. I was discouraged from reading it. There were whispers about unsuitability. It seems incredible today (it was coming close to incredible then) that the reason for caution was that a girl in the novel has an illegitimate child and the word 'seducer' is used. But my family were like that. Without their reluctance to let me get my hands on it, I might never have opened the book. How many of use owe a lifelong devotion to an author because he or she once narrowly escaped banning? How many of us derive a permanent distrust of certain writers because a parent read aloud from them to us during our impressionable youth?

Ruth Rendell, in The Pleasure of Reading:  43 Writers on the discovery
of reading and the books that inspired them
, edited by Antonia Fraser 


JoAnn said...

Doctor Thorne... unsuitable? I'm so glad times have changed. As much as I loved Tess and Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy really is unbearably grim compared to our Mr. Trollope.

Vintage Reading said...

Apart from the child suicide which is terrible, I've never thought that Jude the Obscure was that grim. I always rather liked it!