29 October 2006

hidden treasure

a life for a life

a few weeks ago i stopped by the irish store, just blocks from my house. i came across a wall hanging with a quote on friendship by george eliot, i'd never read before. i looked it up on the internet and discovered it's actually by dinah craik, from her novel, a life for a life.

i was intrigued. miraculously got it through interlibrary loan (brilliant!) and had two weeks in which to read all 400ish pages.

to begin with: the book i received was the "new" edition, published in the 1860s. (the original was published in 1859) so i have this hundred year old book, beautifully printed.

then, the preface alone amazed me. the author confesses in her first edition she changed her story slightly because she feared the public would never bear it;--would never endure that a man-slayer should be represented as a hero, invested with all moral virtues, and finally be loved. however, in her second edition, she declares she is not afraid now. and so attempts to portray in her novel what the most sinful man's life could be made to be--through the one Christianity which was sent alike to both the righteous and the wicked.

a life for a life

and the novel only fulfilled my hopes. this is an astounding book. beautiful, simple, intelligent. full of honesty and hope, love and hardship. emily brontë describes dreams how i'd describe good books - that they have stayed with me ever after; and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind. craik's novel is among these. i will forever be thankful for the nudge that lead me to delve into the origins of this quote.

oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort—-the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—-having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

you can read the novel online, here. but, if you ever see an old version for sale that looks like this and it's not too ridiculously priced - let me know!! i'd love to own this old beautiful copy.

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