JR R. Fowles
A French lieutenant
On a windy March day in 1867 along the mole of the ancient town of Lyme Regis in the southeast of England a young couple is walking. The lady is dressed in the latest London fashion in a narrow red dress without crinoline, which in this provincial backwater will begin to be worn only in the coming season. Her tall companion in her impeccable gray coat respectfully holds a cylinder in her hand. They were Ernestina, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and her fiancé Charles Smithson from an aristocratic family. Their attention is attracted by a female figure in mourning at the edge of the mole, which resembles a living monument to those killed in the sea depths, rather than a real being. She is called an unhappy Tragedy or a Woman of a French
Charles is thirty-two years old. He considers himself a talented paleontologist, but hardly fills “endless enfilades of leisure.” Simply put, like any clever idler of the Victorian era, he suffers a Byronic sloth. His father received a decent fortune, but lost in the cards. His mother died quite young with her new-born sister. Charles tries to study in Cambridge, then decides to take the order, but then he is hurriedly sent to Paris to disperse. He spends time on travels, publishes travel notes – “worn with ideas becomes his main occupation in the third ten.” Three
Ernestina is staying with her aunt Tranter in Lyme Regis, because her parents have hammered into her head that she is predisposed to consumption. They would have known that Tina would live to see Hitler’s attack on Poland! The girl thinks the days before the wedding – there are almost ninety… She does not know anything about copulation, suspecting this is gross violence, but she wants to have a husband and children. Charles feels that she is in love with marriage rather than in him. However, their engagement is a mutually beneficial business. Mr. Freeman, justifying his name (a free man), directly informs about the desire to become related to an aristocrat, despite the fact that Charles, enthusiastic about Darwinism, with pathos proves to him that it came from a monkey.
Bored, Charles begins to search for fossils, which are famous for the neighborhood of the town, and on the Vierskaya Wasteland accidentally sees the Woman of a French lieutenant, lonely and suffering. The old Mrs. Poulteney, known for her tyranny, took Sarah Woodruff as a companion, to excel in charity. Charles, whose duties include visiting three times per week, meets Sarah in her house and is surprised at her independence.
A dull course of dinner is diversified only by the persistent courtship of the blue-eyed Sam, the servant of Charles, behind Miss Tranter Mary’s maid, the most beautiful, direct, as if poured by a girl.
The next day Charles again comes to the wasteland and finds Sarah on the edge of the cliff, tearful, with captivating-gloomy face. Suddenly she takes two starfish out of her pocket and hands it to Charles. “A gentleman who values his reputation should not be seen in the society of the Babylonian harlot Lyme,” she says. Smithson realizes that it would be better to stay away from this strange person, but Sarah personifies the desired and inexhaustible possibilities, and Ernestine, no matter how he tries to persuade himself, is like at times a “cunning clockwork doll from the fairy tales of Hoffmann.”
The same evening, Charles gives a dinner in honor of Tina and her aunt. Invited and smart Irishman Dr. Grogan, a bachelor, for many years seeking the location of the old maiden Miss Tranter. The doctor does not share Charles’s commitment to paleontology and sighs about the fact that we know less about living organisms than about fossils. Alone with him, Smithson asks about the oddities of the French Lieutenant’s Woman. The doctor explains the state of Sarah with fits of melancholy and psychosis, as a result of which mourning for her becomes happiness. Now meetings with her seem to Charles filled with philanthropic meaning.
One day Sarah takes him to a secluded spot on the hillside and tells the story of his misfortune, remembering how handsome the lieutenant was, and how bitterly she was deceived when she followed him to Amus and gave herself to him in a completely indecent hotel: “It was the devil in the guise of a sailor! ” Confession shakes Charles. He discovers in Sarah, passion and imagination – two qualities typical of the English, but completely suppressed by the epoch of universal hypocrisy. The girl confesses that she no longer hopes for the return of the French lieutenant, because she knows about his marriage. Descending into the hollow, they suddenly notice the embracing Sam and Mary and hide. Sarah smiles as if she’s taking off her clothes. She defies noble manners, the learning of Charles, his habit of rational analysis.
In the hotel of the frightened Smithson, another shock awaits: an elderly uncle, Sir Robert, announces his marriage to the “not pleasantly young” widow of Mrs. Tomkins and therefore deprives the nephew of the title and inheritance. Ernestina is disappointed by this turn of events. Doubts about the correctness of his choice and Smithson, it inflames a new passion. Wanting to think it over, he’s going to go to London. From Sarah bring a note, written in French, as if in memory of the lieutenant, with a request to come at dawn. In confusion, Charles confesses to the doctor in secret meetings with the girl. Grogan tries to explain to him that Sarah is leading him by the nose, and in proof he lets you read a report on the process that took place in 1835 over one officer. He was accused of producing anonymous letters threatening the commander’s family and violence over his sixteen-year-old daughter Marie. There was a duel, an arrest, ten years in prison. Later, an experienced lawyer guessed that the dates of the most obscene letters coincided with the days of menstruation Marie, who had a psychosis of jealousy for the mistress of a young man… However, nothing can stop Charles, and with the first glimpse of the dawn he goes on a date. Sarah expels Mrs. Poulteney from the house, which is unable to bear the self-will and bad reputation of the companion. Sarah hides in the barn, where she explains with Charles. Unfortunately, as soon as they kissed, Sam and Mary appeared on the threshold. Smithson takes from them the promise to remain silent and, without acknowledging Ernestine, rushes to London. Sarah is hiding in Exeter. She has ten sovereigns,
Smithson has to discuss with the father of Ernestina the upcoming wedding. Once, seeing a prostitute in the street, similar to Sarah, he hires her, but feels a sudden nausea. In addition, the whore is also called Sarah.
Soon, Charles receives a letter from Exeter and goes there, but, after not seeing Sara, decides to go further, to Lyme Regis, to Ernestine. Their reunion ends with a wedding. Surrounded by seven children, they live happily ever after. About Sarah nothing is audible.
But this end is uninteresting. Let’s return to the letter. So Charles hurries to Exeter and finds Sarah there. In her eyes the sadness of waiting. “We should not… this is insane,” Charles repeats incoherently. He “sucks his lips into her mouth, as if starving not just for a woman, but for everything that has been forbidden for so long.” Charles does not immediately realize that Sarah is virgin, and all the stories about the lieutenant are a lie. While he is praying for forgiveness in the church, Sarah disappears. Smithson wrote to her about the decision to marry and take her away. He feels a surge of confidence and courage, dissolves the engagement with Tina, preparing to devote his whole life to Sarah, but can not find her. Finally, two years later, in America, he receives the long-awaited news. Returning to London, Smithson finds Sarah at Rosetti’s house, among the artists. Here he is waited by the one-year-old daughter by name of Aalage-brook.
No, and this is not the way for Charles. He does not agree to be a toy in the hands of a woman who has achieved exceptional power over him. Before, Sarah called him the only hope, but when he arrived in Exeter, he realized that he had exchanged roles with her. She keeps him out of pity, and Charles rejects this sacrifice. He wants to return to America, where he discovered “a particle of faith in himself.” He understands that life has to be endured to the extent that he can go out into the blind, salty, dark ocean.