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Quotation of the Day…

…, whose lesson is worth its length, is from pages 184-185 of the 2001 Oxford World’s Classics edition of Thomas Hardy’s great 1886 novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge:

The season’s weather seemed to favour their scheme.  The time was in the years immediately before foreign competition had revolutionized the trade in grain; when still, as from the earliest ages, the wheat quotations from month to month depended entirely upon the home harvest.  A bad harvest, or the prospect of one, would double the price of corn in a few weeks; and the promise of a good yield would lower it as rapidly.  Prices were like the roads of the period, steep in gradient, reflecting in their phases the local conditions, without engineering, levellings, or averages.

The farmer’s income was ruled by the wheat-crop within his own horizon, and the wheat-crop by the weather.  Thus in person, he became a sort of flesh-barometer, with feelers always directed to the sky and wind around him.  The local atmosphere was everything to him; the atmospheres of other countries a matter of indifference.  The people, too, who were not farmers, the rural multitude, saw in the god of the weather a more important personage than they do now.  Indeed, the feeling of the peasantry in this matter was so intense as to be almost unrealizable in these equable days.  Their impulse was well-nigh to prostrate themselves in lamentation before untimely rains and tempests, which came as the Alastor of those households whose crime it was to be poor.

After midsummer they watched the weather-cocks as men waiting in antechambers watch the lackey.  Sun elated them; quiet rain sobered them; weeks of watery tempest stupefied them.  That aspect of the sky which they now regard as disagreeable they then beheld as maleficent.


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