Our friend Sandy commented lately that Venn, the reddleman, would have made someone a fine husband. Boy, do I concur. I thought so right away, back in Book One, and everything I’ve read since has only confirmed my initial impression.
At one point in Book Two, Venn admits his feelings for Thomasin to Eustacia, saying, “I would sooner have married her myself…but what I feel is that if she cannot be happy without him (Wildeve) I will do my duty in helping her to get him, as a man ought.” As a man ought? Wow! I don’t think most men would think they ought to help a woman they love right into the arms of another man! Eustacia calls it strange – this love is so much deeper than her own concept of love she can’t even comprehend it:
What a strange sort of love, to be entirely free from that quality of selfishness which is frequently the chief constituent of the passion and sometimes its only one!
Hardy goes on to say that this type of love is so “well deserving of respect that it overshot respect by being barely comprehended; and she almost thought it absurd.” Eustacia doesn’t even recognize this type of absurd love that puts someone else’s happiness above one’s own. It’s almost Christ-like. Definitely agape. And, in Hardy’s (and today’s) world, almost absurd.