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Mr. Weston's Good Wine by T. F. Powys

Mr. Weston's Good Wine (1927)

by T. F. Powys

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This strange and unique novel has been described as an "idiosyncratic Christian allegorical fantasy", but don't let the "Christian" scare you off--I would say it is more of a pagan pastoral romp.

The novel opens as Mr. Weston, a travelling wine salesman, and his assistant Michael arrive at the village of Folly Down. They apparently have inside knowledge about each of the villagers, and in turn interact with each of the villagers. There is Reverend Grobe, the vicar who after the tragic death of his wife no longer believes in God. His daughter Tamar is waiting for an "angel" to come to town to fall in love with her. The Grobe's housemaid Jenny Bunce is in love with Luke Bird, who believes people are no longer worth preaching to, so he preaches to animals. Then there is Squire Mumby, whose two sons make a habit of ravishing the village maidens, with the assistance of the bitter Mrs. Vosper. The pub owner (and Jenny's father) Mr. Bunce blames everything that goes wrong (i.e. unintended pregnancies of village maidens) on God. Others blame these "tragedies" on meek and mild Mr.Grunter.

Over the course of an evening when time stands still, Mr. Weston and Michael visit each of these villagers as well as others, and one may conclude that as a result of their visits each individual gets his due, and the problems of Folly Down are solved.

It has been stated that T. F. Powys created his fiction out of his "life-long quarrel with God."
I have on my shelves Unclay, another T. F. Powys novel in which, apparently, the devil comes to town.

3 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Feb 10, 2017 |
An old Ford, labelled 'Mr Weston's Good Wine' and apparently driven by a commercial traveller and his young assistant, pulls into Folly Down village in Dorset. It soon becomes apparent that the old man with 'hair as white as wool' and his beautiful and respectful colleague are divine beings.
The inhabitants of Folly Down are an assorted bunch- a vicar who has lost his faith in God since his wife was killed; his elfin daughter, left to run wild and yearning to meet an angel; the arrogant and immoral farmer's sons who enjoy deflowering pretty maidens, one of whom has committed suicide; the woman who serves as procuress for them; and the humble Mr Bird, a Dissenter who preaches to the animals and is universally scorned... but is madly in love .
Mr Weston writes his motto on the sky in shining letters. Then time stands still for an evening as he moves among the villagers, bringing his wine to those who will accept it.
I would stress that this is in no way a 'goody-goody' morality tale. The village seems very dark and pagan-and considering this was written in the 20s surprisingly outspoken on lust- and Mr Weston himself struggles with the suffering around him:
'Not a death happens in all the world but I wish it were mine own and I would have every dying one to know that I long to die with him'.
The scene at the end when Mr Weston administers good wine to the vicar is exquisitely written. And throughout Powys' familiarity with the Dorset countryside brings this world to life. ( )
1 vote starbox | Jul 9, 2016 |
A recently rediscovered novel from the 1920s that is very much of its time (although, at a pinch, it could be considered an early example of magic realism). In parts, it reads like the kind of bawdy 'country matters' stories written by H.E.Bates and A.E.Coppard. Mr Weston arrives in the small Dorset town of Folly Down to sell the inhabitants his good wine. Soon after he arrives, the clocks stop and it is eternal evening. Young women are being ravished and made pregnant. Is the culprit the church clerk, Mr Grunter or is it God?
The novel is a religious allegory but whether it's inspired by belief or dis belief in God is open to question. This novel is an interesting oddity unlike most other things I've read. Warning: the West Country dialect takes some decoding and getting used to. ( )
1 vote stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
A very strange book, alternating between ribald humor and abject cruelty, with undertones of feminism (in 1927!). It's largely a struggle of light versus darkness, with considerable ambiguity on whether Christian morality or more native pagan sentiments are the root of evil or source of life. ( )
1 vote kewing | Dec 21, 2014 |
There is a time of day that is also night - or almost, anyway. Twilight, dusk, gloaming: what you will. This strange and affecting little novel emerges like the bats and the owls and the other creatures of the night at this time. The clocks stop as Mr Weston arrives at an English country village in his Ford van with something impossible and unspeakable stored in the back. He is accompanied by Michael, who has angelic qualities from the start. The villagers are a range of types - venal and flawed, culpable and vulnerable every one. One by one their characters are exposed and it is not always to their benefit: one disenchanted priest, someone who has given up on mankind and who preaches to the animals, a woman who delights in the "spoiling" of young girls and the many men who are more than willing to oblige her in this voyeuristic delight, a wily old dealer in cattle and a girl who dreams of finding love with the angel who dwells in the pub sign. In many ways, this is an allegory of sin and redemption - but there is often a feeling that there is a darker side to this visitor, this curiously named Mr Weston. He seems to gain entry to every room and he seems to know everyone; he is God or he is someone like him, hoping one day to drink the darkest of his own wines which will bring death. This is a twilight world, where there is a constant hint that the mundane world has just become a dream and the dream will tempt you into something uncertain. Some experience love, but it is often tainted with death or dark mystery.

Powys' writing is engaging. There are moments when his story-telling becomes marvelously transparent and conversational: he describes two farmer's sons with a cool detachment: "The young men smoked, and we will watch and admire them. As the vast majority of farmers' sons in England are very like the Mumbys, we should, if we wish to be loyal to our king and country, be glad to hear what they say". At other times there is an elaborate symbolism: in the Angel Inn the village men gather and drink under a picture of Columbus discovering America: in this old world haunt, the image of the new world dominates while the embodiment of another world - Mr Weston himself - strides through the streets. A child sees a lion in the Ford van; elsewhere there are lions and bulls that stalk through the pages, bearing with them a hint of fury and a threat of death, but also the power of imagination and the world of the spirit. Such a mixture of pastoral ease and the unlikely presence of the violent retribution of the lion connects this vision with the peculiar world that Shakespeare presents in "As You Like It"; Powys' imagination certainly goes in this direction.

The style of "Mr Weston's Good Wine" can be a little dense: there is a preference for the periodic sentence that seems a little dusty to a a modern reader. For example: "The wide, open hearth at the Angel, still the same as in those days, had a tale to tell of Squire Teedon, who owned Shelton Grange, and who, one Christmas Eve, carried into the Angel parlour a large sack full of tom-cats and threw them to roast alive upon a faggot of dry furze, to the immense entertainment of all the party assembled." There is a long delay in releasing the information here and the use of relative and subordinate clauses can lead to the occasional double take - "what exactly has been said?", you may ask, as you read it - but, at its best this device is tied to the creation of that twilight feeling of wonder and strange unease that pervades this intriguing and pleasing novel. ( )
1 vote elyreader | Jun 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Mr Weston is a genial old man, with a head of hair as white as wool concealed beneath his brown felt hat. He was once a writer, the composer of a prose poem, but these days it is difficult for him to find anyone interested in his literary work. He is travelling through a small part of Dorset in an old Ford van which bears his name on its side, intent on supplying his good wine to any inhabitants willing to drink or receive some, and he is accompanied on this journey by a companion named Michael who has an unusually detailed understanding of the interests, thoughts and hopes of the locals, and who can describe at length all recent events in the area. Continued

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Powys, T. F.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Charlton, GeorgeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A Ford car, of a type that is commonly used in England to deliver goods in rural districts, stood, at half-past three in the afternoon, before the Rod and Lion Hotel at Maidenbridge upon the 20th November 1923.
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