Diggory Venn’s house?

Diggory Venn is the reddleman, who moves literally and figuratively through Hardy’s stories. I met him as a bit player in The Mayor of Casterbridge in high school. You might know him from The Return of the Native.

Figure 1. Ruddy reddleman’s house, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

The point here is that he sold a red dye sheep farmers used to mark the undersides of their rams. Red stains on the back of an ewe show it’s been mounted, allowing for some control of lamb inventory. Nowadays, as I learned in Ireland some years ago, they rig up the ewes with exploding dye packs, which must make for an interesting encounter for both animals.

But I digress. Diggory Venn, the reddleman, was, by virtue of his trade, “permeated” with the ochre pigment he trafficked in. So he’s not just a reddleman because of his wares but because he’s described by Hardy as a sort of freakishly red(dle) man, with words like ‘bloody.’ Which brings me to what I suppose is his house (figure 1), he having left Egdon Heath and moved (somewhat prosaically, certainly unexpectedly) to Scranton. Perhaps the ochre pits were giving out and coal seemed like a better bet.

Walls, roof, trim, door, and, obligatorily, wreath have all been ruddled up with remarkable consistency on the reddleman’s house. I might have expected a dozen burning bushes about the premises, but the reddleman is a purist and those bushes would be the wrong hue. I have notions about the color of the car(s) in that garage.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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