I've always been tantalized by that title, but haven't read the book until now. I was warned that Thomas Hardy is a dark and dreary writer. I liked this and didn't find the descriptions of sin oppressive, maybe because the perspective was that sin is sin. (However, this is my first Hardy, so this doesn't mean that I won't find him dark and dreary in the aggregate, once I've read more of his works.)
[…] observed a brisk young man--Mark Clark by name, a genial and pleasant gentleman, whom to meet anywhere in your travels was to know, to know was to drink with, and to drink with was, unfortunately, to pay for.
They spoke very little of their mutual feelings; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other's character, and not the best until further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality. This good fellowship--camaraderie--usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labors, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death--that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.SDG!