I was just curious if I was the only one that wondered what happened there.
Nope. I wondered too! I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I read this extract!
When I first read it, I kind of assumed it was a fantasy of Camilla, but seeing the passage isolated here, I just couldn't quite believe what I was reading. I think it's an example of "la petite morte" that fansmom mentioned, and he even uses one of Rochester's words from his prologue: "shudder", which is kind of incidentally interesting. I agree with nebraska's point about the lust. I quite like the contrast with what has gone before, where he is working hard at being reformed, lists all the little things he is doing and his new way of thinking, and especially quoting the religious passage and poem. He has memorised them, learnt them by rote, as it were, but not internalised them really. The real appreciation has escaped him, possibly because he is motivated by fear and guilt, rather than love of God. Then comes the woman and the lust, which is very real to him, and powerful.
But I wonder if the woman is Camilla, which is why I was so taken aback and confused, although I am not at all sure about this. Because the alternative is a third woman, just mentioned ever so casually and incidentally and not even named. But who is she? I got to thinking about the prostitute and that maybe it was she - because after all, the waving from the window and the leer, and the fact that he sees her on the way back from the church. At least he mentions stairs in her house so there is a bit of an echo. I kind of quite like the notion, because I think sex with three women is significant as a number. Also, it being mentioned so briefly makes sense to me because of the ease of the sin. So much emotion and doubts and flashes of guilt after the first time - and now nothing – well, a who cares? Well, I think that is significant - the descent into "immoral" ways being so easy and rapid: the repentance and turning over of a new leaf so hard to maintain.
On the other hand, perhaps it isn’t an actual encounter at all, but an imaginary one. However I look at it, it seems like an extraordinary passage to me. I wonder about the house obscured by vines and the rickety stairs and generally the physical and moral decay. But I also think it is the stuff of myth, fairytale and especially, Arthurian legend. The woman, well, she’s pretty much the temptress who waylays the knight – and who goes right back to the story of Eve and the original Fall of Man. In which case, it doesn’t really matter who the woman is; she is archetypal Woman.
However you cut it, he feels the lust and rejects repentance. And afterwards, when he writes about Vera, the passage is absolutely full of sexual imagery. Here, the sexual urge seems to be definitely allied with the creative force and that creative force is orgasmic. Parlez, I like your point about the similarity between sexual lust and the desire to be a famous writer. To me, your comment explains the use of the sexual imagery.
And then he starts thinking about Camilla, using a very crude blunt term. No romancing or dressing it up as something else there! On seeing her, he describes it as “Like film over my eyes, like a spider web over me”. This is more stuff in the same vein. He is snared. Dead meat, come to think.