ENGL 330 English Novel 19 Century
November 17 2011
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
Born in Dorset, son of the stonemason (the trade of Hardys titular protagonist in his
1895 novel Jude the Obscure)
Studied as an architect
Considered poetry for his first love; turned to novel-writing for financial support
later returned to poetry after the critical outrage over the publication of Jude,
publishing only one more novel, The Well0Beloved (1897), which had been
serialized in 1892.
Hardy and the Sensation Genre
1869; George Meredith reads and rejects Hardys manuscript for The poor Man and
the Lady, supposedly encouraging him to write a more plot-based narrative instead.
1871; Hardys first (anonymously) published novel Desperate Remedies attempts to
cash in the popularity of sensation fiction. It is a critical and commercial failure.
o The spectator, 22 April 1872: a desperate remedy for a emaciated purse
*+ how curiosity about the detail of crime *+ prostituted to the purposes
of idle paying into the way of wickedness
o On the authors anonymity: let him bury the secret in the profounded
depths of his own heart, out o reach, if possible, of his own consciousness.
o Hardy at the time of this review wished he were dead.
Relationship is interesting because after the failure of Desperate Remedies he
turned to other novels which were lumped under realism/naturalism. Details to
rural landscapes and cultures.
o A kind of rural realism/naturalism in his writing. However a contestable
o One of the notebooks in 1885 he comments on sensation vs. realism
o Argues that a good novel should be both to the highest degree. If it is too
sensational/horrific for its own good, but its not bad just because its
sensational but because it is excessively so (self indulgently so). Someone
who sticks to everyday realism is not good either however.
o Takes a firm stance on being one way or the other.
This was a response to Anthony Trollope: the novelists who are considered to be
anti-sensational are generally called realistic. I am realistic. My friend Wilkie Collins
is generally supposed to be sensational *+ All this I think is a mistake *+ A good
artist should be both, - and both in the highest degree (Autobiography; ch. 12).
After the controversial success of Jude the Obscure, Hardy reissued all of his novels
by divided his novels in 3 different categories.
o Novel of character and environment
o Novels of romances and fantasies
o Novels of ingenuity
A sort of hierarchy in these three categories. Most famous novels are located in
Novels of Character and Environment
o Under the Greenwood Tree o Far from the Madding Crowd
o The Return of the Native
o The mayor of Casterbridge
o The Woodlanders
o Tess of the dUbervilles
o Jude the Obscure
Approach most nearly to uninfluenced works; also one or two which, whatever their
quality in some few of their episodes, may claim a verisimilitude in general
treatment and detail (General Preface)
Also ordered these by which books he found most represented him.
A region of the south-west of England
Archaic, mythical medieval term of this region of England
Found it in an old medieval text (maybe)
Imagined it as the setting for his novels
Most of the settings of his novels are based on real settings in the south west of
England, but gave them a fictionalized name, with mythical connotations.
The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern undulations of the beautiful Vale
of Blakemore, or Blackmoor, aforesaid, an engirdled and secluded region, for the
most part untrodden as yet by tourist or landscape-painter, though within a four
hours journey from London.
It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it from the summits of the
hills that surround it except perhaps during the droughts of summer. An unguided
ramble into its recesses in bad weather is apt to engender dissatisfaction with its
narrow, tortuous, and miry ways. (12, ch. 2)
o All this detail is meant to ground the novel in a realistic setting
o Very rural, pastoral setting. Even the Madden refers to virginity.
How would you describe the narrators attitude towards the land?
Name of the Vale
Blakemore or Blackmoor.
Tess has two names; highlights the rural vs. the urban
Tess is almost a hybrid figure; not only a dichotomy between rural and the urban
but also uncertainty between Blakemore and Blackmoor.
o Ex. Durbey field vs. dUbervilles
o Contrast between this rural, poor family vs. Aristocratic, mature family.
Linda Shires The Radical Aesthetic of Tess of the DUbervilles, from The Cambridge Companion
to Thomas Hardy (1999);
With its emphasis on how we see, how we know the nominate, how we experience,
how a thing can be viewed in different ways at the same time, and how something
can affect us physical, mentally, and emotional, the description of Marlott [+
glosses Hardys aesthetic undertaking in Tess. Hardys aesthetic demands that
readers grasp reality as objectively varies, changing, filtered by multiple and
contradictory subjection impressions, and yet indubitably and solidly there when
apart from human consciousness. (Shires 147)
Multiple and contradictory subjective impressions. Its there even without human consciousness
Yet its permanent and affected by human thought.
A paradox of realism. Gesturing to something that is always there, but always
filtering between subjective consciousness. So is it really realistic?
Narrows the perspective
By getting us to look at the landscape this way, it encourages us to look at
o They are complex. Perspectives shift depending on where you are standing
and what the context is.
The district is of historic, no less than of topographical interest. The Vale was known
in former times as the Forest of White Hart, from a curious legend of King Henry IIs
reign, in which the killing by a certain Thomas de la Lynd of a beautiful white hart
which the king had rundown and spared, was made the occasional of heavy fine. In
those days, and till comparatively recent times, the country was densely wooded.
Even now, traces of its earlier condition are to be found in the old oak copses and
irregular belts of timber that yet survive upon its slopes, and the hollow-trunked
trees that shade so many of its pastures. (12-13)
o Mythic or legendary past; foreshadowing things?
o Pursuit and killing of beautiful white heart.
o Allusions to medieval history and legends, plus hints to ancient pagan
tradition in the Cerealist f the May dance on the green (13)