Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
From Literary Anecdotes About 19th Century Authors Born After 1829

THERE was a young girl, a gamekeeper's pretty daughter, who won Hardy's boyish admiration because of her beautiful bay-red hair. But she despised him, as being two or three years her junior, and married early. He celebrated her later on as `Lizbie Browne'. Yet another attachment, somewhat later, which went deeper, was to a farmer's daughter named Louisa. There were more, probably. They all appear, however, to have been quite fugitive, except perhaps the one for Louisa.

He believed that his attachment to this damsel was reciprocated, for on one occasion when he was walking home from Dorchester he beheld her sauntering down the lane as if to meet him. He longed to speak to her, but bashfulness overcame him, and he passed on with a murmured `Good evening', while poor Louisa had no word to say.

Later he heard that she had gone to Weymouth to a boarding school for young ladies, and thither he went, Sunday after Sunday, until he discovered the church which the maiden of his affections attended with her fellow-scholars. But, alas, all that resulted from these efforts was a shy smile from Louisa.

That the vision remained may be gathered from a poem `Louisa in the Lane' written not many months before his death. Louisa lies under a nameless mound in `Mellstock' churchyard. That `Good evening' was the only word that passed between them.

Florence Emily Hardy, The Early Life of Thomas Hardy (1928), pp. 33-34.

Hardy made this entry in his diary on 30 January 1879.

IN Steven's bookshop, Holywell Street. A bustling vigorous young curate comes in — red-faced and full of life — the warm breath puffing from his mouth in a jet of frosty air, and religion sitting with an ill grace upon him.

`Have you Able to Save?'

Shopman addressed does not know, and passes on the inquiry to the master standing behind with his hat on: `Able to Save?

'I don't know—hoi! (to boy at other end). Got Able to Save? Why the devil can't you attend?'
`What, Sir?'
`Able to Save!'

Boy's face a blank. Shopman to curate: `Get it by tomorrow afternoon, Sir.'

`And please get Words of Comfort.'
`Words of Comfort. Yes, Sir.' Exit curate.

Master: `Why the h— don't anybody here know what's in stock?' Business proceeds in a subdued manner.

Florence Emily Hardy, The Early Life of Thomas Hardy (1928), P. 139.

As the year 1891 drew to a close an incident that took place during the publication of Tess of the d'Urbervilles as a serial in Graphic might have prepared him for certain events that were to follow. The editor objected to the description of Angel Clare carrying in his arms, across a flooded lane, Tess and her three dairymaid companions. He suggested that it would be more decorous and suitable for the pages of a periodical intended for family reading if the damsels were wheeled across the lane in a wheel-barrow. This was accordingly done.

Florence Emily Hardy, The Early Life of Thomas Hardy (1928), p. 315.

THOMAS Hardy asked me to lunch, and I bicycled over from our cottage at Studland. There were only he and I and his wife—the first Mrs. Hardy, of course —at the meal; it was about the time when Jude the Obscure had been published, and I was loud in my praise of that work. Mrs. Hardy was far from sharing my enthusiasm. It was the first novel of his, she told me, that he had published without first letting her read the manuscript: had she read it, she added firmly, it would not have been published, or at least, not without considerable emendations. The book had made a difference to them, she added, in the County ...

The position was awkward for me, and very embarrassing. Hardy said nothing, and did not lift his eyes from the plate; I was hard put to it to manufacture some kind of conversation, and it was a great relief when Mrs. Hardy rose, and left us to our port. Even then Hardy's silence persisted, till I told him of a bird in our wood whose identity puzzled us; we had discovered at last that it was a corncrake. Hardy brightened at once, the cloud lighted, and we talked, talked of birds and trees, evidently a favourite subject of his, till I left.

Alfred Sutro, Celebrities and Simple Souls (1933), pp. 58-59.

ONE day—this was in Paris— I asked Yeats what he did about books that were sent to him for signature. He became quite thoughtful about this, and then he became very happy. And then he told me this story. He was dining once with Thomas Hardy, and as they were finishing their coffee he asked Hardy the very same question.

`What do you do, Hardy, about books that are sent to you for signature?'
`Yeats,' said Hardy, `come with me, there is something upstairs I want to show you.'

At the top of the house Hardy opened a door, and the two poets entered a larger room. This room was covered from floor to ceiling with books. Hardy waved his hand at the odd thousand volumes that filled the room.—

`Yeats,' said he, `these are the books that were sent to me for signature.'

James Stephens, James, Seumas and Jacques edited by Lloyd Frankenberg (1964), pp. 70-71.

AT one of Ford's tea-parties I[Douglas Goldring] remember seeing a little, quiet, grey old man wearing a red tie who turned out to be Thomas Hardy. I was standing next to Hugh Walpole at the back of the room, when he was pointed out to me. The conversation among the lion cubs in our neighbourhood was no doubt very brilliant and very `literary', but suddenly there came the usual inexplicable hush. It was broken by Hardy, who, turning to an elderly lady by his side, remarked, `And how is Johnny's Whooping Cough?'

Douglas Goldring, Odd Man Out (1935), p. 99.

WE found ourselves near Dorchester, so we turned in there to visit Thomas Hardy, whom we had met not long before when he carne to Oxford to get his honorary doctor's degree. We found him active and gay, with none of the aphasia and wandering attention that we had noticed in him at Oxford.

I wrote out a record of the conversation we had with him.... He said that he regarded professional critics as parasites no less noxious than autograph hunters, and wished the world rid of them. He also wished that he had not listened to them when he was a young man; on their advice he had cut out dialect-words from his early poems, though they had no exact synonyms to fit the context. And still the critics were plaguing him. One of them recently complained of a poem of his where he had written `his shape smalled in the distance'. Now what in the world else could he have written? Hardy then laughed a little and said that once or twice recently he had looked up a word in the dictionary for fear of being again accused of coining, and had found it there right enough — only to read on and find that the sole authority quoted was himself in a half-forgotten novel! He talked of early literary influences, and said that he had none at all, for he did not come of literary stock. Then he corrected himself and said that a friend, a fellow-apprentice in the architect's office where he worked as a young man, used to lend him books. (His taste in literature was certainly most unexpected. Once when Lawrence had ventured to say something disparaging against Homer's Iliad, he protested: `Oh, but I admire the Iliad greatly. Why, it's in the Marmion class!' Lawrence could not at first believe that Hardy was not making a little joke.)

Robert Graves, Good-bye to All That (1929), pp. 374, 378.

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