Hardy’s last and most abused novel is, even today, one of the most undervalued. The contemporary critics hated it. Tt is simply one of the most objectionable books that we have ever read in any language whatsoever’,1 said the New York Bookman, in one of the milder comments, and the Bishop of Wakefield ‘was so disgusted with its insolence and indecency’2 that he threw it into the fire. The attacks were mainly concentrated on Hardy’s attitudes to religion and marriage and on a few passages which were supposed to be obscene. The Christminster theme was largely overlooked in these reviews, although Edmund Gosse sneered ‘does the novelist really think it was the duty of the heads of houses to whom Jude wrote his crudely pathetic letters to offer him immediately a fellowship?’3 As Hardy himself said, when he came to look back on this painful period in the 1912 Postscript:
The sad feature of the attack was that the greater part of the story — that which presented the shattered ideals of the two chief characters … was practically ignored.
KeywordsContemporary Critic Painful Period Mild Comment Chief Character Ward Position
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© Merryn Williams 1972