The dangers of superimposing a consistent philosophy on Thomas Hardy’s widely disparate poems are fully as great as Hardy, in his preface to Poems of the Past and the Present, claimed they were:

… that portion which may be regarded as individual comprises a series of feelings and fancies written down in widely differing moods and circumstances, and at various dates; it will probably be found, therefore, to possess little cohesion of thought or harmony of colouring. I do not greatly regret this. Unadjusted impressions have their value, and the road to a true philosophy of life seems to lie in humbly recording diverse readings of its phenomena as they are forced upon us by chance and change.

When, to this caveat, a conscientious reader adds his uneasy awareness of the problems created by Hardy’s failure to date a large number of his poems, Hardy’s willingness to use poems written during any of several decades for a new collection, Hardy’s warning that the ‘mere impres?sions of the moment’ should not be mistaken for ‘convictions or argu?ments’, and Hardy’s hope that ‘finely-touched spirits’ among his readers would be sufficiently alert for ‘right note-catching’, he may well conclude the poet has presented him with ‘miscellanies of verse’, with all the dilemmas of ordering and analysis that such miscellanies inevitably impose.


Late Lyric Literary Convention Poetical Work True Philosophy Genuine Emotion 
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  1. 1.
    This page is reproduced as a photograph in Richard Little Purdy’s Thomas Hardy, A Bibliographical Study (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1954) after p. 272.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Helmut E. Gerber and W. Eugene Davis, Thomas Hardy: An Annotated Secondary Bibliography of Writings About Him (De Kalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press, 1973) p. 11.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Carl J. Weber, Hardy’s Love Poems (London: Macmillan, 1962; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1962) pp. v-vii.Google Scholar

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© Harold Orel 1976

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