Thomas Hardy: Fifty Years of Textual Scholarship

  • R. C. Schweik


Over the last fifty years, studies of Hardy published by some of the most talented literary historians and critics have been compromised because they were based on radically defective editions and written without full information about the development of Hardy’s texts. The work of J. W. Beach is an early and particularly ironic case in point. By 1922 Beach had already published a pioneering study (PMLA, 1921) which documented the existence of bowdlerised versions of Hardy’s writings; he had also helped Mary Ellen Chase prepare a fuller study of similar textual variants for the 1922 doctoral thesis she later published as Thomas Hardy: From Serial to Novel (1927). Although these early studies were conducted in ignorance both of manuscript evidences and of great differences between the Macmillan 1912 ‘Wessex’ edition and some American editions, nevertheless they clearly demonstrated the need to be alert to possibly significant variants in Hardy’s texts. Yet, when Beach prepared his own critical study, The Technique ot Thomas Hardy (1922), he chose to use not the available ‘Wessex’ edition but, rather, a Harper printing that included a text of The Woodlanders which incorporated none of the revisions Hardy had made after 1887 and which, in fact, exhibited precisely the kinds of bowdlerising that Beach himself had previously deplored.


Short Story Textual Note Critical Edition Textual Scholarship American Edition 
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© R. C. Schweik 1977

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  • R. C. Schweik

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