The Form of Hardy’s Novels

  • R. M. Rehder


Hardy was reticent about his novels. When Virginia Woolf called upon him, he refused to be drawn about his writing. ‘He was not interested much in his novels, or in anybody’s novels: took it all easily and naturally.’ She tried to bring the talk around to his work, but he simply changed the subject. Through all the small talk she glimpsed that there was more to him and she was impressed: ‘He seemed perfectly aware of everything; in no doubt or hesitation; having made up his mind; and being delivered of all his work, so that he was in no doubt about that either … There was not a trace anywhere of deference to editors, or respect for rank or extreme simplicity. What impressed me was his freedom, ease and vitality.’1 The members of Queen’s College, Oxford, when Hardy visited them in 1923 after being elected to an honorary fellowship, discovered to their surprise that he was ‘interested in everything he saw, and cultured, but surely not much occupied with books: indeed almost all of us, his new colleagues, would have struck an impartial observer as far more bookish than the author of the Wessex novels …’


Greek Tragedy Honorary Fellowship Impartial Observer Emotional Side Primitive Emotion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. My source for the information about Hardy’s life and for his opinions, notes and letters, except where other references are given below, is his autobiography, Florence Hardy, The Life of Thomas Hardy 1840–1928 (London, 1970, originally published in two volumes in 1928 and 1930 respectively).Google Scholar
  2. For Hardy’s authorship of this work, see Richard L. Purdy, Thomas Hardy, A Bibliographical Study (Oxford, 1968) pp. 265–7, 272–3.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary (New York, 1954) pp. 88’93. There are a number of similar accounts. This is Arthur Compton Rickett’s description of his first meeting with Hardy, in the summer of 1909: ‘I had expected a bigger man, a man of the scholar type, one whose expression reflected the austere melancholy of his portrait. And here was a little man who looked like a country solicitor, with keen twinkling eyes and a quietly cordial manner. For a moment a look of fear flashed out. “You don’t want to talk about my books?” Of course, I did, but mendaciously I assured him that I didn’t. For I quickly divined that the interview would be short and unsatisfactory if I allowed my curiosity full play.’ I Look Back, Memories of Fifty Years (London, 1933) pp. 176–7.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous (New York, 1957) p. 255. The passage is from his preface to William Carlos Williams’s Collected Poems 1921’1931.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See Erich Auerbach’s brilliant account of how Christianity transformed the classical division of styles in his Dante: Poet of the Secular World (Chicago, 1961, originally published in 1929) pp. 1–23, and Literary Language and Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages (London, 1965) pp. 27–66. Hardy is very much an inheritor and an innovator in this transformed tradition.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Gordon S. Haight, George Eliot (Oxford, 1969) p. 195.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Thomas Hardy, Desperate Remedies (London, 1953) p. 13.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Thomas Hardy, An Indiscretion in the Life of an Heiress, edited with an Introduction by Terry Coleman (London, 1976) p. 17;Google Scholar
  9. Robert Gittings, Young Thomas Hardy (London, 1975) pp. 102–3.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Thomas Hardy, ‘The Science of Fiction’, New Review (April 1891), reprinted in Thomas Hardy’s Personal Writings, edited by H. Orel (London, 1967) p. 135.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© R. M. Rehder 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. M. Rehder

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations