‘The Immortal Puzzle’: Hardy and John Fowles

  • Peter J. Casagrande
Part of the Macmillan Hardy Studies book series (MHS)


John Fowles has been as great an admirer of Alain-Fournier as of Thomas Hardy, and for much the same reason. In an interview in 1974, when asked about the importance of Le Grand Meaulnes to his fiction, Fowles replied: ‘I was brought up really in a French tradition in literature.’1 Fowles was quite possibly recalling his work at Bedford School, where French was his favourite subject, as well as his studies at New College, Oxford, where he read French, achieving his BA in 1950. In yet another interview (in 1964), he stated that his knowledge of French literature ‘makes me feel by acquired instinct more interested in what I say than how I say it; it makes me impatient with the feeble insularity of so much English writing. France is, among other things, what we were always too hypocritical or too puritanical or too class-ridden or too empire-minded to be.’2 The French element in Fowles’s education probably affected his attitude toward Hardy, for in 1969, while at work on The French Lieutenant’s Woman, he acknowledged Hardy’s influence (in the remark quoted in the epigraph) and observed that Hardy’s later novels stand out among nineteenth-century English novels for their candour: they exhibit ‘how [men and women] made love, what they said to each other in their most intimate moments, what they felt then’.3


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  1. 1.
    Lorna Sage, ‘John Fowles: A Profile’, New Review, 1 (1974) 33. In another interview in the same year, Fowles described The Magus (1965) as ‘in a sense’ a ‘reworking of Le Grand Meaulnes’— James Campbell, ‘An Interview with John Fowles’, Contemporary Literature, 17 (1974) 457. The epigraph for this chapter is from Fowles’s ‘Notes from an Unfinished Novel’, in The Novel Today: Contemporary Writers on Modern Fiction, ed. Malcolm Bradbury (Manchester, 1977) p. 146.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    John Fowles, ‘I Write Therefore I Am’, Evergreen Review, 8 (1964) 17.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    John Fowles, ‘Hardy and the Hag’, in Thomas Hardy after Fifty Years, ed. Lance St John Butler (London, 1977) p. 29.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman ([1969] New York, 1970) ch. 35. References are to the 1970 edition.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    See A. A. De Vitis and W. J. Palmer, ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes Flash at The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, Contemporary Literature, 15 (1974) 91.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    John Fowles, review of J. Hillis Miller, Thomas Hardy: Distance and Desire, in New York Times Book Review, 21 June 1970, p. 4.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Dr Gilbert J. Rose, ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman: The Unconscious Significance of a Novel to its Author’, American Imago, 29 (1972) 165–76.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    John Fowles, Daniel Martin (New York, 1977) ‘The Harvest’. All quotations from the novel (cited as DM) are to this edition. Subsequent references appear in the text. Since the novel’s chapters are not numbered, I identify each by its title.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    During the Second World War, Fowles with his family retreated to the West Country to escape aerial bombardment. See John Fowles, ‘The Tree’, in John Fowles and Frank Horvat, The Tree (Boston, Mass., 1979) p. 10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter J. Casagrande 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter J. Casagrande
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KansasUSA

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