‘Canst thou be Virgil?’: A Hardy Legacy in the Novel
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A number of attitudes have surfaced again and again throughout this survey of Hardy’s influence on some novelists of the twentieth century: keen interest in Hardy’s pessimism and almost unanimous rejection of it; great concern with Hardy’s treatment of men and women in love; surprisingly high regard for certain of Hardy’s lesser novels, particularly The Well-Beloved; deep respect for his characters, particularly Tess, and an inclination to re-create them; relative indifference to Hardy’s faults as a writer; and, finally, recognition that Hardy, out of his tragic view of things, was, in Bennett’s phrase, a surpassing ‘seer of beauty’. The ultimate source of the first five of these responses to Hardy must lie in this sixth, in Hardy’s having, in the view of his successors in English fiction, created a new beauty. Hardy’s pessimism, his flawed last novel, and his characters and their passions appealed to later novelists for their beauty, or for their refracting the beauty of his created world. The presence of this beauty overrides, in the eyes of these particular readers, faults of style, plot, or presentation. What Hardy’s disciples among later novelists responded to, and sought to imitate and continue, is the peculiar beauty Hardy brought into the world.
KeywordsRelative Indifference Emotional Power Human Love Literary Influence Family Romance
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