“If you mean to make the world listen, you must say now what they will all be thinking and saying five and twenty years hence”, I wrote Hardy to Mrs Henniker in 1893. It was not till more than 70 years later that Hardy critics began to recognise how much he had to say to the modern world. He is now beginning to be seen less as a traditional Victorian novelist and more as a pioneer in the novel. His affinities with twentieth-century novelists are beginning to be examined; his ideas on man and society are now seen to have much in common with some aspects of twentieth -century thinking, including existentialism, as Roy More1l2 and Jean Brooks3 have suggested. Critics are beginning to acknowledge, though in passing rather than in detail, that his psychological insight, subtlety and complexity are much greater, and closer to twentieth-century psychological theories than had previously been recognised. But though critics have paid passing tribute to this aspect of his fiction, sOrrletirrles even using the epithet “Freudian”, no one has yet examined this in detail. This is rather surprising in view of the central irrlportance of character in novels and of Hardy’s own errlphasis on this “centrality”. In “The Science of Fiction” , he says that what a novelist requires above all is “a quick perception of the more ethereal characteristics of humanity”, and “a sympathetic appreciation of life in all its manifestations” in order to give “an accurate delineation of human nature” . 4 In “Candour in English Fiction” , 5 the main theme is the conflict between the necessity for any significant fiction to express honestly what human beings are actually like and the taboo on doing so in contemporary English society. In his best novels, Hardy was continually trying to do just this, in all its complexity, in defiance of the taboo. Even in his earliest novel he is beginning to work in this direction, and by Jude the Obscure, if not before, he has achieved a profound and sympathetic understanding of the mind, including some of its more disturbing aspects; he has ventured into those areas of sexuality which many of his contemporaries found so


Human Nature Accurate Delineation Hardy Criticism Psychological Insight Psychological Complexity 
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© Rosemary Sumner 1981

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