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The ‘Great Adjustment’: Evolutionary Meliorism in The Dynasts

  • Deborah L. Collins

Abstract

Many a bourgeois sensibility was offended by Hardy’s ruminations concerning the nature of God. While it might seem unlikely that he could further alienate the reading population, the speculations offered by his third voice achieved just that. At least fifty modern meanings attach to the word ‘God’, this voice suggests, and it is therefore deceptive to ‘call any force above or under the sky by the name of “God” — and so pass as orthodox cheaply, and fill the pocket’.2 Never one to economise by filling his pocket with ersatz happy endings, Hardy argues that the only reasonable translation of the term for and concept of ‘God’ is ’the Cause of Things, whatever that cause may be’.3 His implication that all modern thinkers are necessarily ‘atheists in the ancient and exploded sense’4 caused his critics to bristle at such audacity. G. K. Chesterton counter-accused Hardy of being a disillusioned, depressed, blasphemous ‘village atheist’ who invented the First Cause in order to ‘give it a piece of his mind’;5 Carl Van Doren concurred that ‘Whatever Mr. Hardy’s conceptions, he demands some responsible deity upon whom he can lay the blame for the crass casualties which he encounters’.6

Keywords

Prime Mover Great Heart Reflex Movement Great Adjustment Unify Army 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Florence Emily Hardy, The Life of Thomas Hardy (London: Macmillan; New York: St Martin’s Press, 1962), p. 319.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    G. K. Chesteron, ‘Great Victorian Novelists’, in The Victorian Age in Literature (London: William & Norgate; New York: Holt, 1913), p. 144.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Carl Van Doren, ‘Anatole France and Thomas Hardy’, Century Magazine, ns, 87 (1925), p. 422.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Thomas Hardy, ‘Fragment’, in Variorum Edition of The Complete Poems of Thomas Hardy, edited by James Gibson (London: Macmillan, 1979; New York: Macmillan, 1979), pp. 513–14.Google Scholar
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    T. H. Huxley, ‘Evolution and Ethics’, in Touchstone for Ethics, 1893–1943, by T. H. and Julian Huxley (London: Harper & Bros, 1947), p. 91–2.Google Scholar
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    Thomas Hardy, The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy, edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), V, p. 50.Google Scholar
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    J. O. Bailey, Thomas Hardy and the Cosmic Mind (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956), p. 14.Google Scholar
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    Pierre d’Exideuil, The Human Pair in the Work of Thomas Hardy, translated by Felix W. Crosse (Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970), p. 209.Google Scholar
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    T. E. Lawrence, Letters of T. E. Lawrence, edited by David Garnett (New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1939), pp. 429–30.Google Scholar
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    Thomas Hardy, The Dynasts, (London: Macmillan, 1923), pp. viii-ix.Google Scholar
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    Harold Orel, Thomas Hardy’s Epic Drama: A Study of The Dynasts (New York: Greenwood Press, 1969), pp., 70–1.Google Scholar
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  18. 72.
    Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 63. (Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (London: W. W. Norton, 1986)).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Deborah L. Collins 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah L. Collins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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