In Retrospect

  • F. B. Pinion


Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top,

Out of the magic fire that lurks inside,

Shows one tint at a time to take the eye:

Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep,

Shifted a hair’s-breadth shoots you dark for bright,

Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so

Your sentence absolute for shine or shade.

‘Others abide our question.’ So, without the appropriate qualification, Matthew Arnold introduces his sonnet on Shakespeare, marvelling at the vision of a poet whose lasting greatness was beyond the perception of his contemporaries. By comparison, our knowledge of Hardy is enormous, and yet the more we know, the more we realize that experiences which were most central to much in his life and writings, including the best of his personal poems, raise questions which are finally unanswerable; too much of the crucial evidence is wanting to warrant biographical assertion, and we are left to conjecture. The issue is complicated by the heterogeneity of Hardy’s reactions to people and circumstances at critical junctures; so inconsistent do they appear at times that they may seem almost contradictory.


Critical Juncture Glass Ball Lonely Mother Crucial Evidence Finger Touch 
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Bibliography and References

  1. Epigraph: Browning, The Ring and the Book, I, 1367–73.Google Scholar
  2. A. L. Rowse, The English Past (London: Macmillan, 1951) pp. 171–2.Google Scholar
  3. Evangeline Smith: Rabiger, ‘Hoffman Papers’, op. cit., pp. 48–9.Google Scholar
  4. Twenty years later: Florence Hardy to Rebekah Owen, 5 May 1914, Colby College Library.Google Scholar
  5. Alice Smith’s diary: Bath, op. cit., p. 46.Google Scholar
  6. Florence to Rebekah Owen on the Giffords: Colby College Library.Google Scholar
  7. ‘Beatrix Potter’: Colby College Library.Google Scholar
  8. Clodd on Hardy: 14 January 1928, Miriam Lutcher Stark Library, Austin, Texas.Google Scholar
  9. Hardy’s reserve and the expression of his innermost feelings in poetry: Irene Cooper Willis’s essay on T.H. at Colby College Library, published as ‘Monograph No. 1’ by the Thomas Hardy Society, 1981, p. 6.Google Scholar
  10. Lady St Helier on Hardy: See her Memories of Fifty Years (London: Edward Arnold, 1909) pp. 240–1.Google Scholar
  11. Forster on Keats and Hardy: Selected Letters, ed. Lago and Furbank, op. cit., p. 259.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© F. B. Pinion 1992

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  • F. B. Pinion

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