“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”,1 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 More112 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, sometimes even using the epithet “Freudian”, no one has yet examined this in detail. This is rather surprising in view of the central importance of character in novels and of Hardy’s. own emphasis on this “centrality”.


Human Nature Hardy Criticism Psychological Insight Psychological Complexity Modem World 
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  1. 3.
    Jean Brooks, Thomas Hardy: the Poetic Structure (Elek, 1971).Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Ian Gregor, Gregor (Faber, 1974), p. 321.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    D. H. Lawrence, ‘A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ (Penguin, 1961 ), p. 92.Google Scholar
  4. 25.
    F. R. Leavis, The Great Tradition (Chatto and Windus, 1948), Chapter 1.Google Scholar
  5. 26.
    Lord David Cecil, Hardy the Novelist (Constable, 1943), Chapter 5.Google Scholar
  6. 28.
    A. J. Guerard, Thomas Hardy (New Directions, 1964 ), p. 87.Google Scholar

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© Rosemary Sumner 1981

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  • Rosemary Sumner

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