Distracted Preacher: Thomas Hardy’s Public Utterances



I must begin with an urgent apology to Timothy Hands for stealing the title of his excellent book on Hardy and the church1 — all except the question-mark. It seemed such a fine title for my purposes at that long-ago moment when it was unthinkingly chosen, and since it still seems a fine title now I’ve decided to make the delicate shift from theft to appropriation, rather along the lines of what the contemporary music business calls a ‘tribute’ album. Think of this then as ‘Distracted Preacher 2’ or ‘Distracted Preacher: The Sequel’. And indeed, there may well emerge some suggestive parallels between Hardy’s changing and often equivocal attitudes towards organized religion and his changing and often equivocal attitudes towards contemporary public issues.


Ritual Murder County Museum Public Letter Biographical Subject Suggestive Parallel 
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  1. 1.
    Timothy Hands, Thomas Hardy: Distracted Preacher? Hardy’s Religious Biography and its Influence on his Novels (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy, ed. Richard L. Purdy and Michael Millgate, 7 volumes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978–88) vol. II, p. 304 (subsequently cited as Collected Letters).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Thomas Hardy, The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy, ed. Michael Millgate (London: Macmillan Press, 1984) p. 345 (subsequently cited as Life and Work)Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    A recent article on the editing of Victorian interviews concludes that, at best, the filtering of everything through the interviewer makes it difficult to feel confidence in the validity of ‘using such interviews as if they convey the actual words of their nominal subjects’: Patrick G. Scott and William B. Thesing, ‘Conversations with Victorian Writers: Some Editorial Questions’, Documentary Editing, 11, ii (June 1989) 38.Google Scholar
  5. 17.
    See Richard L. Purdy, Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954) p. 306Google Scholar
  6. Harold Orel’s edition of Thomas Hardy’s Personal Writings (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1966; London: Macmillan, 1967) pp. 196–200, usefully reproduces the interview as printed.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    Collected Letters, vol. II, pp. 279, 280, 281; vol. III, p. 76; the ‘conversation’ itself is included in Archer’s Real Conversations (London: William Heinemann, 1904) pp. 29–50.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    Michael Millgate, Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) p. 128.Google Scholar
  9. 31.
    The Novels of Jane Austen, ed. R. W. Chapman, 5 volumes, third edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1933) vol. V, p. 37.Google Scholar
  10. 38.
    Marjorie Lilly, ‘The Mr Hardy I Knew’, Thomas Hardy Society Review, 1978, p. 102.Google Scholar
  11. 43.
    Letters of Emma and Florence Hardy, ed. Michael Millgate (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996) p. 202.Google Scholar
  12. 46.
    Keith Wilson, Thomas Hardy on Stage (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1995), p. 50.Google Scholar
  13. 48.
    The cartoon is reproduced in Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), following p. 400.Google Scholar

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© Michael Millgate 1998

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