Variations on Two Enigmas: Hardy, Elgar and the Muses



We must begin with a familiar story. On 2 June, about in the middle of the nineteenth century, in a small cottage just off the heath, a baby boy was born. His father — something of a charmer, a dreamer, we are told — was in trade, his mother a woman of strong character who greatly influenced her children, imbuing at least this son with a love of reading and literature. He soon learnt to play the violin, for his family was much involved with music-making; his childhood memories, and the experience of the English countryside, were to be a lifelong inspiration to him in his art. So, increasingly, was an overwhelming nostalgia for the past. He was a sensitive man who needed constant reassurance; a man who loved life, but who also felt a pervasive melancholy. Thomas Hardy? Yes; but equally, in every detail, Edward Elgar, who was born at Broadheath, Worcestershire, on Hardy’s seventeenth birthday, and whose life, in its external circumstances, bears an uncanny resemblance to the poet’s.


Creative Artist Subjective Unity Emotional Tension Outer World Familiar Story 
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  1. Quotations from Hardy’s poems are taken from The Complete Poems of Thomas Hardy, ed. James Gibson (London: Macmillan, 1976).Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Percy M. Young (ed.), Letters to Nimrod: Edward Elgar to August Jaeger 1897–1908 (London: Dobson, 1965) pp. 111, 114 (subsequently cited as Nimrod)Google Scholar
  3. Hardy to S. Cockerell, 15 June 1913, in R. L. Purdy and M. Millgate (eds), Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978–88) vol. IV, p. 280 (subsequently cited as Collected Letters)Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Walt Whitman, quoted in Jerrold Northrop Moore, Edward Elgar: A Creative Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987 pbk) p. 783 (subsequently cited as Moore, Edward Elgar)Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Elgar to Mrs Alice Stuart Wortley, 26 April 1911 (subsequently cited as EE and ASW), in Jerrold Northrop Moore (ed.), Edward Elgar: The Windflower Letters: Correspondence with Alice Caroline Stuart Wortley and Her Family (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989) p. 84 (subsequently cited as Windflower Letters)Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    B. Maine, Elgar: His Life and Works (London: Chivers Press, 1973) vol. I, p. 116.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    F. E. Hardy, The Life of Thomas Hardy 1840–1928 (London: Macmillan, 1962) p. 330 (subsequently cited as Life).Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    EE to S. Colvin, 13 December 1921, quoted in Michael Kennedy, Portrait of Elgar, 3rd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987 pbk) p. 15.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    EE to A. J. Jaeger, 8 December 1903, in Percy M. Young (ed.), Letters of Edward Elgar, and Other Writings (London: Bles, 1956) p. 128.Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    Anthony Storr, The Dynamics of Creation (London: Secker & Warburg, 1972) p. 182Google Scholar
  11. EE to Mr and Mrs Edward Speyer, 15 December 1909, in Jerrold Northrop Moore (ed.), Edward Elgar: Letters of a Lifetime (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990) p. 215 (subsequently cited as Letters of a Lifetime).Google Scholar
  12. 25.
    Fred Gaisberg, diary 28 August 1933, quoted in Jerrold Northrop Moore (ed.), Elgar on Record: the Composer and the Gramophone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974) p. 214.Google Scholar
  13. 26.
    Suzanne Langer, Feeling and Form (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953) p. 126, quoted in Storr, The Dynamics, p. 239; Life, p. 301.Google Scholar
  14. 27.
    J. C. Brown, A Journey into Thomas Hardy’s Poetry (London: Allison & Busby, 1989) p. 273Google Scholar
  15. W. H. Reed, Elgar as I Knew Him, 2nd edn (London: Gollancz, 1973) pp. 131, 86Google Scholar
  16. 29.
    Dennis Taylor, Hardy’s Poetry, 1860–1928, 2nd edn (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989) p. xiGoogle Scholar
  17. R. L. Purdy, Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954) p. 166Google Scholar
  18. 30.
    Igor Stravinsky, The Poetics of Music (New York: Vintage Books, 1947) p. 33Google Scholar
  19. quoted in A. Storr, Music and the Mind (London: Harper Collins, 1992) p. 185Google Scholar
  20. 37.
    W. Archer, Real Conversations (London: Heinemann, 1904) p. 32.Google Scholar
  21. 38.
    Robert John Buckley, Sir Edward Elgar (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1905) p. 32Google Scholar
  22. Lennart A. Björk (ed.), The Literary Notebooks of Thomas Hardy (London: Macmillan, 1985) vol. I, no. 1181Google Scholar
  23. 41.
    Ivon Hitchens, correspondence with Alan Bowness in Ivon Hitchens (London: Lund Humphries, 1973)Google Scholar
  24. 42.
    B. Whitelaw: Billie Whitelaw: Who He? (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1995) pp. 126, 82, 117Google Scholar
  25. Lyndall Gordon, Eliot’s New Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989 pbk) pp. 169, 173Google Scholar
  26. Miranda Seymour, Robert Graves: Life on the Edge (London: Doubleday, 1995) p. 331Google Scholar
  27. 43.
    R. H. Taylor (ed.), The Personal Notebooks of Thomas Hardy (London: Macmillan, 1978) p. 240Google Scholar
  28. 45.
    EE to Walford Davies, 1 May 1920, quoted in Moore, Edward Elgar, p. 755; to Ivor Atkins, 30 December 1922, quoted in Moore, ibid., p. 762; ibid., Moore, p. 759, quoting Eugene Goossens, Overture and Beginners (London: Methuen, 1951).Google Scholar

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© Joanna Cullen Brown 1998

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