The Plucked Harp String: Desire, Courtship Ritual and the Debate Concerning Speech Theory

  • Mark Asquith


In the last chapter I sought to demonstrate how Hardy employs a web of musically delineated natural sounds to connect the activities of his puppets to the wider universal process. In no other aspect of their lives is this process more apparent than in the desire felt between the sexes. In Hardy’s work falling in love is described continually by means of metaphors drawn from biology, metaphysics and mesmerism that emphasise the element of compulsion: Jude experiences ‘a momentary flash of intelligence, a dumb announcement of affinity’ between himself and the ‘complete and substantial female animal’ Arabella Donn;1 Felice Charmond describes how she was ‘seized by a hand in velvet’ and driven into the arms of the handsome Fitzpiers, while his explanation of desire focuses upon the suitably electro-biological analogy of a Leyden-jar filled with electric current searching for a conductor through which to discharge his ‘emotive fluid’.2 The metaphor is mesmeric: the body is transformed into a ‘galvanic battery’ ready to conduct its ‘magnetic fluid’ under the influence of the mesmerist. Such power was not to be considered artificially induced, but, as the mesmerist Spencer Hall concluded, nothing more than the exercise of ‘natural law’.3 This, however, does not make it any less painful, the milkmaids in Tess of the D’Urbervilles being particularly acute victims of the ‘oppressiveness of an emotion thrust on them by cruel Nature’s law’.


Musical Performance Wide Process Speech Theory Emotional Power Voice Tone 
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© Mark Asquith 2005

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  • Mark Asquith

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