A reading of an early Hardy novel
A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873) was Tennyson’s favourite of all Thomas Hardy’s novels, and the poet Coventry Patmore (author of The Angel in the House) was enthusiastic about it, although he wished it had been written in verse. The working title for the novel was ‘A Winning Tongue Had He’ (a line from an English ballad called ‘On the Banks of Allan Water’); Hardy thought better and renamed it A Pair of Blue Eyes. This early Hardy novel has been unfairly neglected in the Thomas Hardy oeuvre, and deserves closer attention and analysis.
Although this novel is not usually included in lists of Hardy’s ‘great’ novels alongside Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and The Mayor of Casterbridge, it’s oddly representative of Hardy’s art and might even be said to mark the start of his maturity as a novelist. In this novel we find the seeds of his later novels being sown, most notably Tess, which is to some degree a reworking of the plot and themes of this novel. But at the same time, this novel shows Hardy returning to the very start of his novel-writing career, and his first, unpublished novel. So A Pair of Blue Eyes represents, weirdly, both very early Hardy, and the very late Hardy of Tess – it looks both forwards and backwards. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of an overlooked Hardy novel
Here’s a question for you. What was Thomas Hardy’s last novel? Easy, some might say: Jude the Obscure, the 1895 book whose hostile reception convinced Hardy to abandon novel-writing and return to his first love, poetry. But in fact, Jude wasn’t Hardy’s last ever novel – at least, not exactly. For in 1897, two years after Jude’s appearance, a final novel was published: The Well-Beloved. It’s an overlooked novel, but deserves more attention and analysis – not to mention a wider readership – than it tends to receive.
We say ‘not exactly’ because The Well-Beloved wasn’t an entirely new work. Instead, it was a reworking of an earlier novel, The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved, which had been serialised in 1892. The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved: A Sketch of a Temperament appeared in the Illustrated London News between October and December 1892, but was only reprinted when Penguin Classics reissued both the original serial version and the later 1897 rewrite, The Well-Beloved. This is the edition we recommend for the devoted Hardy fan: The Pursuit of the Well-beloved and the Well-beloved (Penguin Classics). There are suggestive plot differences between the two versions of the novel. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of a classic Hardy poem
Thomas Hardy and his first wife, Emma, had long been estranged when she died in 1912; but her death prompted a series of poems by Hardy which are viewed as being among his best work. The ‘Poems of 1912-13’ see Thomas Hardy revisiting his early courtship and marriage, knowing that those times – and the woman with whom he shared those memories – will never return. ‘The Voice’ is perhaps the best-known of all these poems, yet its language demands to be analysed closely and given the attention it deserves. The following analysis is our small contribution to this endeavour.
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown! Read the rest of this entry