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A Short Analysis of Thomas Hardy’s The Well-Beloved

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

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A Short Analysis of Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Voice’

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.

The Voice

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

A Short Analysis of Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Walk’

A summary of one of Hardy’s Poems of 1912-13

Thomas Hardy’s poetry is full of negation, negatives, nots, ‘un-’ words, and missed opportunities. ‘A Broken Appointment’ is one such example. And ‘The Walk’, one of the celebrated ‘Poems of 1912-13’ which Hardy composed in the wake of his first wife’s death, is replete with ‘nots’. Like many Thomas Hardy poems, the language is simple and clear, yet a few words of analysis reveal the subtler aspects of Hardy’s style.

The Walk

You did not walk with me
Of late to the hill-top tree
By the gated ways,
As in earlier days;
You were weak and lame,
So you never came,
And I went alone, and I did not mind,
Not thinking of you as left behind. Read the rest of this entry