Two Wessex Tales

Two Wessex Tales INTRODUCTION THOMAS HARDYThomas Hardy And George Meredith Have Often Been Coupled As The Last Of The Victorians In Both Cases The Term, As Journalistic Terms Are Too Apt To Be, Is Peculiarly Inappropriate Neither Meredith Nor Hardy Is Victorian, Except In The Sense That They Began Their Careers Before The End Of That Period Rightly Or Wrongly, A Certain Smug Righteousness, Professional Optimism, A Determined Brightness Of Outlook, Are Generally Associated With The Art Which The Victorian Era Has Bequeathed To Us Even Browning And Arnold, In Some Respects The Finest Minds Of The Time, Did Not Altogether Escape This It Was Left To Meredith And Hardy To Break The TraditionPerhaps It Would Be Precise To Say That The Victorians Found It Always Necessary To Lean Upon Something Darwin Had, For The Acuter Minds Of His Generation, Shaken Religion To Its Foundations And There Was In Consequence A Somewhat Frantic Hurry To Find, Among Those Foundations, Fragments Solid Enough To Lean Upon, And Abstract Enough To Remain Untouched By The Doctrine Of Evolution Can The Earth Philosophy Which Meredith Turned Towards Be Called One Of These Fragments He Found Some Such Emotional And Ethical Substitute Necessary, At Any Rate It Was Hardy Who First Walked Forth Without Light Into The WildernessHardy Is A Novelist, In Consequence, Who Supremely Demands That His Reader Shall Have Courage He Offers No Bright Panaceas, No Subtle Consolations He Is A Merciless Determinist, A Passionate Ironist He Sees The Life Of Man As A Harsh Glare Of Prearranged Tragedy, And He Takes Pleasure In Standing, Helpless But Resolute, In The Full Dreadfulness Of This Glare It Has Been Said That Hardy Is Cruel To His Characters, That He Persecutes Them, That He Delights In Whipping Them From Disaster To Disaster This Is Both True And False True, In The Sense That, As An Artist, Hardy Takes The Keenest Of All Pleasures In Getting At The Essentials Of Man S Nature, In Showing Him To Be Forever The Victim Of His Own Divergent Instincts, Drawn This Way And That, Setting Up For Himself Lofty Ideals Only To Fail Of Attainment, Alternately Wise And Foolish, Ugly And Beautiful False, In The Sense That It Assumes Hardy To Be A Sort Of Monster Of Indifference, Whereas In Fact He Is The Profoundest Of Humanists For It Is Not Man He Indicts, In The End, But The Fates, The Chances, The Mechanical Shuffle Of Forces Which Have Made Man The Blind And Blundering Creature That He Is Is It Possible That A God Would Do So Cruel A Thing Hardy Asks Is There A God At All If So, Then In Point Of Intelligence And Generosity Man Is A Long Way In Advance Of Him In Method, Hardy Might Be Called A Poetic Realist A Term Which Suggests Clearly, As In This Case It Should, The Epic The Best Of His Novels Are, Indeed, Epics In Prose Jude The Obscure, For Example This Has An Architectural Quality, Is At The Same Time As Colossal And As Beautifully Designed As A Great Cathedral The Prose Style Used Is Simple And Inconspicuous, A Transparent And Easy Medium It Does Not Exist For Itself, As Might Be Said, For Example, Of The Style Of George Moore Only Rarely Does It Take On A Glow Or Speed All Of Its Own But It Is Supremely Adequate To Its Purpose, An Instrument Tried And PerfectedThe Two Stories In The Present Volume Are Early Work, But None The Less Very Typical If One Has A Criticism Of Them It Is That The Determinism Is As Yet A Little Raw, Has Almost The Semblance Of Melodrama Coincidence Is A Trifle Overstrained Hardy Had Not Yet Acquired The Artistic Mastery Necessary To The Concealment Of His Purpose He Shows Us The Skeleton A Little Too Clearly The Bones Of It Protrude Too Frequently And In Consequence One Does Not Surrender To The Thesis As Willingly As One Does In The Later Work, In Which, Indeed, One Does Not Surrender, One Is, Rather, Simply Mastered Nevertheless, These Two Stories Contain In Germ All That We Have Come To Associate With Hardy The Determinism Is Present The Preoccupation With Rural Rather Than With Urban Men And Scenes The Vigorous And Unswerving March Of The Narrative CONRAD AIKEN

A Pair of Blue Eyes in 1873 In the novel, Hardy chose to leave one of his protagonists, Knight, literally hanging off a cliff staring into the stony eyes of a trilobite embedded in the rock that has been dead for millions of years This became the archetypal and literal cliff hanger of Victorian prose Excerpted from

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  • Two Wessex Tales
  • Thomas Hardy
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  • 13 July 2017

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