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Thomas Hardy’s Vision of Wessex by S. Gatrell

By S. Gatrell

Wessex didn't spring full-born from Hardy's mind's eye whilst he started to write. the 1st a part of the e-book finds intimately how Wessex grew to become what it's, geographically, socially and culturally, starting together with his fist poem within the 1860s and finishing with wintry weather phrases, his final number of verse. the second one (briefer) half is an account of the influence of Hardy's imaginative and prescient of Wessex on twentieth-century English tradition, providing an evidence for Hardy's persistence as a well-liked novelist.

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Sample text

Reviewing what she had found, she wrote: ‘It is in the first chapter of “Far From the Madding Crowd” that Gabriel Oak’s farm is placed in connection with the Casterbridge of “Under the Greenwood Tree”: “The field he was in this morning sloped to a ridge called Norcombe Hill. ” And then when his sheep are killed he goes to the hiring fair there. Budmouth is fourteen miles from Lewgate and fifteen from Weatherbury. Weatherbury isn’t far from Casterbridge, and can’t be very far from Mellstock or Lewgate, because Yalbury Wood is near to both, and Joseph Poorgrass of “Far From the Madding Crowd” has been drinking metheglin with Keeper Day who lives there in “Under the Greenwood Tree”.

So, in a sense she missed the importance of the big moment, but then, no one who wrote about the novel in public remarked on the word at all. Hardy never explained why he chose Wessex rather than any other name. It is possible, however, to speculate that the close relationship he had already forged between his fiction and observable reality precluded an invented name, and that eventually, after some casting about, he recalled the enthusiasm of the poet and teacher William Barnes, whom he had known as a young man in Dorchester, for Saxon Wessex as the source of the Dorset dialect.

One of the reviews of Far From the Madding Crowd, perhaps the most thoughtful, is by R H Hutton in the Spectator. He identifies Hardy’s region for the first time as ‘Dorsetshire probably’ and says that Hardy has ‘mastered’ the landscapes and work of the county, to the degree that the reader ‘carries away new images, and as it were, new experience, taken from the life of a region before almost unknown’. Hutton had almost certainly learned that Dorset was Hardy’s county from his brother John, who had published reviews himself in the Spectator of Hardy’s first novels, and had written to Hardy in 1873 what is the earliest surviving enquiry after the reality behind the fiction: By the bye, will you do me the great favour of telling me what places Endelstow, Stranton, St Kirr’s &c really are – and also Mellstock & Lewgate?

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