Thomas Hardy - Search and Destroy

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I can't imagine my life without The Mayor of Castorbridge and Tess of the Durbevilles in it. The Woodlanders and Jude the Obscure are well worth your time. Also: one of the few great novelist-poets ("Neutral Tones," "The Convergence of the Twain", "The Voice").

Your faves? I haven't read any of the "minor" novels like Two on a Tower and The Trumpet-Major.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 30 October 2008 01:07 (fifteen years ago) link

Haven't read much of his, just asome short stories, 'Far from the madding crowd' (which was excellent) and 'Desperate Remedies' (which was daft fun in a sensation-fiction-with-lesbian-overtones way). My wife is a HUGE Hardy fan, though, has read everything of his, and is pressing the Claire Tomalin biography upon me.

James Morrison, Thursday, 30 October 2008 02:35 (fifteen years ago) link

Predictably, because I fight shy of 19th century novels generally, I have approached Hardy through his poetry, which was a nice intermediate step away from Swinburne and towards TS Eliot.

Aimless, Thursday, 30 October 2008 18:51 (fifteen years ago) link

I came the other way (forgot about mentioning his poetry)--so used to him as a 19th century writer that his WWI poems came as a bit of a shock.

James Morrison, Thursday, 30 October 2008 22:10 (fifteen years ago) link

He, like Gerard Manley Hopkins, is one of those transitional figures.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 30 October 2008 22:12 (fifteen years ago) link

He's almost as good, too. I mostly find his touch a lot lighter in his poetry than his novels, I like that

Niles Caulder, Friday, 31 October 2008 07:15 (fifteen years ago) link

S: The Novels of Character and Environment (At least, the ones I've read! Mayor, Tess, Jude, Woodlanders, and Far).
D: Novels such as The Laodicean.

Got hooked on Thomas Hardy doing Advanced Highers (the Scottish almost-equivalent of A-levels). Parents think I'm mad for reading and having read so much of his stuff when it's "so depressing".

I've yet to read Ethelberta, Trumpet Major, Native, Greenwood Tree.

Some of the other novels, more like character studies - A Pair of Blue Eyes and The Well Beloved, were a lot gentler, but lacked some of the brilliant writing that attracted me to Hardy (though I've yet to find the passage with the word 'Heliotrope' which first reeled me in...)

Could anyone give me a "if you liked that, you'll love this..." on Thomas Hardy? Something similar, or similarly well written?

AndyTheScot, Friday, 31 October 2008 09:29 (fifteen years ago) link

we had to do "Far From The Madding Crowd" at GCSE and it was really really boring.

the next grozart, Friday, 31 October 2008 09:43 (fifteen years ago) link

I haven't touched Hardy's novels since I grabbed Far From The Madding Crowd to read on the bus, before a night out. I left full of beans and by the time I reached my destination was in such a state of tearful fatalism that I just sunk my head in my beer and refused to come out of it until throwing out time, only murmuring sadly in response to my friends' concerned enquiries.

I mean with tragedy generally you feel it's the gods or the fates putting the characters through the grinder, but with Hardy, you feel it's Hardy who's doing it.

Like others on this thread, I'll read is poetry if I'm going to read anything at all, although I've heard good things about his short stories, which I've not touched for some reason, so might give those a pop sooner rather than later.

GamalielRatsey, Friday, 31 October 2008 09:57 (fifteen years ago) link

i need to read more hardy. and more trollope. and more eliot. and some thackeray. i'll get to it all, i promise.

scott seward, Friday, 31 October 2008 12:38 (fifteen years ago) link

My Hardy-mad wife says that Gaskell's 'Sylvia's Lovers', after a slowish start, is EXTREMELY Hardyesque.

James Morrison, Friday, 31 October 2008 23:25 (fifteen years ago) link

Search: "Far From The Madding Crowd". We read this for English class at school, and it didn't make much sense. We got lost in the scale of the novel, and bogged down by the teacher's need to continually make wisecracks. So I didn't like it by association. Several years later I re-read it and realised that it's a fantastic novel.

snoball, Friday, 31 October 2008 23:34 (fifteen years ago) link

It's a long time since I read Hardy, and my tastes might be different if I re-read him now. Of the "major" novels I preferred those I thought of as more "poetic" -- Tess, The Woodlanders, The Return of the Native -- I was a bit less keen on The Mayor of Casterbridge and Far from the Madding Crowd. The Woodlanders is the underrated gem (and I think Hardy's own favourite). Jude is a category of its own -- I can see why its proto-Modernism might make it some peoples' favourite Hardy, but I didn't find it a particularly enjoyable read. Of the less famous novels, I've only read The Trumpet Major and Under the Greenwood Tree, both slight but enjoyable, the latter being unusual (possibly unique?) among Hardy's novels in having a happy ending. (The pretty heroine, Fancy Day, has the good instincts to reject sophisticates from out of the village and marry a local lad, so sidestepping the dark fate awaiting Hardy protagonists who try to engage with the world beyond rural Wessex).

Some of the poetry is superb, especially the later stuff, but you may need to do a bit of work to acquire a taste for it - it can seem clumsy, repetitive and old-fashioned (even for its time) at first reading. He wrote an enormous amount of it, and the critical orthodoxy is that you need to dig out the gems from among the dross, but Larkin once said that his only problem with Hardy's poetry was that there wasn't enough of it.

The Dynasts is a real curiosity - weirdly cinematic, almost suggesting Hardy could have been a great director if only the technology hadn't been lagging behind. A bit of a hard slog to read, though, and its philosophical preoccupations have dated, not because Hardy was wrong but because truths that seemed like revelations to a man sloughing off of conventional Christianity seem obvious to the point of banality in our more godless time. I wouldn't exactly destroy it, but I wouldn't recommend it either.

frankiemachine, Saturday, 1 November 2008 13:15 (fifteen years ago) link

The Dynasts is a real curio. I've always liked the excerpted choruses and songs.

The Woodlanders certainly needs more attention. It has one of my favorite scenes in literature: Winterbourne hides in a tree while his lover calls his name.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Saturday, 1 November 2008 13:21 (fifteen years ago) link

I was going to be a smartass and challenge everyone with The Dynasts, but I haven't been able to stand reading it. It is jaw-dropping.

Although I once spotted a pocket-sized paperback edition, and would have liked to have that just as a curio.

alimosina, Sunday, 2 November 2008 05:43 (fifteen years ago) link

four years pass...

I read Two on a Tower last week. Thoughts here.

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 14 May 2013 18:35 (eleven years ago) link

two years pass...

are they trying to trick people into thinking that the actor tom hardy wrote this movie

slam dunk, Monday, 18 May 2015 04:15 (nine years ago) link

based on the play by
billy shakespeare

slam dunk, Monday, 18 May 2015 04:18 (nine years ago) link

mr. anne hathaway

difficult listening hour, Monday, 18 May 2015 04:20 (nine years ago) link

one month passes...

reading A Pair of Blue Eyes, which boasts a weird scene in which the heroine rescues one of her lovers, who is dangling from a precipice, by ripping her clothes to shreds, tying them in knots, and throwing this makeshift rope over the side.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 18 June 2015 13:28 (nine years ago) link

I think in some editions it's clear she's using her knickers, but this was changed to be a bit more vague after howls of scandal on first publication

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Friday, 19 June 2015 01:07 (nine years ago) link

i started Far From the Madding Crowd today. First Hardy novel I've read for pleasure - I read Tess in highschool lit but barely remember it.

Am enjoying Madding so far. Much more wry than I expected, and I love the descriptions of the landscape

difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Sunday, 21 June 2015 03:10 (nine years ago) link

Madding was gorgeous & dramatic! I enjoyed it so much, tragedy notwithstanding - good god what a heavy load

Am now moving onto Tess. I feel like a whole world has opened up now that I am enjoying Hardy.

Also the rural depictions esp sheep shearing in Madding surprised me by making me more than a little homesick for my country town & farm-y childhood. Never thought I'd get nostalgic for sheep shearing of all things, lol

difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Friday, 26 June 2015 06:54 (nine years ago) link

haven't read any of the novels since my teens/early twenties, but reading some of his short stories recently added a new dimension to my appreciation... need to get deeper into the poetry at some point.

& finding out not long ago that furze = gorse has changed my mental image of hardy country somewhat.

no lime tangier, Friday, 26 June 2015 08:21 (nine years ago) link

the heath in Return of the Native is the main protagonist iirc

2 jazz boys 1 jazz cup (Noodle Vague), Friday, 26 June 2015 08:29 (nine years ago) link

had to do madding crowd at school, so i've got a natural aversion to hardy.

cod latin (dog latin), Friday, 26 June 2015 09:38 (nine years ago) link

Tess is amazing, not least because Hardy doesn't present her as a wronged woman: she's a wronged woman with a sexual appetite.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 26 June 2015 11:01 (nine years ago) link

eight months pass...

i failed o level english lit. we did 1984, Macbeth and Far From The Madding Crowd. i am currently rereading the latter. there is so much in it i'm sure i would've remembered even after 30+ years - hitching a ride on the dog. the coffin tampering. the grave drenching. the drowning. but no. i can only assume i didn't bother reading it all at the time.

i loved Tess, liked Jude, thought Two on a Tower was a bit ridiculous with all its revelations, Native was ok. but the language of Madding Crowd, some of the sentence structures, i'm struggling with. i can see how 16 year old me would've been unimpressed.

koogs, Monday, 14 March 2016 10:21 (eight years ago) link

(ah, Two On A Tower was initially published in serial form. so the suspiciously frequent revelations were cliffhangers.)

koogs, Monday, 14 March 2016 10:35 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

The Woodlanders is the underrated gem (and I think Hardy's own favourite).

I reread it this week. Quite a few passages show him at his gnarled best: anthropomorphized descriptions of wind rustling through old beech and oak trees, with Matty South and Winterbourne understanding their language w/out Hardy making too fine a point of it (wonder if Tolkien cited him as an influence).

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 11 May 2017 23:44 (seven years ago) link

two years pass...

> D: Novels such as The Laodicean.

i'm quite enjoying this. half way through, wondering where it's going to go.

(it was dictated on his death bed (he got better))

koogs, Thursday, 11 July 2019 10:44 (five years ago) link

two years pass...

spent January reading sf and blood meridian. had already planned on reading Mayor of Casterbridge but wasn't sure if i'd be in the mood for it last night when i started. but bang, gripped immediately.

Read Greenwood Tree late last year and the same thing happened. will spend February finishing off Mayor and the two short story collections, which will mean I've read everything in that first category they mention on Wikipedia, "Novels of character and environment"

koogs, Sunday, 30 January 2022 13:28 (two years ago) link

easily one of my favorite poems:

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!

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 30 January 2022 13:32 (two years ago) link

Wow. Of a piece with that one Rilke poem.

Tapioca Tumbril (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 January 2022 14:16 (two years ago) link

His self-taught rhythms are uniquely his.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 30 January 2022 14:17 (two years ago) link

oh yeah i love that. what’s the title?

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Sunday, 30 January 2022 15:31 (two years ago) link

"The Voice."

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 30 January 2022 15:34 (two years ago) link

the dying fall in the last line...

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 30 January 2022 15:35 (two years ago) link

It’s in the extremely handy Penguin Book of English Verse, edited by Paul/P.J. Keegan

Tapioca Tumbril (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 January 2022 15:48 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

transplanted from the monthly reading thread...

> I'd call The Woodlanders major.
> ― the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 26 April 2024

the biography is making the same claim, grouping it with Tess and Jude, possibly because it is as dark. whereas i don't really think it's as much "general knowledge" as those two and Madding, say. but maybe the public consciousness thing is based on the films rather than the books. has there been a Woodlanders film? (or Jude for that matter?)

i might need a reread.

koogs, Sunday, 28 April 2024 01:35 (two months ago) link


Jude in 96 with Ecclestone and Winslet (and David Tenant's first film).

Woodlanders in 97 with Rufus Sewell, Emily Woof. TV series in 1970 with Felicity Kendell "believed to be lost".

not sure i remember rather of these

koogs, Sunday, 28 April 2024 01:47 (two months ago) link

rather / either

koogs, Sunday, 28 April 2024 01:48 (two months ago) link

I want someone to read The Dynasts.

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 28 April 2024 02:02 (two months ago) link

I've always meant to -- one day. As a poet he is as good as it gets, in my view.

J Edgar Noothgrush (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 28 April 2024 02:48 (two months ago) link

The stuff I read is dead as blank verse -- except the parts dealing with the Phantom Intelligences. Hardy is so weird.

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 28 April 2024 04:02 (two months ago) link

woodlanders is absolutely major, partly for the way his affection for setting, detail and mood eclipses the central drama; in a way which is unfeasible in the emotional tumult of tess. those opening pages simply describing an old carriage passing up the wintery woodland road are a marvel.

devvvine, Sunday, 28 April 2024 11:19 (two months ago) link

The Woodlanders certainly needs more attention. It has one of my favorite scenes in literature: Winterbourne hides in a tree while his lover calls his name.

― Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Saturday, November 1, 2008 9

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 28 April 2024 11:43 (two months ago) link

interesting factoid from the biography - TH went to Glastonbury Festival

"In 1924 the [Glastonbury] festival hosted the première of Boughton’s musical setting of Thomas Hardy’s play The Queen of Cornwall. The author was present and was said to be 'pleased'."

(quote from classic fm website)

koogs, Thursday, 2 May 2024 04:30 (two months ago) link

Who was headlining on the main stage I wonder.

I've left the box of soup near your shoes (Tom D.), Thursday, 2 May 2024 07:04 (two months ago) link

High school English classes killed Hardy for me. One, I have no idea why anyone would think Hardy novels are suitable for 16-year-olds. But also I had to suffer through multiple rereads of Mayor of Casterbridge (once for GCSE, and then I had to do it all over again for A-Level when I changed school). That was punishing! I'm sure I'm missing something but he still feels like Yom-Kippur-service levels-of-boring to me.

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 2 May 2024 10:11 (two months ago) link

idk Tess blew my 17-year-old mind. Try the poems.

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 2 May 2024 10:12 (two months ago) link

Yeah, I was thinking about the poems. I already know the endings the famous ones so I'm tempted to give Woodlanders a go.

Unrelatedly, my high school English teacher knew Hardy's gardener! Weird Kevin Bacon-through-time stuff there.

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 2 May 2024 10:15 (two months ago) link

Bertie Stephens? didn't like the dog apparently. (have just read that bit of the biog)

(that reinforces the surprising thing about the glastonbury attendence - he was alive a lot after people you might consider him alongside like, say, dickens)

koogs, Thursday, 2 May 2024 13:14 (two months ago) link

and yes, we had Native in school and then Madding for exams, the only exam i failed. but reading them for 'fun' is different.

koogs, Thursday, 2 May 2024 13:16 (two months ago) link

I remember an English class where we all mad that [spoiler?] Henchard's wife had effectively "died of shame". Life's Little Ironies? Tom's Shitty Plotting more like.

I think I enjoyed Casterbridge more the second time around, especially the soapy second half. It's basically an early Douglas Sirk movie.

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 2 May 2024 13:43 (two months ago) link

Tess blew my 17-year-old mind.


budo jeru, Friday, 3 May 2024 16:39 (two months ago) link

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