- The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy, Volume Five: 1914-1919, and: The Literary Notebooks of Thomas Hardy, and: The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy, and: Moderns and Contemporaries: Novelists, Poets, Critics, and: Unities: Studies in the English Novel
On 10 February 1914 Thomas Hardy married Florence Emily Dugdale—he described her to his friends as an acquaintance of his first wife—at St. Andrew's parish church, Enfield. Present were her father and sister and his brother. After the ceremony Hardy and his new wife went home to Max Gate. "Business as usual during alterations," he commented. His first wife Emma had been dead fifteen months. Hardy's friendship with Miss Dugdale, his secretary—"a literary woman, but not a blue-stocking at all," he said of her—had begun well before Emma Hardy's death; Florence moved into Max Gate just a few months after her predecessor's demise. It was during this period—the years 1912-1913, roughly—that Hardy wrote many of his greatest poems, his botded-up tenderness for Emma released by her death, his sense of guilt exacerbated by his reading of the "black diaries" in which she kept track of his many faults (Hardy referred to Emma's disloyalty as "the slight mental aberration which occasionally afflicted my wife's latter years"). Satires of Circumstance (published November, 1914) contains many of these poems; others appeared in a subsequent collection, Moments of Vision (published November, 1917). These two volumes may well be the greatest of Hardy's many books.
So the period covered by this fifth of a projected seven-volume Collected Letters is central to any consideration of Hardy the poet. Never shy about declaring that the only part of his work "in which self-expression has been quite unfettered" was his poetry, Hardy continued in these years—his seventy-fourth to seventy-ninth—to write love lyrics. And much to the annoyance of Florence Hardy, who took her revenge after his death by savagely editing Emma out of his papers, he continued to keep green the memory of his first wife. "A second marriage . . . need not obliterate an old affection, though it is generally assumed that the first wife is entirely forgotten in such cases," he told his old friend Florence Henniker—with whom, also, he had once been in love—a month after marrying Florence Dugdale. Shortly before Satires of Circumstance appeared, Hardy wrote to Mrs. Henniker: "I rather shrink from printing" some of the poems written "just after Emma died, when I looked back at her as she had originally been, and when I felt miserable lest I had not treated her considerately in her latter life. However I shall publish them as the only amends I can make."
These letters show Hardy genuinely missing Emma and expressing tenderness for her in a way he was unable to do while she lived. All the relevant dates in [End Page 300] her life are now religiously remembered by him, as well as a number of lasts—the last time she entertained company, the last time she visited someone or saw something. "I have been gardening a little, & had to tie up a rosebush planted by Emma a month or two before her death," he told Mrs. Henniker late in 1918. "It has grown luxuriantly, & she would be pleased if she could know & that I care for it." "Emma will have been in Stinsford Churchyard seven years this month," he noted in November 1919. "It...