- Rosemarie Morgan, “Thomas Hardy”:A Rejoinder
I write with reference to Rosemarie Morgan's review of recent work on Thomas Hardy ("Thomas Hardy," VP 42, no. 3 [Fall 2004]: 369-381), which includes my edition: Thomas Hardy's 'Facts' Notebook: A Critical Edition (2004). Given the extent of the misconceptions and misinterpretations contained in it I clearly need to set the record straight.
Rosemarie Morgan finds much to object to in my title Thomas Hardy's 'Facts' Notebook and its further abbreviation within my text to "Facts." Nothing less than all the ten words Hardy uses will do—the words which I transcribe on page 1: "Facts from Newspapers, Histories, Biographies & other chronicles —(mainly Local)." All these words apparently must be used in referring to the notebook. So in this, all Hardy scholars who since c1970 have referred to this manuscript are at fault—Millgate, Björk, Hynes, Page, Gatrell, Dalziel, Brady, Ray, Dolin, etc. (most of whom are named in note 2 of my introduction to the edition). All the above have cited "the notebook labelled 'Facts,'" or "called 'Facts,'" or more often, simply "the 'Facts' notebook," as in Ray. Their model, and mine, is Hardy's own—his own large script for the word "Facts," on its own line, alone, on his first page. The remaining words are taken, important as they are, as a sub-title. Morgan insists on their invariable use, all ten of them.
Rosemarie Morgan's certainty about the permissable usage and meaning of the word "facts" is countered by the evidence, which I note in my Critical Introduction, of the variety of resource which newspaper items and the "Histories, Biographies & other chronicles" offered to Hardy. It is odd not to recognize that in some measure Hardy turned to these, as a good historian would, for corroborative information on matters ranging from coach times and lists of magistrates to dress styles and the terminology employed in the reporting of a wrestling bout, and yet Morgan dismisses the notion that Hardy could be anywhere engaged in "making a record of factual data." Morgan supposes that this function is the only one which I acknowledge, but as I state quite clearly in the introduction, the notebook "generally comprises material which is narratable." Indeed I am at pains to point out examples in Hardy's note-taking of the "narrative imagination at work." I also make the claim that "no other surviving notebook of Hardy's comes as close to that [End Page 399] intense interplay between memory and invention which so characterizes his poetry and prose." Any sensible reading-through of the notebook exposes the impossibility of pinning down the word "facts" to one narrow and particular function. It is worth remembering how in the 1799 Prelude I, Wordsworth recalled his boyhood experience of the drowned man at Esthwaite—for him, one of the "tragic facts / Of rural history"; and considering how, for Hardy, as for Wordsworth, such "facts of rural history," wherever met with, figured in his creative life. There seems no room here for assertion about what limiting construction we should put on that one word "facts," as used by either of these great poets.
Morgan is also quite certain that she knows precisely what Hardy's intentions were, in his compiling the notebook: "he was working in imaginative mode—he was not reading or writing scientific fact," though later she states that "Hardy's fascination with the law is the main focus of the notebook." Morgan's style requires that sort of certainty, at whatever point—not very helpful in a literary context. Hardy made his entries for his own use and pleasure (not for ours) and to satisfy his own need to know about England not long before his birth. Thus for October 1829 we find "Weyhill Fair—By 12 o'c only 40 waggons had passed through Andover gate—in former, abundant years, 400 horses have passed it by the same hour" (117g). None of Morgan's pronouncements is of much use here. Everyone in Hants., Wilts., Dorset, knew about Weyhill Fair, even Jane Austen. Perhaps (no certainty) Hardy made an entry which confirmed what he had heard from...