- Philip Larkin: A Bibliography, 1933–1994, and: Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study
Oak Knoll Press offers Larkin and Hardy scholars a welcome gift by making available updated editions of these two titles. Both books are excellent examples of descriptive bibliography. While Bloomfield follows the standards established by Bowers, Purdy utilizes a unique bibliographic style that predates Bowers's guidelines. Each focuses on the work of a single author, and each is the outcome of an accomplished bibliographer working very closely with the subject of his work or the executors of his literary estate. Bloomfield, for example, a respected Auden bibliographer and fellow librarian, approached Larkin in 1972 with the prospect of compiling information for a complete bibliography of Larkin's published and unpublished work. Larkin, both delighted and chagrined by the proposal, agreed to the project and cooperated with Bloomfield to produce Philip Larkin: A Bibliography, 1933–1976.
Purdy, on the other hand, did not communicate directly with Hardy. Rather, he worked closely with Hardy's literary executors, Florence Hardy (the author's second wife) and Sydney Cockerell. Indeed, the account of how Purdy came to produce Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study is well known among Hardy scholars and remains an exemplary story of a bibliographer rigorously attempting to produce a definitive scholarly document on the work of one author. Upon Hardy's death in 1928 Purdy hastily gathered Hardy first editions, letters, and manuscripts to be featured in a memorial exhibit at Yale University Library. In addition, Purdy compiled a catalog of the exhibit, a copy of which he sent to Hardy's widow. Impressed by the industry, discretion, and taste of the young Hardy scholar (Purdy was twenty-four at the time), Florence Hardy agreed in 1930 to allow Purdy to solicit materials and information for a definitive bibliography of Hardy's work. Purdy's study first appeared in 1954. [End Page 574]
Evident in both books is the idea that the lives and works of authors are inextricably bound. To underscore this notion seems obvious in the current era of literary criticism and biography that takes this connection for granted. But when we consider that Purdy's study, for example, formalizes and anticipates this idea in English literary studies and that Bloomfield's dogged persistence to include everything in his bibliography certainly alienated the very private and circumspect Larkin, we then appreciate how startling this idea really was (and is) for many authors, critics, and readers. Still, the Larkin and Hardy bibliographies are very different books, and they yield scholars different insights.
Purdy's bibliography is notable for its thorough descriptions of various editions of Hardy's primary works and the history of their publication. It also identifies and describes a vast catalog of manuscript and correspondence materials and features extensive notes and appendices describing additional material relevant to Hardy scholarship (such as accounts of composition of the major and minor works, the activities of the Hardy Players, and privately published pamphlets) that reveal how Hardy's work emerged from the life he lived day-to-day. At the time, including what might be considered the quotidian details of an author's life into an analysis of his formal published output was innovative. Purdy's approach detailed closely Hardy's life and offered a broader view of his work that included historical, social, economic, and psychological contexts that continue to enrich the study of the author's life and art.
Likewise, Bloomfield's bibliography of Larkin offers scholars similar inroads to richer considerations of Larkin's life and work, though his book contradicts the view that Larkin held of himself as a "spare-time writer." Bloomfield's work reveals that Larkin's output was considerable...