Victorian Poetry 40.3 (2002) 311-320
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Guide to the Year's Work
Well, here it is! The ultimate electronic research resource has arrived. As I had anticipated this time last year, in my review essay of 2001, we will be turning increasingly to the e-text and cyberworld for the best in research resources on Thomas Hardy. Within a few months of this prediction, the first of what may be a veritable library of Hardyana on CD-ROM arrived on my desk. In this instance it is Hardy's entire correspondence published by the InteLex Corporation in the Past Masters series (currently 81 titles): The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy, edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate, 7 vols., 1840-1927 (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1978-1988).
There seems to be something slightly wicked about having seven vast tomes holding a lifetime of Hardy's correspondence on a slender disk [End Page 311] no larger than a communion wafer. Of course, that's not exactly it—is it? Like the genome which holds the blueprint for a giant mammoth or an Elvis Presley, a CD-ROM has no existence without a habitable environment—an electronic version of the petri dish or maternal body. Enter the computer: this resembles neither but emulates both. Now, it's just a question of implantation: "Place CD-ROM disc in CD-ROM drive. When icons appear, drop the Folio VIEWS folder in to Preferences folder which should be in your System Folder. If you have a PowerMac, drop the WinMac icon into your Extensions folder (which is in your System Folder). Then restart your computer so that the computer is re-initialized. Finally, to start the database, simply click on the icon for the database which appears on the CD-ROM. This completes the installation" (Intelex User's Guide, p. 7).
Actually, this is the Macintosh installation version and Macs are often fussy. For users with Windows, bringing the Past Masters CD-ROM into being simply requires that you slide in your CD and click on your Run command and it is done. Once physically manifest before your eyes the splendor of the thing is revealed. The contents can be browsed with ease: option buttons numbered from 1 to 9 offer varying routes to the contents. Button 2, for example, will display the volumes from 1-7 with the respective dates of inclusion; volume 6 reveals all Hardy's correspondence from 1920-1925 and if you then click on the "+" icon each date from 1920-1925 displays separately. Then, if you click on the "+" next to the year of your choice, say 1925, the calendar months pop on your screen, whereupon you choose August, say, with the vague recollection that Hardy wrote a letter to Harold Macmillan about copyright at this time, and sure enough, up comes Harold Macmillan's name and with one click on his name, the letter itself. It looks like this:
To HAROLD MACMILLAN
MAX GATE, | DORCHESTER. | August 5th. 1925.
Dear Mr Macmillan:
In respect of your inquiry this morning on copyrighting the poems in the United States I think it best to do so, as your New York firm suggest. I understand that all my verse is increasing in circulation in America, which makes the point rather more important than it was.
Yours very sincerely,
Thomas Hardy. [End Page 312]
In short, the physical appearance of this letter on CD-ROM faithfully replicates its original publication in the Purdy/Millgate book even to the "End Matter" which tells us that the original was typewritten and that it was sent in response to the proposal of Macmillan New York that they copyright Hardy's new volume of poems instead of simply buying copies of the English edition.
I am now beginning to be curious about Hardy's attitude toward the copyright laws of his day. In the main he would have had to negotiate his own protective procedures since an artist's works were not, as today, protected for the lifetime of the creator and for...