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135 Some Recent Hardy Scholarship: A Review-Article By Robert C. Schweik (State University of New York, Fredonia) Michael Millgate, Thomas Ha.rdy: His Career as a Novelist (Lond: The Bodley Head, 1971); Evelyn Hardy and F. B. Pinion, eds., One Rare Fair W ornan : Thomas Hardy s Letters to Florence Henniker Tg9"3-1922 (Lond: Macmillan, 1972) ; Merryn Williams, Thomas Ha.rdy and Rural England (Lond: Macmillan, 1972); and Perry Meisel, Thomas Hardy: The Return of the Repressed (New Haven: Yale UP, Õ 972). If the making of books on Hardy could properly be described as a kind of minor industry, it would be fair to continue the analogy hy observing that its greatest problem is not so much overproduction as decent quality control. The books cited above provide nearly the same range of excellencies and defects notable in a field that has been graced by the fine scholarship of works like those of Purdy and Rutland and subjected to abysmally amateurish productions like that of Lois Deacon. Taken together, they are very nearly a microcosm of the splendid and the absurd in Hardy scholarship, and of some of the many grades between. At one end of this scale stands Michael Millgate's Thomas Hardy: His Career as a Novelist, a work of exceptionally high scholarly merit. Indeed, it is a book so soundly done that it probably is at present the best single study of Hardy s fiction, and it is certainly one that might be confidently recommended to anyone wishing a thoroughly reliable and carefully balanced estimate of Hardy's achievement as a novelist. The arrangement adopted by Professor Millgate to trace Hardy s development is a series of chapters devoted to individual novels in chronological order, interspersed with chapters dealing with other matters important in the development of Hardy's fiction but, for one reason or another, more suitably treated separately. As a result, the discussions of the individual novels are uncluttered and focus sharply on the place of each in Hardy s career as a novelist, while the intervening chapters, on topics like "The Genesis of Wessex" and "The Uses of a Regional Past," are fresh studies of the subjects they treat and reveal (as do the discussions of the novels themselves) the enormous range of Professor Millgate's research. There is, moreover, little wasted space in this book of more than four hundred pages - none of the plot summarizing, for example, that takes up so much space in J. I. M. Stewart's much slimmer Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography - and its documentation is certainly as full as one might wish. Of course Professor Millgate often draws upon the insights of other scholars and repeats some well known critical judgments when these seem right to him, but it is precisely this disinterested and unpretentious concern for stating what is the case (and duly crediting the observation to Ian Gregor, Irving Howe, John Holloway, or whomever, when that is required) that is one of the special merits of this book. It would seem captious to 136 criticize Millgate for what is no more than a. kind of scholarly sanity and honesty, but, of course, it will be done. There is an almost irresistible temptation to make comparisons - to lament, perhaps, that Professor Millgate's book lacks the suggestiveness and critical brilliance of, say, Albert Guerard's, and that is true enough; but such brilliance as Guerard's is purchased at the high price of throwing out ideas which seem at first striking (and remain memorable) but which often disappointingly collapse on closer inspection, and the great strength of Professor Millgate's book, I think, is precisely that it is so judiciously sound and carefully considered that its judgments will more surely stand. This is not to imply, however, that Professor Millgate's book lacks originality. In his searching review of the available evidence - Hardy's manuscripts and typescripts, letters, related correspondence, reviews, scattered copies from Handys library, and a truly impressive range of other primary and secondary materials - Professor Millgate has turned up much new information which he has brought to bear on the topics he discusses, and there is throughout the book evidence of his...


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pp. 135-141
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