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250 discusses with similar dispatch. Professor Boxill's study is a welcome addition to works on Shaw, but It is rather thin In places, and in time Its arguments are like. Iy to be incorporated Into more definitive works. California State Polytechnic College James M. Ware Pomona 4. THE CRITICAL TRADITION AND THE PERSONAL VOICE. Kenneth Marsden. The Poems of Thomas Hardy: A Critical Introduction . Lond: Athlone; NY: Oxford, 1969. $7.00. We now have a trio of critical books on Hardy's poetry: James Granville Southworth's The Poetry of Thomas Hardy (NT, 1947), an elaborate categorization marred by Its author's temperamental incompatibility with Hardy; Samuel Hynes' The Pattern of Hardy's Poetry (Chapel Hill, 1961), an attractive synthesis, but limiting and somewhat captious; and the most recent, Kenneth Marsden's The Poems of Thomas Hardy: A Critical Introduction. There is an Important progression of attitudes in these three books, and Marsden 's work comes as something of a summary of the views which have replaced Southworth's and modified Hynes' In the last few years. Similarly, his tolerance for both Hardy's faults and his graces gives this study a range and authority conspicuously absent from the earlier two. The focus of the book is two-fold: the curiously uncertain status of Hardy's reputation as a poet, and the "intensely personal" quality of the verse itself. Marsden argues convincingly that the two phenomena are related, that Hardy'a verse has been undervalued or ignored because the personal nature of the poetry has not had a happy time with the largely impersonal, objective thrust of twentieth-century criticism. Hardy's poetic persona, he suggests, demands a personal response from a reader, and the response from modern critlcshas been absent, or negative, or at best grudging. Only by avoiding a doctrinaire kind of critical arrogance, he maintains, can we hope to learn "what kind" of poet Hardy is, and only by a sensitive and sympathetic approach can we "see how the personal vision rises into the common" In the poems. The chapter on Hardy's philosophy is appropriately slight. It outlines the familiar tenets of his thought - the non-sentient cosmic force, the accidental and unfortunate growth of human consciousness - and argues that critical and philosophical intolerance, the attitudes which have dominated discussion of Hardy's thought, will yield only disappointment. Hardy's ideas, Marsden maintains, are entitled, "If not to a willing suspension of disbelief, at least to a little preliminary goodwill." The discussion of Hardy's habits of composition Is perhaps the most significant contribution of the book. It is based upon the remarkably simple observation 251 that Hardy, like Wordsworth, worked primarily from remembered experience. From this well-argued premise there follow numerous explanations about the nature of Hardy's poetry. The carefully etched detail of many poems, for example, is seen to be a function of his fidelity to the experience at the back of the poem. Similarly , the large number of trivial versified anecdotes seems to be a product of his habit of working from memory. The habit, Marsden maintains, caused Hardy to see his "plentiful stock of trivia" as a uniformly serviceable source of poetry. Finally, the sense of vagueness which obtains in some poems - frequently the overtly philosophic ones - may be traced to their not being based, as a rule, upon a precisely remembered experience. Marsden argues that Hardy's frequent claims to dramatic or "impersonatlve" writing were a transparent effort to shift responsibility for his views to the unspecific "I" of his narrators. Even those few poems in which he succeeds in creating a credible dramatic narrator are not really so dramatic as they are reminiscent. They do not so much create a character as recreate an experience from memory. Marsden agrees with Hynes that the basic structural pattern of Hardy's verse Is the antinomlal "thesis-antithesis." He disagrees with critics who hold that Hardy was a bold innovator In the use of poetic form. Such a position simply will not bear examination and should be "consciously and explicitly abandoned." While Hardy's verse evidences an immense variety of forms, they are almost entirely the traditional ones. His primary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 250-252
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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