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Book Reviews Briscoe, according to London, fails to attain the clarity and luminousness of vision that Woolf maintains that she does. Woolfs work is also marred, London contends, by her evasions (often sexual) in spite of her professed aim of "speaking out." London's revisionist interpretations are stimulating as they challenge received and traditional views of these authors and their works. In spite of her skills of analysis, I think that finally London does not quite see round the works she discusses. They are seen too narrowly. She sees the foreground trees clearly enough, but I am not sure that she always sees the forest of which they are parts. Frederick P. W. McDowell University of Iowa Hardy's Selected Letters Thomas Hardy: Selected Letters. Michael Millgate, ed. New York: Clarendon Press, 1990. 433 pp. $49.95 PROFESSOR MICHAEL MILLGATE has brought together in a skillfully edited and annotated single volume some three hundred of the multitude of letters that make up the seven-volume Collected Letters. Readers of the Letters know that though a great number of Hardy's letters are of interest only to Hardy specialists, many possess intrinsic interest because in them, as no where else, a major novelist and poet reveals himself as personality and as writer, and does so most openly, and memorably, when voicing his views of his own work and his anger with its critics. By selecting the best of Hardy's correspondence, Millgate has provided not just entertaining reading, but a basis for new insight into Hardy's sense of himself as writer. Millgate has made yet another invaluable contribution to Hardy studies, and we are much in his debt. Taken as a whole, Hardy's letters are deadly dull when read beside those of D. H. Lawrence, George Eliot, or Conrad, for example; Lawrence's can be painfully, even shockingly, personal, and Eliot's are often as cerebral as some of the most brain-wringing passages in Romola and Daniel Deronda; while Conrad's reveal—as do the letters of few other writers—the agony of his creative processes. Far from being dull, however, Hardy's best letters are distinctive for an angry deliberateness and harshness of thought quite unlike anything to be found in the letters of any of his contemporaries. Whether 329 ELT: Volume 34:3, 1991 writing of the inhumane manner in which cattle are transported to slaughter: "I hear them complaining in the railway trucks sometimes, & think what an unfortunate result it was that our race acquired the upper hand, & not a more kindly one, in the development of species" (13 Sept 1903); or writing to console H. Rider Haggard on the death of his young son: "Please give my kind regrets to Mrs. Haggard, & tell her how deeply our sympathy was with you both in your bereavement. Though to be candid, I think the death of a child is never really to be regretted, when one reflects on what he has escaped" (May 1891?); or stating his distrust of "metaphysic": "My shyness arises from my consciousness of its paternity—that it is a sort of bastard, begotten of science upon theology . . ." (3 April 1892). Hardy's intellectual and moral irritability, one unquestionable spur to his varied and long-lived creativity, is always evident. Behind Hardy's harshest anger one finds, always, his sensitivity to pain, not just the pain men and women inflict on animals, or the pain of loss and grief, but the pain of war, the pain of poverty, hunger and other forms of human suffering. However, even when growling over these grim realities, Hardy usually maintains a degree of detachment by dwelling on the irony, incongruity, or even humor in such things. One topic and one topic alone—reviewers' and critics' rejection of his work—repeatedly breaks through his detachment, and drives him beyond irony, and certainly beyond humor, into anguish over his dilemma as target of the malice, the stupidity, and, somewhat more poignantly, the unwillingness in his critics to meet him halfway. Millgate maps this life-long distress through his astute choice of topics under which to arrange letters in his index, e.g., Hardy's views on art, Hardy's sensitivity to criticism, Hardy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 329-334
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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