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BOOK REVIEHS 1. ANOTHER ACCOMPLISHED VOLUME OF HARDY'S LETTERS Richard Little Purdy and Michael Mlllgate, eds. The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Volume Three, 1902-1908. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982. $45.00 The strongly favorable general evaluation of Volume One of this edition, made by Robert C Schweik in this journal (22:1 [1979]), holds for Volume Three; in this interim review of the third of six anticipated volumes I wish to deal with more specific, even minute, sometimes incidental, matters, as I try to place the letters in this volume within the overall mosaic of Hardy's life as presented in recent biographies, and within the other volumes of his letters . To date Hardy's Letters has been a triumph of scholarship, with impeccable accuracy and unobtrusive but thorough annotation (in Volume III, I noted only five probable typos and one editorial error [the price of the 1902 Pocket Edition: only its leather-bound volumes cost 3/6 each, the cloth volumes being priced at 2/6]). The correspondence published so far has been relatively disappointing in substance —obviously not a fault to be laid to the editors or publishers, but a testimony to the efficiency with which Hardy and his heirs destroyed papers before and after his death or, which is equally likely, to the character of the man who wrote the letters. Hardy seems not to have been a person who revealed himself in correspondence ; rather, any self-revelations he made are in his creative works, masked by personae, characters, and presumably imaginary situations. The matter-of-factness of his letters to his wife—in the years covered by this volume in particular the two seem to be frequently apart, as Hardy goes to London by himself and Emma takes extended vacations in Calais—has for decades been adduced as evidence of the coolness in the relationship, but in fact that tone is Hardy's common manner in his letters: there are no outbreaks of passion or strong feeling, and scarcely any of intense interest in the subject being mentioned. He addresses his first cousin Nathaniel Sparks as "Dear N. Sparks" and signs himself "Yours very truly T. Hardy" (p. 38) and later he begins with "Dear Mr. Sparks" (p. 263). Such a manner could support the common theory that Hardy was ashamed of his rural relatives and tried to put distance between them and himself, a theory that seems to be underscored by the relative warmth shown when writing to his friend Edmund Gosse ("My dear Gosse"; "Always sincerely Thomas Hardy" [p. 68]) or his women friends (to Mrs. Henniker: "My dear friend" and "Yours ever affectly" [p. 316]). He also signs his letters to Emma, occasionally, as "Ever affly" (p. 69), although his more frequent form with her is simply "Yours" or even "Yrs." More telling than devices in opening and closing letters is that his letters to Emma frequently are chatty, with details about their cats, repairs being made at Max Gate, arrangements for acccommodations in London for their stays there, and advice on Emma's activities while in Calais. One can deduce firmly neither lack of affection, nor affection too deep for words, from such letters. The forthcoming Volume IV should be of great value on this point, assuming that IV will take the letters past Emma's death in 1912 into the times when Hardy was writing the poignant and bittersweet "Poems of 1912-13," presumably feeling deeply the loss of her who at least once had been beloved. One of the other standard biographical judgments of Hardy is that he was devoted to and 200 dependent upon his mother Jemima (see Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography [New York: Random House, 1982], pp. 22-23, et passim)] but from the letters in this volume mentioning his mother's death one would not ascribe anything approaching neurotic attachment (see pp. 118 ff) . Indeed, the letter about his mother's death which seems most to express himself, that to Edward Clodd (pp. 119-20), has also the tone of wry self-reference as well as a straining to find things to say, both of which are more characteristic of letters that one is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 200-202
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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