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494 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Letters of Emmn and Florence Hardy. Edited by Michael Millgate Clarendon Press 19<}6. xxv, 364. ~6.95 'Max Gate seems more beautiful than ever. I feel sorry that a home which has taken over fifty years to build up must so soon be broken up but it is inevitable.' These words from Florence Emily Hardy's last known letter were written on 30 August 1937, little more than six weeks before her death. They are a poignant epitaph not only for her own sad and anxious life but also for the whole Max Gate story, and its central characters: Thomas Hardy, the last great Victorian novelist and poet, Emma Lavinia Hardy (nee Gifford), his first wife, and Florence Hardy (nee Dugdale), the woman thirty-eight years his jWlior whom he married in February 1914, fifteen months after Emma's death. With the exception of two fragments from Erruna's early correspondence, all the letters in this selection postdate by many years Hardy's 1885 move into Max Gate. Even Florence-'s earlier letters, written from her parents' home in Enfield, are already beginning to be imbued with the spirit of the house over which she would later preside. Michael Millgate's seven-volume edition of Hardy's Collected Letters (1978-88), his Thomas Hardy: A Biography (1982), and his edition of The Life and Work ofThomas Hardy (1985), the recovery of the original version of the autobiography published in heavily revised form under Florence's name after Hardy's death, have transformed Hardy biographical scholarship over the last twenty years. To these is now added this intriguing selection of his wives'letters. There is an inevitably voyeuristic element in admission to the secrets of private letters, particularly those of correspondents who were as scrupulous about the divisions between private and public life as the Hardys. The nature of Hardy's own letters was influenced by his innate reserve and early recognition of the likelihood that as his reputation grew letters would become valued, and hence potentially public, documents. Both Emma and Florence were constitutionally less cautious, with at the best of times much less capacity for self-restraint. In their different ways both lived disappointed ljvesJ increasingly circumscribed by the claustrophobia of neurosis, and letter writing became a natural outlet for their very confused emotions. Surprisingly for a woman who, by the time she wrote most of the letters selected for inclusion here, had already attracted a reputation for a degree of eccentricity that bordered upon derangement, Emma Hardy emerges as the more appealing personality. Forthright in her views but kindly in her disposition towards most people except her husband and his relations, enthusiastic in the causes (among them animal welfare and women's suffrage) to which she was committed, she was a 'character' in that somewhat old-fashioned sense of the word. By contrast, it was in the confident self-definition upon which strong character is based thatFlorence HUMANITIES 495 was perhaps most lacking. Unlike the vitriol of the astonishing letter that Emma wrote to her sister-in-law Mary Hardy ('You are a witch-like creature & quite equal to any amount of evil-wishing & speaking - I can imagine you, & your mother & sister on your native heath raising a storm on a Walpurgis night'), Florence's insults are not delivered directly but conveyed in epistolary underhand. to mutual friends, who will in turn be judged to others behind their backs. When such incautious complaints are regretted, the regret seems engendered :r;nore by mere fear of discovery than any conspicuous sense of shame. . But if Florence emerges in these letters as more than a little duplicitous and self-pitying, she had much for which to pity herself. Plagued by poor health, anxious to protect a frail husband, some years older than her own father, from the invasions attendant upon his eminence, worried about her less economically secure sisters, cloistered in a gloomy house from which domestic and nursing responsibilities rarely allowed her to escape for any length of time, she seems an eerily appropriate companion for a man who marked his eighty-sixth birthday with the composition of a poem entitled rie Never Expected Much.' Both wives may well have expected rather more from marriage than it gave them, but one thing it gave both was access to a public world that on their own talents they would certainly not have entered. These letters provide a fascinating opportlillity to see aspects of that world, and of the man who opened it to them, through the eyes of two women who derived very palpable but equivocal benefits from it. They are an invaluable complement to Hardyfs own correspondence, and are presented with the same impeccable editorial skills that distinguished those earlier volumes. (KEITH WILSON) Robin P. Hoople. Distinguished Discord: Disconlim1ity and Pattern in the Critical Tradition of 'The Tum of the Screw' Bucknell University Press. 328. us$42.50 A century has passed since Henry James's The Turn of the Screw first appeared in 1898. Those hundred years have yielded an extraordinary volume of critical response to the novella. With a faith in 'the cumulative process of establishing meaning,' Robin P. Hoople sets out, in this booklength study, to review and synthesize the stages of Screw criticism, beginning with reviews that appeared at the time of its first publication, proceeding chronologically through the disputes of the middle part of the century, and merely 'tailing off into the late 1980s. The book provides a valuable, if finally truncated, introduction for scholars new to the currents and conflicts in the novella's critical tradition. Howeverf Hoople disappointingly withholds his own sustained, original contribution to the ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 494-495
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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