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174 MICHAEL KIRKHAM new meanings from works apparently deadened by the contemporary bombardment of glib critical comment. There is, moveover, a pulsing urgency about his writing that impresses even when it does not convince - an almost Lawrentian vitality that puts most scholarly work to shame. I suppose there is no one else living with the requisite background, knowledge and literary discipline to write this book. After all the angry protestations, the shocked indignation, the furious annotations in the margins, the honest reader will end - not too ungraciously, I hope - in acknowledging The Country and the City as invaluable. C W.J.KEITH) HARDY AND THE HARDY TRADITION' Some years ago Philip Larkin posted a notice in the Critical Quarterly (Summer 1966) - Wanted: Good Hardy Critic.' As far as the poetry was concerned, this sounded the appropriate note. There were, of course, pages of useful criticism here and there, and Larkin should have mentioned as an exception the very 6ne chapter in the late Douglas Brown's general study of Hardy, but by and large it was true to say that no critic had taken the full measure of Hardy's poetry. It has received more attention in recent years, but in essentials the situation has not changed. Now we have in the same year two volumes, with Donald Davie's name on them, speci6cally designed, it seems, to disturb the routines of Hardy criticism. The 6rst is the Thomas Hardy Special Issue' which, contributing an essay bimself, he edited for Agenda; the second is a study of Thomas Hardy and British Poetry. Both contain valuable, innovative criticism; they should encourage a more imaginative reading of the poems, but I do not yet 6nd in them the ideal candidate for the position advertised by Larkin. I want to attempt some discrimination between the various approaches and interpretations offered by these critics and to compare their accounts in certain respects with my own. By far the largest part of this review is taken up with points of disagreement, but this, I hope, is in the interests of Hardy criticism. It may, however, leave a wrong impression, and I should make it clear that I hold Davie's critical work in high esteem. He is one of the most serious critics writing in the English 'moral' tradition, a tradition whose virtue is to empha· size, and devise ways of investigating, the continuity between literature and the quality of life lived individually and socially. At least 6ve of the Agenda essays I have found stimulating. One gets no mention at all, Mrs Drew Cox's 'The Poet and the Architect'; and Davie's own highly original study, 'Hardy's Virgilian Purples' is drawn into the review only that I might dispute his interpretation of 'At Castle Boterel.' Though my views are sharply at variance with "'Donald Davie, 'Thomas Hardy Special Issue,' Agenda x 2-3 CSpring-Summer 1972). Thomas Hardy and British Poetry. London, Oxford University Press 1972. Pp. 192. $6.95 liARDY AND THE HARDY TRADITION' 175 those of Richard Swigg and William H. Pritchard, my disagreements are of the sort to arise out of a sense of being challenged. By Thorn Gunn's excellent 'Hardy and the Ballads' I am entirely persuaded; it seems to me to set a standard by which to measure the value of the other contributions. To be fair to Davie, it should be explained that his book is not principally about Hardy, nor even, as the title might suggest, his influence. He does not aim at literary history; but there are two chapters on Hardy, and I have to say that they do not probe very deeply into the character of his poetry. Davie writes with least distinction, in fact, about those poems in which in his opinion Hardy 'excels himself.' Whereas the novelties in his interpretation occasionally strain credulity, what strikes one as apt and just in his comments and of course well said (Davie, as always, writes with elegance and lucidity) is, conversely, not very surprising. That Hardy's best poems owe something to a calculated asymmetry of pattern and metre is generally - indeed I would say too easily accepted . And I think we knew...


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