hardy in letters


The Hardys’ deep, bleak despair at the First World War runs through the collection, “its sinister shadow defiling everything”, Hardy lamented in 1916; six years later Florence remarked, “we feel now that nothing can be the same as it was before the war”. Hardy observed in his autobiography, “nobody was more amazed than he at the German incursion into Belgium, and the contemplation of it led him to despair of the world’s history thenceforward”. But for the sake of the defenceless Belgians he rallied to the public campaign of recruitment, and in November 1914, we see in Further letters, he wrote to Kitchener, now Secretary of State for War, on how music (“‘beating up’ through the streets of towns, with a band of fifes and side-drums”) might rouse the spirit to valour as it had in centuries past. In another new letter, Florence records that when “three delightful young American soldiers” made their way to Max Gate in the final months of conflict, “[Hardy] was much struck by their high ideals & the lofty view they took of their participation in the war”. The volume also provides late letters on the barbarity of cruel sports, on singing birds, on the meaning of Dorset words (for a Japanese translator), on Hardy’s support for a multi-volume English translation of Tolstoy’s works, and (to the pioneering electrical engineer Colonel Crompton), his sense that “Electricity & all its strange phenomena” were beyond him; “what it may bring about in the future I have no idea of”.

more from Angelique Richardson at the TLS here.