Literary Lives: Mr Hardy and Mrs Henniker – An Enduring Friendship in Letters by Helen Angear — Dorset County Museum

Thomas Hardy LettersCome and join us on Thursday 27 July 2017 at 7.30pm, for an interesting talk by Helen Angear who has been working on the Thomas Hardy Correspondence Archive at Dorset County Museum.

“It occurred to me the other day that this year completes the eighteenth of our friendship. That is rather good as between man and woman, which is usually so brittle” (Aug. 1911). So wrote Hardy to Florence Henniker, an aristocratic lady and fellow writer he met in 1893. Hardy’s comment might make you think of the 1989 film ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and the unresolved question of whether men and women can ever be ‘just friends’.

In fact, Hardy and Henniker’s platonic friendship lasted almost thirty years and both sides of their correspondence exist within the archive to tell the story. Henniker’s gift of an inkstand, sent in the post in 1893, can also be seen in Hardy’s study upstairs in the Museum. This talk examines the important role that letters played in their enduring friendship. I seek to dispel the assumption that this is simply a story of unrequited love and reveal how their dialogue provides an understanding of intimate, but non-marital, social bonds between the sexes at the turn of the century.

A selection of the letters will also be on display.

Helen Angear

Helen Angear

Helen Angear is an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award student at the University of Exeter, in collaboration with Dorset County Museum. She is working on the Hardy correspondence archive, and her PhD is called Thomas Hardy’s Correspondents: Proximity and Distance in Postal Communication’. Helen is also an Associate Lecturer at Exeter College.

The forthcoming lecture will take place on Thursday 27 July 2017 in the Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Hall and is FREE to the public; however a donation of £3 encouraged to cover costs. Doors open at 7.00pm and talks start at 7.30pm.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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New online resource to explore fashion in Thomas Hardy’s writing

Costumes worn by Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene, in the wedding scenes in the film. There is the smart dress and hat of the runaway wedding day, the gold striped silk dress and embroidered silk jacket of her homeward journey, and a dress worn at the wedding party. Jonathan North /DCM © 2015

Costumes worn by Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene, in the wedding scenes in the film. There is the smart dress and hat of the runaway wedding day, the gold striped silk dress and embroidered silk jacket of her homeward journey, and a dress worn at the wedding party. Jonathan North /DCM © 2015

The new film version of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd feeds into the ongoing fascination for fashion depicted in classic novels and their modern adaptations for TV and film. A new online facility has been developed by the University of Exeter and Dorset County Museum to catalogue references to clothing in Hardy’s writing and the time in which he lived.

The costumes worn by the actress Carey Mulligan, who stars as Bathsheba Everdene in the latest Far From the Madding Crowd production, will be on display at the Dorset County Museum until the 8 June and will provide an exciting compliment to the new online resource.

The ‘Thomas Hardy and Clothing’ project will highlight the importance of fashion in Hardy’s writing by providing references to clothing in his fiction, poetry, letters and biographies. It will also provide a greater understanding of the historical, social and political context in which Hardy wrote and lived.

Jonathan Godshaw Memel is a PhD student at the University of Exeter whose project, ‘Thomas Hardy and Education’, involves leading work on the prototype online resource alongside the University’s Hardy expert and Associate Professor of English, Angelique Richardson.

The significance of the project was explained by Professor Richardson. She said:”Dress is crucial in Hardy’s fiction for indicating a character’s profession, social and economic status or role, for bringing colour to local scenes, for expressing but often subverting custom and transgressing gender norms. Bathsheba flouts Victorian convention, not least dress code, by not riding side-saddle in the opening scenes of Far From the Madding Crowd, when she also allows her hat to fly off, in disregard for propriety: ‘It went over the hedge, I think’, she remarks. Clothing can also indicate moods, emotions and character. Bathsheba is often associated with the colour red, which signals her feistiness – she wears ‘a rather dashing velvet dress, carefully put on before a glass’; on another occasion Hardy points out ‘the red feather of her hat’. The database will show for the first time what such attire looked like and by whom it was worn.”

The project builds upon extensive research by Exeter students, who were instrumental in collating the references to clothing, later adding themes to the database.

Professor Richardson added:“As well as providing a useful resource to students, allowing them to connect their academic learning with historical objects, the online facility will raise a greater awareness of the significant archive and costume collections in the South West. Hardy enthusiasts from around the world will be able to view our research and add their thoughts.”

Memel’s enthusiasm for Hardy and the project is evident from the way in which the online resource developed. He said:“The widespread enthusiasm for Hardy’s writing and its depictions of clothing is clear from the response to recent exhibitions at the Dorset County Museum. We have been able to produce an educational resource that truly reflects such engagement by working closely with the museum’s curators and volunteers, enabling members of the public, researchers and students to learn more about Hardy’s life and work in and around Dorset, an area of outstanding natural beauty in the South West of England.”

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Hardy returns home

Far-from-the-Madding-Crowd-filmAt 34 years old, Thomas Hardy had his first literary success with Far from the Madding Crowd, penned in the tiny cob and thatch cottage in deepest Dorset where he was born. Nearly 150 years on, actress Carey Mulligan’s costumes from the new film adaptation of the book are bringing Hardy’s Cottage to life.

With the film on general release in cinemas in the UK and Ireland from 1st May, two of the costumes actress Carey Mulligan wore as Bathsheba Everdene are now on display in this National Trust cottage until 5th July.

Through the spring and summer, both Hardy’s Cottage and nearby Max Gate – where Hardy later lived and died – will be filled with the words and music of true Hardy country. Tim Laycock and the New Hardy Players will celebrate the work of Thomas Hardy, and this year some of the Players’ major claim to fame is as supporting artists in the new Far from the Madding Crowd film.

Howard and Alison Payton of the New Hardy Players now live in Dorset, and have a lifelong passion for Hardy. Howard appears in the new Far from the Madding Crowd as an Everdene farmer, and Alison as a farm worker.

At 15, Howard picked up the Far from the Madding Crowd book at school.

He said: “I was hooked from page one, and somehow Hardy dictated my life. Now 50 years on, I have come full circle. We farmed livestock and trained working collies, and here we are in Hardy Country, performing with the New Hardy Players, and with the added delight of being supporting actors in the Far from the Madding Crowd film.

“Hardy has been a huge influence. Many years ago, I even proposed to Alison with Gabriel Oak’s words to Bathsheba ‘…whenever you look up, there I shall be – and whenever I look up, there will be you.’ ”

Tim Laycock, performer in residence, explores Hardy’s love of poetry and ‘tuneful tunes’, and on 2nd May performs ‘Woodland Words’ with the New Hardy Players – with excerpts from scenes in Far from the Madding Crowd. These are at 1pm and 2.15pm, followed at 3.30pm by a ‘shearing supper’ at a table in front of the cottage.

Martin Stephen, National Trust Visitor Services Manager, said: “Hardy’s Cottage, Max Gate and the surrounding countryside were at the heart of Hardy’s life. As well as standing in the very rooms in the cottage where he grew up and wrote his first great works, you can wander through the rich woods and heathland from which he drew his inspiration.

“With the release of this major new film, we can bring both Hardy’s first and last homes to life with wonderful Wessex words and music, and give people the unique opportunity of seeing Bathsheba’s on-screen dresses for real.”

The Far from the Madding Crowd film tells the story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching wilfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor.

Hardy was hugely influenced by what he called his Wessex – ‘partly real, partly dream-county’. From the new Hardy’s Birthplace Visitor Centre, a joint project between the National Trust and Dorset County Council, walk in Hardy’s footsteps through Thorncombe Wood to the cottage, and out on to heathland.

These special places were engrained in the young Thomas Hardy’s mind and translated into his writing – including memories of walking the Roman road with his mother to Puddletown, which became Weatherby in Far from the Madding Crowd.

Sir Andrew Motion has always been hugely influenced by Hardy’s poems, and on Hardy’s birthday on 2nd June he’ll open a new ‘Writing Places’ season with a Hardy poetry reading and talk at Max Gate www.nationaltrust.org.uk/writingplaces

On the evenings of 9th and 10th July, the New Hardy Players will perform Hardy’s The Return of the Native in the garden of Max Gate. Booking recommended on 01305 266079.

For further details on Hardy’s Cottage and Max Gate and all the events visit

UNESCO recognition for Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy by Hubert Herkomer

Thomas Hardy by Hubert Herkomer

The Thomas Hardy Archive and Collection has recently been awarded inscription on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) ‘Memory of the World’ Register of Documentary Heritage. Awarded.

This prestigious status alongside such collections as the Churchill Archive and the Domesday Book, UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme works to celebrate and preserve documentary heritage and to improve awareness of the information that these collections contain. David Dawson, who is Chairman of the UK Memory of the World Committee, said the significance of Hardy’s works and the picture he was able to capture of his time and place meant the archive was fully deserving of its place on the register:

“It really is that picture of the late 19th Century and the way that life was changing. Hardy was talking primarily about Dorset but he also captured the spirit of change coming across Britain and had such an impact on literary works both nationally and internationally. It is for that reason it was such a privilege to be able to inscribe these archives on the UNESCO register.”

UNESCO The Thomas Hardy Archive and Collection

Helen Gibson and Jon Murden receiving the UNESCO Memory of the World inscription certificate from David Dawson, Chairman of the UK UNESCO Committee, at a special ceremony in Tamworth on Tuesday 9th July.

Recent donations to the Hardy Collection include two paintings, one by Hardy’s sister Mary, which is a portrait of their brother, Henry, and a small watercolour of ‘Egdon Heath’ by Emma Hardy. These have been generously given by relatives of the Hardy family. Professor Barrie Bullen, whose book launch was in the museum, has donated a copy of Thomas Hardy: the World of his Novels. We are grateful for these important additions to the collection. A talk about Tess of the d’Urbervilles and a detailed tour of the Hardy Gallery was requested for forty members of NADFAS who visited the museum from Romsey. Jennifer Young conducted the tours and Helen Gibson showed The Graphic of 1891 illustrated serialisation and other related items, including first editions and early stage dramatisations. Research continues to be undertaken by visiting scholars on subjects as diverse as natural history, music and dramatisations, cataloguing schemes of Hardy’s books, and the annotations and marginalia in his own hand.

Helen Gibson

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Launch of Hardy Country

Hardy CountryThursday 6th June 2013 sees the official launch of a major new project promoting the world of Thomas Hardy. “Hardy Country” is a brand new initiative from a group made up of Dorset County Museum, The National Trust, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Thomas Hardy Society, and Dorset County Council. They have been working together to make Hardy Country into an internationally recognised, high quality visitor destination.

The first stage in the delivery of this vision is to provide a firm link between the two Hardy properties (Hardy’s birthplace and Max Gate), Dorset County Museum (which houses the famous ‘Hardy Collection’) and Clouds Hill, former retreat of T. E. Lawrence. All are locations strongly associated with Hardy, his life and his novels and poetry and they come together here for the first time to make a co-ordinated visitor “offer”.

Accessed by a joint ticket costing just £20 (a saving of £6 on visiting all the locations separately), the project will inspire intellectual, emotional and physical engagement with the Dorset landscape and its cultural heritage. For the first time, Thomas Hardy will be properly placed within the landscape and historic built environment that surrounded him during his life. Tickets will be on sale at all four locations plus the Dorchester Tourist Information Centre from 6th June. More information is available from the website at www.hardycountry.org.

Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said, “If Hardy Country works well, we will look to develop the offer further by introducing walking and cycling trails, information about the properties and surrounding areas, and possibly shuttle buses or cycle hire between all the locations to help bring Hardy’s world alive to our visitors.”

There will also be an extensive educational programme to identify themes within Hardy’s work which are relevant today and make Hardy and his fellow writers more accessible to all age groups.

Sue Mitchell, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership and Chair of the Hardy Country Group said, “Thomas Hardy is a key part of our Dorset culture, he is all around us wherever we are in the county. We are so lucky to be able to go out into Hardy’s countryside, and still see many of the things which inspired and deeply influenced his writings.”

In a further boost to the project, Dorset County Museum have recently been advised that their Thomas Hardy Collection has become part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World – a catalogue of documentary heritage of global significance including the Magna Carta and the Mappa Mundi.

Hardy Country will be launched at approximately 7.00pm on Thursday 6th June following the launch of a new book on Hardy by J. B. Bullen, and before a talk by Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah about Hardy’s first wife, Emma, which starts at 7.30pm. Entry is FREE and everyone is welcome.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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