Thomas Hardy and the Victorian School Mistress by Dr Jonathan Godshaw Memel

Kate Hardy (front left) with other teachers © DCM

Kate Hardy (front left) with other teachers © DCM

‘… she had altogether the air of a woman clipped and pruned by severe discipline, an under-brightness shining through from the depths which that discipline had not yet been able to reach.’

(Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure)

This description of Sue Bridehead during her brief time at college suggests the restrictive character of nineteenth-century teacher training. The two-year programme at Salisbury enforced standards of ‘humble femininity’ while preparing women from various social backgrounds for a vocation in the elementary schools.

Hardy’s sisters, Mary and Katharine (generally known as Kate), attended college at Salisbury while his cousin, Tryphena Sparks, trained at Stockwell.  As schoolmistresses their profession enabled greater independence from the pressure to marry, but their personal freedom was severely restricted during the process of qualifying. Trainee teachers were required to carry out extensive chores and study for long hours and their food portions were meagre. They were also subject to continual surveillance, while their choice of dress was restricted.

In this talk Dr Memel will consider representations of the work and training of female teachers in Hardy’s fiction, showing how the experiences of his female relations inspired acts of solidarity and resistance in his writing.

The forthcoming lecture will take place on Thursday 2 March 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

Next Literary Lives talks:

  • Thursday 25th May, Hardy and Poetry of Encounter by Philip Mallett
  • Thursday 27th July, Mr Hardy and Mrs Henniker – an Enduring Friendship by Helen Angear
  • Thursday 14th September, The Infants’ Grammar by Dr Alan Chedzoy
  • Thursday 26th October, Hardy and Sex Education by Dr Karin Koeler

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Thomas Hardy and Education by Dr. Jonathan Godshaw Memel

Thomas Hardy's First School, Lower Bockhampton, Dorset

Thomas Hardy’s First School, Lower Bockhampton, Dorset

In his autobiography, Thomas Hardy remembers himself as an ‘apt pupil who galloped unconcernedly over the ordinary school lessons’ and a ‘born bookworm’ who learnt to read ‘almost before he could walk’. Education provided Hardy with the means to enter a profession and allowed his unmarried sisters, Mary and Kate, to live independent lives as schoolmistresses.

In this talk Dr. Jonathan Godshaw Memel will explore the ways in which Thomas Hardy’s fiction draws on these experiences, examining his treatment of residential training colleges, an ancient university and newly-built elementary schools. Hardy’s criticisms of the Victorian education system are also considered.

This talk is part of a series of four evening lectures organised by the Hardy Country project. A collaboration between the Dorset County Museum, the National Trust, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Thomas Hardy Society, Bath Spa University and the University of Exeter, to promote knowledge and understanding of Thomas Hardy and his works.

The forthcoming lecture will take place 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

Next talks:

  • Thursday 26th May, Emma Lavinia: The First Mrs Hardy with Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah.
  • Thursday 30th June, Thomas Hardy and Folksong by Dr. Peter Robson
  • Thursday 3rd November, The influnence of Hardy on the Cornish Poet, Jack Clemo

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Hardy, Wessex and the Poetry of War by Phillip Mallett

Phillip MallettOn Thursday 29th October at the Dorset County Museum Professor Phillip Mallett of St Andrews University is giving a talk entitled ‘Hardy, Wessex and the Poetry of War’. Doors open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start.

Boer War‘Few persons are more martial than I,’ wrote Thomas Hardy, ‘or like better to write of war in prose & rhyme.’

The war in South Africa, 1899-1902, divided British opinion more deeply than any previous war had done; it began with defeats, and ended with concentration camps and a scorched earth policy. This talk traces Hardy’s response to the war, to military values, and to the impact of war on enlisted men and civilians.

This FREE talk is open to all. To cover costs, a small donation of £3.00 is encouraged. The talk will take place in the Museum’s Victorian Gallery.

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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Thomas Hardy Public Talks Explore the Life and Work Behind Far From the Madding Crowd

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene in the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From Madding Crowd – Fox Searchlight Pictures © 2015

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene in the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From Madding Crowd – Fox Searchlight Pictures © 2015

Thomas Hardy is one of the West Country’s most famous writers. His novels, including Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, are internationally renowned and have inspired numerous television and film adaptions, most recently Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) starring Carey Mulligan. A series of public talks exploring his life and work opens at the Dorset County Museum this Thursday evening 30th April at 7.00pm.

As part of a project to promote knowledge and understanding of Hardy, Professor Angelique Richardson of the University of Exeter is organising this series in collaboration with the National Trust and Dorset County Museum. Although Hardy is most commonly known to the public through his novels, the talks will provide further contexts for his work.
The series of four evening lectures is part of the larger Hardy Country project, which includes Dorset County Museum, the National Trust, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Thomas Hardy Society, Bath Spa University and the University of Exeter.

Prof. Keith Wilson, University of Ottawa

Prof. Keith Wilson, University of Ottawa

The 2015 series begins on Thursday with a talk by Professor Keith Wilson entitled ‘What Tess meant to Hardy, and why’, exploring Hardy’s special relationship with both the character and the book, Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Author of Thomas Hardy on Stage (1995), Professor Wilson is a leading Hardy scholar, who recently co-edited the latest volume of Hardy’s Collected Letters.

The series aim to show the strong connections between the Dorset writer and the local area. According to Professor Richardson, there is much more that we can learn about Hardy’s connections with the Southwest. She explained: “Hardy returned to the Southwest as he thought his writing became mechanical and ordinary in London, and he wanted to be among the people he was writing about, In his own words, ‘I find it a great advantage to be actually among the people described at the time of describing them.”

She added: “He was a frequent visitor to Devon -by train from Cornwall, and by bicycle and eventually motorcar from Dorchester. It was his ‘next county’, ‘lower Wessex’ in his ‘partly real, partly dream country’. Various places in Devon appear disguised to varying degrees in his fiction and poetry. Hardy’s first wife, Emma, who was born in Plymouth, wrote in 1911 ‘no county has ever been taken to my heart like that one: its loveliness of place, its gentleness, and the generosity of the people are deeply impressed upon my memory.’”

On Thursday 28th May Professor Richardson will deliver a talk titled “Hardy and the New Science”, focusing on connections between Hardy’s writing and Victorian biology. Professor Richardson’s talk will reveal the extent to which Hardy engaged with contemporary biological and medical ideas, exploring these in his fiction. They included some of the most hotly contested topics of the day from connections between mind and matter to the relation of men and women and questions of environment and heredity.

The forthcoming lectures will take place in the Dorset County Museum Victorian Gallery and are open, free-of-charge, to the public (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 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

  • Thursday 30th April, Professor Keith Wilson, University of Ottawa, ‘What Tess meant to Hardy, and why’.
  • Thursday 28th May, Professor Angelique Richardson, University of Exeter, ‘Hardy and the New Science’.
  • Thursday 30th July, Professor Ann Heilmann, Cardiff University, ‘Hardy, Women and Marriage’.
  • Thursday 29th October, Phillip Mallett, University of St Andrews, ‘Hardy, Wessex and the Poetry of War’.

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What Tess meant to Hardy and Why by Prof. Keith Wilson

‘Tess flung herself down upon the undergrowth of rustling spear-grass as upon a bed’.  A Herkomer illustration for the Graphic serialization of Tess, December 1891.

‘Tess flung herself down upon the undergrowth of rustling spear-grass as upon a bed’.
A Herkomer illustration for the Graphic serialization of Tess, December 1891.

“I am so truly glad that Tess the Woman has won your affections. I, too, lost my heart to her as I went on with her history.”

Thus wrote Thomas Hardy to an old male friend, shortly after the publication of what was to become his most famous novel. What was it about Tess that provoked this unusually emotive response in her creator?

Why was Tess of the d’Urbervilles the novel to which Hardy’s thoughts so frequently returned, even through those years when he had long put the writing of fiction behind him?

This talk by Prof. Keith Wilson, University of Ottawa on Thursday 30th April, explores Hardy’s special relationship with both the character and the book, a relationship that may have contributed much to his eventual decision to turn from fiction to poetry.

This is the first in a series of four lectures about Thomas Hardy and is part of a larger project including the National Trust and the University of Exeter. It is hoped that the more academic nature of these lectures will provide the general public and lovers of Hardy’s novels with an increased connection to contemporary ideas about his work.

Entry to the talk is FREE but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book. Doors open at 7.00pm for 7.30pm

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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