The Influence of Hardy on the Cornish poet Jack Clemo by Dr. Luke Thompson

Jack Clemo

Jack Clemo. Heather Spears/ Luke Thompson © 2016

Jack Clemo (1916-94) was one of the most unusual poets of the twentieth century, a deaf-blind, syphilitic, self-proclaimed sex mystic who placed his God within the scarred landscape of the china clay mining country in Cornwall. 

But Clemo began his writing life as a novelist, intending his work to be ‘the Christian counterpart’ of Thomas Hardy’s.  Hardy’s influence on Clemo’s debut novel, Wilding Graft, is unmistakable, and it is an influence to which Clemo would return throughout his writing.

On Thursday 3rd November 2016 at 7.30pm (The Museum doors open at 7.00pm).         Dr Luke Thompson will explore Thomas Hardy’s role in Clemo’s life and work, in the poetic and novelistic influences, and in the role of fate and faith, reading from poems such as ‘Wessex and Lyonesse’ ‘Tryphena’ and ‘Max Gate’

Dr Luke Thompson is a writer, editor and academic from Cornwall, who has written the first full-length biography of the poet Jack Clemo, entitled Clay Phoenix (Ally Press, 2016).

The talk is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

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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Emma Lavinia: The First Mrs Hardy with Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah

Emma Hardy

Emma Hardy from the Dorset County Museum’s Hardy Collection © DCM

Drawing upon the writings and art work of Emma Hardy, Marilyn Leah and Helen Gibson will outline her early life in Plymouth and Cornwall, her romantic meeting and courtship with Thomas Hardy.

Hardy wrote: ‘She opened the door of the West to me ‘, and their romance began when Emma opened the door of St Juliot Rectory to the young architect who had arrived to work on the dilapidated church.  Both made sketches and began writing, using Cornwall as the settings of their novels.  Emma’s novella ‘The Maid on the Shore’ has never been published and extracts will be shared in this presentation.  Their honeymoon and travels in Europe are documented in Emma’s diaries, illustrated with thumb-nail sketches.

This illustrated talk will share the paintings and sketches by Emma Hardy, which are held in the Hardy Archive at the Dorset County Museum.

The lecture will take place on Thursday 26 May 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 for a 7.30pm start.

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

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

Thomas Hardy – A Dorset Novelist and Poet

Thomas Hardy - Dorset County Museum © 2013

Thomas Hardy – Dorset County Museum © 2013

Thomas Hardy was born on 2nd June, 1840, at Higher Bockhampton, a hamlet in the parish of Stinsford, some two and half miles east of Dorchester. The author’s grandfather, Thomas Hardy (the first), settled in Bockhampton in 1801, in a house which his father had built for him. By trade he was a master mason but his chief interest was music. On his arrival at his new home he set himself to organize the little band of musicians who not only provided the sacred music for the services in Stinsford Church but also performed when music was required at secular festivities in the neighbourhood – christenings, weddings and other social parties. In this he was assisted by his son Thomas (the second) who, after his father’s death in 1837, continued both to manage the family business and to direct the musical activities of the village.

Thomas Hardy (the second) married Jemima Hand and Thomas (the third and the subject of these notes) was the eldest child of a family of four. His mother was a woman of strong character and vigorous mind, but he seems more to have resembled his father in his quiet unassuming nature. From his father, too, he inherited his love of music and his abiding affection for the Dorset countryside.

As a small child he was very forward for his age and not over strong, but his health improved and at the age of eight he was sent to the village school. A year later, in 1849, he was sent as a day-boy to a private school in Dorchester where he was well grounded in Latin among other subjects. After school hours and in the holidays he often joined his father when playing at weddings and parties in the neighbourhood of his home. In 1856, when he was 16, Hardy was placed as a pupil with Mr. Hicks, an architect whose offices were at 39 South Street, Dorchester, and for the following six years the great interest of his life – ‘the three strands’, as he called them – were architecture, the study of the classics and his love of the countryside.

In 1862, at the age of 22, he went to London to extend his experience in architecture. He worked under Mr. (afterwards Sir) Arthur Blomfield in the Adelphi for six years, during which time poetry was his main interest. His first published prose article ‘How I built myself a House’ appeared in Chambers’ Journal in 1865, but his poems were invariable refused by the publishers to whom he sent them, although in later years he collected many of them in his volume of ‘Wessex Poems’.

Ill-health obliged Hardy to return to Dorchester in 1867 when he again joined Hicks. By this time he was bent on writing and his submission of the manuscript of a novel to Messrs. Chapman and Hall, the publishers led to his meeting with George Meredith who gave the young author advice on the technique of novel writing. The first novel of Hardy appeared later in a shortened and much modified form as a magazine story under the title of “An Indiscretion in the Life of an Heiress”.

On the death of Hicks, Hardy continued for a while with Mr. Crickmay, the successor to the practice. In the course of his professional duties Hardy was sent in March, 1870, to make surveys for the restoration of the church of St. Juliot, near Boscastle, in Cornwall. He was entertained at the rectory where he met the rector’s sister-in-law, Miss Emma Lavina Gifford, who was a few years later to become his first wife.

The restoration of St. Juliot’s was to be Hardy’s last architectural work of any importance. He returned to London where he devoted himself to writing, being able, however, to make occasional visits to Cornwall.

Hardy’s first published novel, ‘Desperate Remedies’, which appeared in 1871, was not a success. In spite of its discouraging reception he was persuaded to publish ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ in 1872, and this was well reviewed and received. Then followed ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’ as a serial story in Tinsley’s Magazine. In 1874 came Tar from the Madding Crowd’ as a serial story in the Cornhill Magazine. Its merits were at once recognised and it achieved great success.

In September, 1874, Hardy and Miss Gifford were married at St. Peter’s Church, Paddington, London. For a while they moved from place to place and they spent the summer and autumn of 1875 at Swanage where Hardy completed The Hand of Ethelberta’. The following year, after a short trip abroad in Holland and on the Rhine, they found what they had been seeking for some time — a country cottage. This was on the banks of the River Stour in the little Dorset market town of Sturminster Newton. Here they lived for two years —’our happiest time’ as Hardy later described it.

But Hardy decided that the practical side of his vocation as a novelist demanded that he should live in London. So, early in 1878, they moved to a house at Upper Tooting close to Wandsworth Common. For three years they lived here making many new friendships and finding time for a holiday trip to Normandy and occasional visits to Dorset.

With the publication of The Return of the Native’ in 1878 Hardy’s genius was fully recognised and for nearly twenty years he continued to write novels and short stories. In October, 1880, at the time when The Trumpet Major’ was published, Hardy was over taken by a severe illness which confined him to his bed for six months, during which time, however, he finished ‘The Laodicean’. Deciding to give up living permanently in London, the Hardys returned to Dorset in 1881 and took a house at Wimborne Minster. Two on a Tower’ was published the following year.

Thomas Hardy in his Study Dorset County Museum © 2013

Thomas Hardy in his Study Dorset County Museum © 2013

In 1883 they moved once again, this time to Dorchester, which was to be their home for the rest of their lives. Not finding a house to suit them Hardy purchased a plot of land a mile from the centre of the town, on the Wareham road, where he built Max Gate, named after the turnpike gate which formerly stood there. It was not, however, until June, 1885 that the house was finished and they were able to occupy it. While Max Gate was their permanent home, they frequently visited London and kept in touch with their many friends making also occasional trips abroad.

Thomas Hardy's study, as it was when he lived and worked at Max Gate. In the study is the largest collection in the world of Hardy's manuscripts, books from his library and some personal possesions.

Recontruction in the Dorset County Museum of Thomas Hardy’s study, as it was when he lived and worked at Max Gate. In the study is the largest collection in the world of Hardy’s manuscripts, books from his library and some personal possesions. Dorset County Museum © 2013

Hardy’s next novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge’, was published in 1886. Most of the scenes are laid in Dorchester and the manuscript of the book was presented to the Dorset County Museum by the author in 1911. The Woodlanders’ followed in 1887 and in 1891 ‘A Group of Noble Dames’. In the same year Hardy’s most famous novel ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ appeared. It came out first as a serial story in The Graphic’, in a garbled form to suit the conventional tastes of magazine readers and, later in the year, when it was published in book form it was received with a storm of hostile criticism as well as with praise. His last novel Jude the Obscure’ was published in 1895 and aroused almost as much controversy as Tess had done a few years before.

Hardy’s career as a writer of prose fiction was now at an end and he was able to devote himself to poetry, which he had in fact been writing at intervals from very early days. He published two collections of his earlier works – Wessex Poems’ in 1898 and Poems of the Past and Present’ in 1901, and then he set himself to the great work which he had had in mind for many years past. This was The Dynasts’, an epic of the tremendous historical events of the Napoleonic era. It was published in three successive parts which appeared in 1903, 1906 and 1908. It is Hardy’s greatest achievement and the fullest and most complete expression of his genius. In 1909 he published Time’s Laughing-stocks , a collection of poems, some of early years and some of recent composition.

In 1910 the Order of Merit was conferred upon him and in the same year he received an honour that especially pleased him, the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Dorchester. His genius was also recognised by honorary doctorates from the Universities of Aberdeen, Cambridge and Oxford.

Hardy’s first wife died in 1912 and in 1914 he married Miss Florence Emily Dugdale who after his death wrote his life in two volumes —The Early Life of Thomas Hardy and The Later Years of Thomas Hardy’.

From time to time Hardy continued to publish volumes of verse. Satires of Circumstance’ appeared in 1914; ‘Moments of Vision’ in 1917, ‘Late Lyrics and Earlier m 1922 and ‘Human Shows’ and ‘Far Fantasies’ in 1925. His last volume of verse Winter Words was not published until 1928, after his death. In 1923 was published The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall’, a version of the old mummers’ play.

As the years drew on Hardy’s days were spent more and more in retirement. He seldom left the peace of Max Gate, although he retained a keen interest in events both in the outer world and particularly in Dorchester. He attended from time to time the performances of dramatised passages from his works given by the Hardy Players, a company of talented and enthusiastic amateurs in Dorchester. His eightieth birthday, on 2nd June, 1920 brought many messages of congratulation from all over the country and a deputation from the Society of Authors brought a birthday gift.

Thomas Hardy's Grave, St. Michael's Churchyard, Stinsford - Dorset County Museum © 2013

Thomas Hardy’s Grave, St. Michael’s Churchyard, Stinsford – Dorset County Museum © 2013

In July 1923 H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VIII, who was visiting Dorchester, lunched informally with the Hardys at Max Gate. Hardy’s last public appearance was in July, 1927, when he laid the foundation stone of the new buildings of the Dorchester Grammar School of which he had been for many years a Governor.

Hardy died at Max Gate on 11th January, 1928. His ashes were laid to rest in Westminster Abbey , but his heart was buried in the little churchyard at Stinsford, close to the graves of his father and mother and other relatives.

Hardy is commemorated by a stone memorial at Higher Bockhampton – his birthplace – raised by some of his American admirers and by the statue by Eric Kennington in Colliton Walk, Dorchester.

Many rare and intriguing objects from the world’s finest Thomas Hardy collection are on show in the Dorset County Museum’s Writers’ Gallery

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