A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 20 March 2009

So Various

I'll end this 9-post riff on Hardy with some quotations I jotted down while reading Claire Tomalin's terrific biography Thomas Hardy:The Time-Torn Man.

The wounds inflicted by life never quite healed in Hardy. Humiliation, rejection, condescension, failure and loss of love remained so close to the skin that the scars bled again at the slightest occasion. This is why many of his poems return to the griefs of the past. It is also why the rage that appears in his last novel, Jude The Obscure, was fuelled in the 1890s by the anger he felt in the 1860s.

The shifting feelings in a marriage, and in a family, are as complex and unpredictable as cloud formations.

Looking at the expensively dressed ladies at an evening party, he [Hardy] famously asked himself, 'If put into rough wrappers in a turnip-field, where would their beauty be?'
Hardy took some of his pessimism from Schopenhauer, who saw the world as malignant, God and immortality as illusions, and the extinction of the human race through chastity as an end to be sought: best of all not to be born. Yet he [Hardy] was always too imaginative to follow any one philosopher.

Here she [Tess] is reviving after disaster: 'some spirit within her rose automatically as the sap in the twigs. It was unexpended youth, surging up anew after its temporary check, and bringing with it hope, and the invincible instinct towards self-delight.'
He [Hardy] was exact when he said a novel is not an argument but an impression, and this novel [Tess Of The D'Urbervilles] lives through its impressions of Tess and the landscapes through which she moves.

No one has ever claimed that the book [Tess Of The D'Urbervilles] is perfectly written or constructed, or without clumsiness, but it glows with the intensity of his [Hardy's] imagination; and Tess's capacity to arouse visceral distaste in some and profound affection and admiration in others is a measure of the sexual power he built into his heroine.

Leonard and Virginia Woolf paid a visit to Hardy in July 1926. Leonard Woolf wrote about the encounter: He is one of the few people who have left upon me the personal impression of greatness... He was a human being, not 'the great man'.

[The poem] So Various describes a man made up of contradictions, highly strung but also stiff and cold; a faithful lover but fickle too; pleased with his own cleverness but easily put down; always sad but cheerful company; cool to friends yet eager to please - all of course versions of himself.

(These posts have been a kind of blogging experiment in which I've tried to approach Hardy from all sorts of different perspectives - novels, poems, biography, philosophy, religion, romanticism, realism, nature, walking. No post was particularly preplanned. Each post just seemed to evolve spontaneously from the previous one - in the typical way of blogs. I hope something of my enthusiasm for Hardy has communicated; and if I've encouraged anyone to read or reread Hardy, that's great.)

(During my recent reading about Hardy I also jotted down all the adjectives I could find which were used to describe him by his family, friends and acquaintances. These are some of them: shy, introverted, kind, elusive, sphinx-like, ill-at-ease, depressive, private, lively, grey, self-possessed, unassuming, snobbish, mean, generous, unfathomable, quiet-mannered, curious, charming, unaffected, observant.)


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...


I've very much enjoyed your Hardy postings. Couldn't say so, however, as my internet service has been down since Thursday afternoon—though I was actually writing a comment on the two poems of the previous post in the little "comment box" when the line when down. (I'm not sure whether you ought to chalk that loss up to cruel fate or excellent luck.)

I will hate to see Hardy go, though.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment, Grizzled. I really enjoyed writing these posts! There are all sorts of possibilities with blogging, aren't there? So exciting.

Hardy has not gone forever. He will always be there, exerting influence - liminally lurking, like all the great writers and artists one's encountered in a profound way.

Loren said...

I've enjoyed your comments, too,sw.

Unfortunately, I find it nearly impossible to comment on your comments without becoming excessively wordy.

That tendency to wordiness should be obvious on my comments on my own site, I'm afraid.