Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Squire Patrick's Lady" by Thomas Hardy and "The Novels of Thomas Hardy" by Virginia Woolf

"Squire Patrick's Lady" by Thomas Hardy (1890, 8 pages)

"The Novels of  Thomas Hardy" by Virginia Woolf  (10 pages   1928-essay)

Not to long ago I read and posted on one of Thomas Hardy's short stories, "The Withered Arm".      Of course it is a masterwork of the story teller's art.    I am currently reading my way through The March of Literature by Ford Madox Ford,  almost an encyclopedia of literature that only an awesome force of intellect like Ford could produce.    In The March of Literature Ford describes the work of Hardy (1840 to 1928-UK) as being like the root of a 400 year old tree.     Most days I am in the habit of checking to see what the short story of the day is on East of the Web: Short Stories.    A few days ago the story of the day (normally a story of a canon or near canon status writer) was "Squire Patrick's Lady" by Thomas Hardy.    

As you might expect from an author described as "like the root of a 400 year old tree" Hardy looks back to the Old Testament and the Greeks rather than forward to the moderns writers.   There is a lesson to be learned in this story about the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.    As the story opens the wife of Squire Patrick is dying.    She calls her husband to her side and says she has a lie in her heart that she must reveal to her husband before she passes.     There so much in this short story but I do not want to give away any of the plot line.   The language does somehow feel ancient even though Hardy was a contemporary of Joyce, Mansfield and Woolf.    It is a searing account of the corrosive effects of the class system, among other things.    I find it hard to imagine someone reading this story and not being glad they have done so.

Shortly after Hardy died Virginia Woolf wrote an essay about his work "The Novels of Thomas Hardy", which was  republished in The Common Reader, Series Two.    I have not found myself comfortable paraphrasing the essays of Woolf.   I have noticed most who have blogged on her essays pretty much just quote them.     Of course Woolf speaks in glowing terms of the work of Hardy.   I found her dividing up of literary artists into conscious and non conscious writers very interesting.     Hardy is among the non conscious creators who simply write what is in their heart without self-conscious artifice.  

Mel u


Suko said...

Interesting post, combining short reviews of Thomas Hardy and Virginia Woolf.

ds said...

Some people consider Thomas Hardy to be the first Modern novelist. He began in the Victorian age, wrote right through the Edwardian (Arnold Bennett & company, who are denounced by Woolf), and landed on the edge of Modernism completely unscathed. So yes, "unconscious" and forward-looking. I enjoyed the novels that I read (long ago) and Hardy's poetry, but I have never read any of his stories. Once again, you've added to my list, Mel! Thank you.

Mel u said...

Suko-thank as always

ds-I have read a few of his novels long ago-I hope to read some in 2011-and more stories once and a while-I recently got The Wessex Tales in a book trade-thank you for your as always very insightful comment-

Hannah said...

How funny! I never would have suspected that Woolf would like Hardy, perhaps because he is one of the non-conscious creators and she is so explicitly self-conscious. Or perhaps I've just not read enough yet. Lovely post that will keep me thinking this afternoon.

Mel u said...

LifetimeReader-I understand I think why you thought what you did-we do not normally think of Hardy as having the extreme refinement people see as belong to the world of Virginia Woolf-rightly or wrongly