Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

THE

SEWANEE REVIEW

9958%

A QUARTERLY JOURNAL

REV. TELFAIR HODGSON, D.D., LL.D.,

MANAGING EDITOR

SEWANEE, TENNESSEE

1892-1893

434

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

IT

Tess of the D'Urbervilles, a Pure Woman Faithfully Presented, by Thomas
Hardy, author of “A Group of Noble Dames," "The Woodlanders,” etc.
New York: Harper & Brothers. 1892.
T has become quite the fashion of late years to make

elaborate studies of the writings of living authors. Formerly it was considered proper to let a man become a classic, or, at least, to let him die, before giving him the honor of a commentary. Patrick Hume waited until Milton had been dead twenty-one years before he published his three hundred folio pages of notes on Paradise Lost; but Mr. Ruskin, Mr. Browning, and Mr. George Meredith have more than once seen their names on the backs of thick volumes of which they were not the authors. Two of them have even seen societies founded for the express purpose of studying their works and perpetuating their fame before death had cut short the works or time had had a chance to claim as notoriety what eternity might not be very anxious to battle for as fame.

Reasons for the change herein involved are not far to seek. In the first place, literature, as a profession, fills a larger space in the world's regard than it ever did before; for as civilization becomes less romantic and picturesque, as the stage for the brilliant soldier, sailor, diplomat, and traveller narrows, as society becomes morbid and introspective, the author, and along with him, the plastic artist and the actor, become more and more objects of popular interest, perhaps,

of popular affection. In the second place, the rise of the magazine and the newspaper has given criticism of contemporaries a position and power which the painphleteers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could never have won with their spasmodic though able productions. The "reviewer” has, from the nature of things, been compelled to deal with contemporaries as well as with classics, and in spite of the hysterics of Shelley and the young lady novelists he has, on the whole, wielded his power fairly. But from an elaborate review of a single volume to an exhaustive essay or treatise on the entire works of a living author, nay even to a society founded in his honor, is but a short and natural step in evolution.

There are some persons, however, who are shocked at evolution whether it occur in nature, or in theology, or in politics, or in literature. It may be well to explain, therefore, that the evolution under discussion can have done little harm to authors great enough for calm self-criticism, and that, if it has harmed inferior authors, posterity, for very obvious reasons, is not likely to suffer. It is furthermore true that fair criticism by contemporaries must do good by encouraging writers of talents and by causing them to concentrate their energies on special fields where their work will tell, as well as by introducing them to appreciative readers who would not otherwise be attracted to them. Perhaps this last fact is the chief reason why a sympathetic study of the writings of a living author has an unmistakable value. When such a study is the result of love and enthusiasm, when it belongs. to what we may well call missionary criticism, that is the criticism which seeks to lay before others that which has charmed, inspired, transformed the critic himself, then such a study is valuable not only because it may serve to bring author and reader together, but also because it is likely to have the positive value which belongs to creative literature. If the following study be found to possess any such value we shall be more than satisfied.

As there is always a more or less intimate connection be

tween an author's works and his life and environment, it will be proper to give here a short sketch of Mr. Hardy's life, uneventful as it seems to have been. Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset on June 2, 1840. He was educated in his native county until he was seventeen, when he was articled as pupil to an ecclesiastical architect residing in the county town. He spent the four years of his apprenticeship as much in studying the classics and theology as in mastering his profession. He was assisted in these studies by the sympathy of two friends of kindred tastes, and he has probably celebrated this intellectual cominunion in one of his novels, “A Pair of Blue Eyes.” On the expiration of his minority he went to London and allied himself with the modern school of Gothic artists, studying under Sir Arthur Bloomfield and also becoming a student of modern languages at Kings College. In 1863 he received the prize and medal of the Institute of British Architects for his essay on “Colored Brick and Terra Cotta Architecture," as well as Sir W. Tite's prize for architectural design. He resided in London until 1867, when he probably went abroad. How he spent his time, except in writing poetry which is still in manuscript, remains uncertain. It may be remarked that definite information on the point is not at all necessary to convince a careful reader of Mr. Hardy's novels that their author must at some time or other have written poetry. No man with Mr. Hardy's imagination and his wonderful command of striking figures and pregnant phrases could have refrained from endeavoring

“Himself to sing and build the lofty rhyme." During his second residence in London (1870–72) Mr. Hardy undertook to write his first novel. Upon its completion it was published anonymously, in 1871, under the title of “Desperate Remedies.” It seems to have been equally praised and blamed, but its author was encouraged to follow it up the next year with a prose idyl of rural life entitled

One authority says Devonshire.

« ForrigeFortsæt »