Reading his poetry on his terrain, perhaps in ‘Hardy’ font, affords an understanding of why Hardy thought prose was an inferior form.
There were several interesting things that I did not know about Thomas Hardy when I went for a wander around Casterbridge — Dorchester in southwest England, to you and me — on his 176th birthday last week.
I did not know Hardy made a remarkably quiet entry into this world by way of the middle bedroom in a thatched cottage — so quiet, in fact, that he was considered stillborn. I had no idea that he was exceptionally finicky about the pictures that accompanied his novels and sent sketches and detailed instructions to his illustrators on how his characters should look. I wasn’t aware that he often wrote on coarse off-white paper in black ink in a flowing hand that was a treat to look at but difficult to read, and that there’s now a ‘Hardy font’ available for download. I did not know he was credited with coining the term ‘cliffhanger’ by literally leaving a protagonist hanging off a cliff at the end of an instalment of A Pair of Blue Eyes for the Tinsley’s Magazine. And I did not know he wrote some exceptionally moving love poetry about his first wife after marrying his much-younger second wife at the age of 74.
But of all the things I did not know of Hardy and came to know only recently (and here’s a gory bit: his heart was cut out from his body to be buried with his first wife in the village cemetery, but the rest of him lies in London at the Poet’s Corner), what struck me as particularly interesting was his war poetry. Rather, the anti-war sentiments in his war poetry.
An early reminder that Anne Fletcher will be giving a presentation on First World War poetry at the Roundhouse on October 27.