Literary Lives: Thomas Hardy and the Victorian School Mistress by Dr Jonathan Godshaw Memel

Kate Hardy (front left) with other teachers © DCM

Kate Hardy (front left) with other teachers © DCM

‘… she had altogether the air of a woman clipped and pruned by severe discipline, an under-brightness shining through from the depths which that discipline had not yet been able to reach.’

(Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure)

This description of Sue Bridehead during her brief time at college suggests the restrictive character of nineteenth-century teacher training. The two-year programme at Salisbury enforced standards of ‘humble femininity’ while preparing women from various social backgrounds for a vocation in the elementary schools.

Hardy’s sisters, Mary and Katharine (generally known as Kate), attended college at Salisbury while his cousin, Tryphena Sparks, trained at Stockwell.  As schoolmistresses their profession enabled greater independence from the pressure to marry, but their personal freedom was severely restricted during the process of qualifying. Trainee teachers were required to carry out extensive chores and study for long hours and their food portions were meagre. They were also subject to continual surveillance, while their choice of dress was restricted.

In this talk Dr Memel will consider representations of the work and training of female teachers in Hardy’s fiction, showing how the experiences of his female relations inspired acts of solidarity and resistance in his writing.

The forthcoming lecture will take place on Thursday 2 March 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 and talks start at 7.30pm.

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

Next Literary Lives talks:

  • Thursday 25th May, Hardy and Poetry of Encounter by Philip Mallett
  • Thursday 27th July, Mr Hardy and Mrs Henniker – an Enduring Friendship by Helen Angear
  • Thursday 14th September, The Infants’ Grammar by Dr Alan Chedzoy
  • Thursday 26th October, Hardy and Sex Education by Dr Karin Koeler

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Literary Lives: Thomas Hardy and Folk Song by Dr. Peter Robson

Musicians of Mellstock Choir - Hardy Players 1910 DCM © 2015

Musicians of Mellstock Choir – Hardy Players 1910 DCM © 2015

Thomas Hardy refers to more than thirty folk songs in his novels, with many further references in his poetry, short stories, letters etc. 

Some knowledge of the folk songs in Hardy’s writings helps the reader to appreciate how appropriate they are to the author’s plotting, characterisation and settings. The songs can also occasionally throw light on Hardy’s own background.

This exploration of Hardy and Dorset song will begin by looking at the nature of folksong and at the golden age of folksong collecting, with particular reference to the work of the Hammond brothers in Dorset. Dr. Robson will then illustrate the variety of places where references to folksongs may be found in Hardy’s published and unpublished writings.

From this body of material it is then possible to suggest where and how Hardy might have obtained the songs which he knew and to look at some examples of the ways in which he used folk songs in his novels. Finally, the speaker will identify the songs which seem to have been Hardy’s personal favourites, and at a song which was actually collected from him.

Dr. Peter Robson has been researching Dorset folklore and folksong for many years and has written and spoken widely on this subject. Most recently he has become particularly interested in Thomas Hardy’s writings as an almost untapped source for the study of rural folklore.

The lecture will take place on Thursday 30 June 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

Literary Lives: Thomas Hardy and Education by Dr. Jonathan Godshaw Memel

Thomas Hardy's  First School, Lower Bockhampton, Dorset

Thomas Hardy’s First School, Lower Bockhampton, Dorset

In his autobiography, Thomas Hardy remembers himself as an ‘apt pupil who galloped unconcernedly over the ordinary school lessons’ and a ‘born bookworm’ who learnt to read ‘almost before he could walk’. Education provided Hardy with the means to enter a profession and allowed his unmarried sisters, Mary and Kate, to live independent lives as schoolmistresses.

In this talk Dr. Jonathan Godshaw Memel will explore the ways in which Thomas Hardy’s fiction draws on these experiences, examining his treatment of residential training colleges, an ancient university and newly-built elementary schools. Hardy’s criticisms of the Victorian education system are also considered.

This talk is part of a series of four evening lectures organised by the Hardy Country project. A collaboration between the Dorset County Museum, the National Trust, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Thomas Hardy Society, Bath Spa University and the University of Exeter, to promote knowledge and understanding of Thomas Hardy and his works.

The forthcoming lecture will take place 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 and talks start at 7.30pm.

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

Next talks:

  • Thursday 26th May, Emma Lavinia: The First Mrs Hardy with Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah.
  • Thursday 30th June, Thomas Hardy and Folksong by Dr. Peter Robson
  • Thursday 3rd November, The influnence of Hardy on the Cornish Poet, Jack Clemo

Related Sources:

Hardy, Wessex and the Poetry of War by Phillip Mallett

Phillip MallettOn Thursday 29th October at the Dorset County Museum Phillip Mallett of St Andrews University is giving a talk entitled ‘Hardy, Wessex and the Poetry of War’. Doors open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start.

Boer War‘Few persons are more martial than I,’ wrote Thomas Hardy, ‘or like better to write of war in prose & rhyme.’

The war in South Africa, 1899-1902, divided British opinion more deeply than any previous war had done; it began with defeats, and ended with concentration camps and a scorched earth policy. This talk traces Hardy’s response to the war, to military values, and to the impact of war on enlisted men and civilians.

This FREE talk is open to all. To cover costs, a small donation of £3.00 is encouraged. The talk will take place in the Museum’s Victorian Gallery.

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

Related Sources:

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

Hardy Country 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 30th April 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’.

Related Sources:

Kingston Lacy’s Paintings: the story of one of the National Trust’s most important collections by Helen Lange.

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy © National Trust

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy © National Trust

Kingston Lacy, in Wimborne, Dorset, was bequeathed to the National Trust by Ralph Bankes (1902–1981) with its estates, including Corfe Castle. It contains an important art collection including a set of portraits by Lely, pictures by Velazquez, Zani and Tintoretto and two full-length female portraits by Rubens. This collection will be the subject of a talk by Helen Lange at Dorset County Museum on Thursday 12th March.

Helen Lange is well-known to many in Dorchester and beyond as the Chairman of the Thomas Hardy Society. She has given many talks on the West Country’s greatest writer, including Hardy’s own interest in art.

The talk will begin with an explanation of the importance of the Bankes’ art collection to the National Trust and to England. Helen will include a brief background on art collecting during the reign of Charles I and trace the history of the Bankes’ collection, from its beginnings at Corfe Castle. She will then focus on several individual paintings, which have their own stories to tell.

After a thirty-five year career in education, Helen Lange retired from her last post as Deputy Head at Sherborne Girls, in December 2008. She then decided to study Art History, in which she had long been deeply interested. She now has an MA in History of Art from Birkbeck College, London University. Whilst working for this, she undertook a research project on the National Trust’s conservation of the Kingston Lacy Art Collection and her final dissertation was on Peter Lely, an artist well represented at Kingston Lacy.

Doors open from 7.00pm for 7.30pm. The talk is FREE and all are welcome to attend. Donations are encouraged to cover costs. For further information visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

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Max Gate and the South Dorset Ridgeway

Archaeology National Trust SW

What would you say was the best archaeological landscape in England ?

The west end of the Ridgeway from the Iron Age hillfort of Abbotsbury Castle east along the Chesil Beach towards the Isle of Portland. The west end of the Ridgeway from the Iron Age hillfort of Abbotsbury Castle east along the Chesil Beach towards the Isle of Portland.

Yes you guessed it Dorchester, Maiden Castle and the South Dorset Ridgeway…

did I hear somebody say Hadrian’s Wall? Stonehenge?… well granted Avebury’s got a lot going for it. It’s not a county town though, doesn’t lay claim to being a Roman civitas capital despite there being a large Roman settlement beside Silbury Hill.

The view towards Maiden Castle and Dorchester from the heathland east of Hardy's Monument The view towards Maiden Castle and Dorchester from the heathland east of Hardy’s Monument

Doesn’t have a Waitrose overlying its circular henge built as a circle of massive oak posts 380m in diameter. Doesn’t have a Waitrose come to that. Yes you can still see the great bank and ditch of Avebury’s henge, you’d have to go to the east…

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Kingston Lacy’s Roman Amphitheatre

Archaeology National Trust SW

Old John Bankes died back in 1772 and as he wasn’t married his younger brother Henry inherited. Henry only lived another 4 years but he did something remarkable. He commissioned a cutting edge surveyor called William Woodward to make a detailed record of his Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle Estates. This week Francesca kindly digitally photographed the whole survey.
The archive room at Kingston Lacy House. Until the 1980s the Bankes family archive including Willliam Woodward's survey was stored in the mansion and few people had seen it The archive room at Kingston Lacy House. Until the 1980s the Bankes family archive including Willliam Woodward’s survey was stored in the mansion and few people had seen it

Yesterday, I sat in the conference room in Warminster and saw a remarkable aerial and lidar survey of Brownsea Island. The surveyor did whizzy things on the computer and zoomed into and enhanced images, measuring any detail on command. Things have come a long way since the 18th century but Woodward’s surveys are still accurate and detailed and also works of art.

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Our Ralph

Archaeology National Trust SW

As our blog nears a year in existence I thought it was about time I introduced Ralph our mascot and face on our Gravatar.

This little pottery head with green glaze was found at Corfe Castle during  the outer gatehouse  excavations in 1987. He has a distinctive type of hat and maybe locally made from the white clays found around Poole Harbour. He came  from with-in the demolition rubble from the civil war destruction of the castle in 1646, but is Medieval in date  He has a  pinched-out nose and applied and stabbed pads for the eyes, on his  head he  appears to wear a ‘coronet’ – a thin band circling the top of the head, decorated with impressed dots. Within the ‘coronet’, the hair is suggested by incised or combed lines. The head seems to have been made as a separate piece with a short, tapering ‘peg’ at the base for insertion into…

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