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 Robson will then illustrate the variety of places where references to folksongs may be found in Hardy’s published and unpublished writings.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

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Lecture: Thomas Hardy and Dorset Folklore by Dr. Peter Robson

Hardy Players' Mummers

The Mummers in the Hardy Players’ version of ‘The Return of the Native’. Eustacia Vye (extreme left, disguised) was played by Gertrude Bugler. On Christmas Night 1920 the players gave a performance at Hardy’s house, Max Gate.

The novels and stories of Thomas Hardy are filled with examples of folklore – customs, songs, superstitions, witches, mummers and much more.

But were these country traditions actually taken by Hardy from the Dorset of his childhood or were they products of his fertile literary imagination?  On the Thursday 25th July 2013 at 7.30pm at the Dorset County Museum Dr. Peter Robson will explore this question by looking at a variety of examples of Dorset folklore described by Hardy, from the Mellstock Quire to the Egdon Mummers, from Conjuror Trendle to the unfortunate William Privett and beyond. He will illustrate his talk by pictures of the people and places concerned and by sound recordings.

Dr. Peter Robson has been researching Dorset folklore 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.

This is the second in a series of five 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 further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Event: Thomas Hardy and John Stuart Mill by Demelza Hookway

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill

This is the first in a series of five lectures about Thomas Hardy and is part of a larger project from a Hardy Country working group which includes Dorset County Museum, the National Trust and the University of Exeter.  Designed to promote knowledge and understanding of Hardy, the lectures will provide a physical experience of this ongoing project to revise the profile of Thomas Hardy both locally and nationally.  The addition of lectures by academics studying Hardy provides a link to contemporary ideas about him and his work and a link to a public who know Hardy only from his novels.

Demelza Hookway of the University of Exeter opens the series with a talk about Hardy and John Stuart Mill – a British philosopher and political economist and an influential contributor to social and political theory.  Hardy called John Stuart Mill “one of the profoundest thinkers” of the nineteenth century. This talk will show how he was both a critic and a champion of Mill’s ideas as he tested them out in his novels.

Demelza‘s talk on Thomas Hardy and John Stuart Mill takes place at Dorset County Museum on Thursday 25th April at 7.30pm.  Entry is free but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs – everyone is welcome and there is no need to book. Doors open at 7pm.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Forthcoming Lectures at the Dorset County Museum:

  • Thurs 25th July: Dr Peter Robson, ‘Hardy and Dorset Folklore’
  • Thurs 29th August: Samantha Briggs, University of Exeter, ‘Hardy and Architecture’
  • Thurs 26th Sept: Dr Tony Fincham, Chairman of the Thomas Hardy Society, ‘Hardy’s Landscapes’
  • Thurs 24th Oct: Professor Tim Kendall, University of Exeter, ‘Hardy’s Poetry of the First World War’

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