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 Robson will then illustrate the variety of places where references to folksongs may be found in Hardy’s published and unpublished writings.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

Advertisements

Victorian Hallowe’en Customs And Crafts

FrankensteinFrankenstein meets whimsy in the family activity at Dorset County Museum taking place this half term.

The theme for the session on Wednesday 29th October is the Victorian view of Hallowe’en. The crafts and activities on offer have been specially chosen to illustrate some of the little known Victorian superstitions and beliefs.

Participants can make black cats out of paper plates or maybe a scary Frankenstein mask – the author Mary Shelley was a classic gothic novelist of the day!

Find out all about Victorian Hallowe’en cards which were not designed to scare the recipient, but were rather pretty with colourful paintings of witches, black cats, broomsticks and bats.

All are welcome to come along to this friendly family activity, which is provided FREE of charge thanks to continued sponsorship by Battens Solicitors through their charitable trust. The event starts at 10.30am and runs until 12.30pm. Adults must stay with their children at all times, but are welcome to take part in the craft activities.

There is no need to book. For more information visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Exhibition in last two weeks at Dorset County Museum

Free Time Our stories of leisure then and nowThe current exhibition at Dorset County Museum, Free Time, has just two weeks left to run. This brand new exhibition shows the results of a project studying the changing nature of our leisure time over the last 60 years.

The project has captured the memories and stories of local people talking about hobbies and past times which are largely out of fashion today. The archive will be housed at the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester when the exhibition closes for future generations to study.

Scalextric

Childhood Nostalgia: Scalextric

See the games, toys and activities enjoyed by people over the past 60 years. These include dolls, railway sets, comics and board games plus toys such as hula hoops, space hoppers and skateboards. With a variety of displays, and showcases, there is plenty to see and a lot to learn. Visitors can also listen to audio recordings of people talking about their hobbies and favourite free-time activities. Two screens show how people enjoyed their leisure time from the 1950s to the present day.

With rarely-seen photographs, plenty of activities for children and a reconstructed milk bar from the 1950s, there really is something for everyone.

The exhibition runs until Saturday 17th May. Dorset County Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10.00am to 5.00pm.

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

Related Sources:

Half Term fun and games at Dorset County Museum

Hula Hooping

Hula Hooping – an image from the current exhibition, Free Time at the Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum is running a free family activity during half term week.
The theme is toys and games from the past and ties in with the new exhibition which has just opened at the Museum: Free Time.

Children and their families will be able to play with toys and games from the 50s, 60s and 70s like Flying Hats, Flips or Slam!  Learn how to work a hula hoop, do some simple juggling, or play a game of hopscotch.  There will also be a selection of traditional wooden toys, dolls and card games to try out. Come along, play some new games, learn new skills and have a lot of fun at the same time!

All family activities during 2014 are kindly sponsored by Battens Solicitors through their Charitable Trust and are FREE. The activity starts at 10.30am on Wednesday 19th February and runs for two hours. Everyone is welcome and parents and carers must stay with their children during the activities.

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

Related Sources:

FREE TIME – Our Stories of Leisure Then and Now

Free Time Our stories of leisure then and nowFree Time is a brand new exhibition showcasing the results of a current project studying the changing nature of our leisure time over the last 60 years.

The project is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and aims to capture and preserve the memories and stories of local people who used to, or still do, pursue hobbies that aren’t around so much nowadays. The new archive will be housed at the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester for future generations to study.

Joe Stevens, project leader, said; “When you look at old black & white photos or films it can look like a completely different age, but what we are hearing is that life today is not that different from times past.” Joe added; “We are not just interested in people’s memories from long ago, but also the recent past. We are hoping to feature a range of stories from 1945, right up to the present day.”

Working with Dorset County Museum and the Dorset History Centre, the project has enabled young people to collaborate and share with the older population in a range of activities leading up to the exhibition. Over recent weeks volunteers have been out in the community capturing local people’s leisure time memories in Bridport, Dorchester, Weymouth & Portland, and Sherborne.  As well as the archive, there will also be a website and an app for a ‘Walking Museum’ around Dorchester.

The Free Time exhibition will run at Dorset County Museum from 15th February to 17th May 2014.

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

Related Sources:

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Author of ‘Frankenstein’

Mary Shelley's Blue Plaque

Mary Shelley’s Blue Plaque outside St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth

Few seaside towns can claim so many literary associations as Bournemouth. The remains of writer, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of one of the most famous of all Gothic horror novels – Frankenstein, is buried in the cemetery of St. Peters in the centre of the town.

Mary Shelley was born on the 30th August 1797, in Somers Town, London. She was the second daughter of feminist and writer Mary Wollstonecraft and political journalist William Godwin (who are also interred in her grave). Her mother died shortly after Mary’s birth from a hemorrhage  sustained either during delivery or by the actions of the midwife. Unusual for girls at the time, Mary received an excellent education. She published her first poem at the age of ten.

Percy Bysshe Shelley and his first wife Harriet often visited Godwin’s home and bookshop in London. At the age of 16 Mary eloped to France and then Switzerland with Shelley. During May of 1816, the couple travelled to Lake Geneva. Apparently inspired by a ghost tale contest among her friends, Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont Mary had what she called a waking dream that became the manuscript for her most famous work, entitled ‘Frankenstein’ or ‘The Modern Prometheus’.

It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who tries to create a living being for the good of humanity but instead produces a monster.  Frankenstein creates his monster by assembling parts of dead bodies and activating the creature with electricity.  The monster, which has no name in the book, is actually a gentle, intelligent creature.  However, everyone fears and mistreats him because of his hideous appearance.  Frankenstein rejects the monster and refuses to create a mate for him.  The monster’s terrible loneliness drives him to seek revenge by murdering Frankenstein’s wife, brother, and best friend.  Frankenstein dies while trying to track down and kill the monster, who disappears into the Arctic at the end of the novel.

Frankenstein Poster

Film Posters for Universal Studios 1931 version of ‘Frankenstein’

Many films have been based on the character of Frankenstein’s monster, the most iconic being played by Boris Karloff in the Universal Studios 1931 version of the novel.  Most are simply tales of horror and have little to do with the serious themes of Shelley’s novel.  These themes include the possible dangers involved in scientific experimentation with life and the suffering caused by judging people by their appearance.

Mary and Shelley married in 1816 after Shelley’s first wife committed suicide by drowning. In 1818 the Shelleys left England for Italy. The Italian adventure was, however, blighted for Mary by the death of both her children Clara, in Venice and their son Will died from malaria in Rome.  Mary suffered a nervous breakdown after the death and almost died of a later miscarriage. It was followed by the birth of her only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley. In July 1822, Percy Bysshe Shelley sailed up the Italian coast and was caught in a storm on his return. He drowned on the 8th July along with his friend Edward Williams and a young boat attendant.

The Grave of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly

The Grave of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, St. Peter’s Cemetery, Bournemouth.

To support herself and her child, Mary wrote novels, including Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), and the autobiographical Lodore (1835).  She spent much of her life in promoting her late husband’s work, including editing and annotating unpublished material. She returned to England, never to re-marry.

She died on 1st February 1851 in Chester Square, London of what some suspect to be a brain tumor, before her to move to live with her son Percy Florence Shelley at Boscombe Manor. Her last book, sometimes considered her best work, was ‘Maria’, which was published posthumously.  Her son brought his mothers remains to be interred in St. Peter’s Churchyard in Bournemouth, along with Percy’s heart, which was not originally buried with his body. It was retrieved from his funeral pyre by his friend Trelawny and kept by Shelley’s wife Mary, pressed flat, in a copy of the poet’s “Adonais” and was interred for the first time in Mary’s tomb.

Mark North

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

Related Sources: