Literary Lives: Emma Lavinia: The First Mrs Hardy with Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah

Emma Hardy

Emma Hardy from the Dorset County Museum’s Hardy Collection © DCM

Drawing upon the writings and art work of Emma Hardy, Marilyn Leah and Helen Gibson will outline her early life in Plymouth and Cornwall, her romantic meeting and courtship with Thomas Hardy.

Hardy wrote: ‘She opened the door of the West to me ‘, and their romance began when Emma opened the door of St Juliot Rectory to the young architect who had arrived to work on the dilapidated church.  Both made sketches and began writing, using Cornwall as the settings of their novels.  Emma’s novella ‘The Maid on the Shore’ has never been published and extracts will be shared in this presentation.  Their honeymoon and travels in Europe are documented in Emma’s diaries, illustrated with thumb-nail sketches.

This illustrated talk will share the paintings and sketches by Emma Hardy, which are held in the Hardy Archive at the Dorset County Museum.

The lecture will take place on Thursday 26 May 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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UNESCO recognition for Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy by Hubert Herkomer

Thomas Hardy by Hubert Herkomer

The Thomas Hardy Archive and Collection has recently been awarded inscription on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) ‘Memory of the World’ Register of Documentary Heritage. Awarded.

This prestigious status alongside such collections as the Churchill Archive and the Domesday Book, UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme works to celebrate and preserve documentary heritage and to improve awareness of the information that these collections contain. David Dawson, who is Chairman of the UK Memory of the World Committee, said the significance of Hardy’s works and the picture he was able to capture of his time and place meant the archive was fully deserving of its place on the register:

“It really is that picture of the late 19th Century and the way that life was changing. Hardy was talking primarily about Dorset but he also captured the spirit of change coming across Britain and had such an impact on literary works both nationally and internationally. It is for that reason it was such a privilege to be able to inscribe these archives on the UNESCO register.”

UNESCO The Thomas Hardy Archive and Collection

Helen Gibson and Jon Murden receiving the UNESCO Memory of the World inscription certificate from David Dawson, Chairman of the UK UNESCO Committee, at a special ceremony in Tamworth on Tuesday 9th July.

Recent donations to the Hardy Collection include two paintings, one by Hardy’s sister Mary, which is a portrait of their brother, Henry, and a small watercolour of ‘Egdon Heath’ by Emma Hardy. These have been generously given by relatives of the Hardy family. Professor Barrie Bullen, whose book launch was in the museum, has donated a copy of Thomas Hardy: the World of his Novels. We are grateful for these important additions to the collection. A talk about Tess of the d’Urbervilles and a detailed tour of the Hardy Gallery was requested for forty members of NADFAS who visited the museum from Romsey. Jennifer Young conducted the tours and Helen Gibson showed The Graphic of 1891 illustrated serialisation and other related items, including first editions and early stage dramatisations. Research continues to be undertaken by visiting scholars on subjects as diverse as natural history, music and dramatisations, cataloguing schemes of Hardy’s books, and the annotations and marginalia in his own hand.

Helen Gibson

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Launch of Hardy Country

Hardy CountryThursday 6th June 2013 sees the official launch of a major new project promoting the world of Thomas Hardy.  “Hardy Country” is a brand new initiative from a group made up of Dorset County Museum, The National Trust, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Thomas Hardy Society, and Dorset County Council. They have been working together to make Hardy Country into an internationally recognised, high quality visitor destination.

The first stage in the delivery of this vision is to provide a firm link between the two Hardy properties (Hardy’s birthplace and Max Gate), Dorset County Museum (which houses the famous ‘Hardy Collection’) and Clouds Hill, former retreat of T. E. Lawrence.  All are locations strongly associated with Hardy, his life and his novels and poetry and they come together here for the first time to make a co-ordinated visitor “offer”.

Accessed by a joint ticket costing just £20 (a saving of £6 on visiting all the locations separately), the project will inspire intellectual, emotional and physical engagement with the Dorset landscape and its cultural heritage.  For the first time, Thomas Hardy will be properly placed within the landscape and historic built environment that surrounded him during his life. Tickets will be on sale at all four locations plus the Dorchester Tourist Information Centre from 6th June.  More information is available from the website at www.hardycountry.org.

Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said, “If Hardy Country works well, we will look to develop the offer further by introducing walking and cycling trails, information about  the properties and surrounding areas, and  possibly shuttle buses or cycle hire between all the locations to help bring Hardy’s world alive to our visitors.”

There will also be an extensive educational programme to identify themes within Hardy’s work which are relevant today and make Hardy and his fellow writers more accessible to all age groups.

Sue Mitchell, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership and Chair of the Hardy Country Group said, “Thomas Hardy is a key part of our Dorset culture, he is all around us wherever we are in the county.  We are so lucky to be able to go out into Hardy’s countryside, and still see many of the things which inspired and deeply influenced his writings.”

In a further boost to the project, Dorset County Museum have recently been advised  that their Thomas Hardy Collection has become part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World – a catalogue of documentary heritage of global significance including the Magna Carta and the Mappa Mundi.

Hardy Country will be launched at approximately 7.00pm on Thursday 6th June following the launch of a new book on Hardy by J. B. Bullen, and before a talk by Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah about Hardy’s first wife, Emma, which starts at 7.30pm. Entry is FREE and everyone is welcome.

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

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Lunchtime Poetry and Music: Thomas Hardy’s ‘Emma Poems’ read by Furse Swann and Sue Theobald

Emma Hardy

Emma Hardy from the Dorset County Museum’s Hardy Collection © DCM

On Thursday 13th June between 1.00pm and 2.00pm Furse Swann and Sue Theobald present a Celebration of Hardy’s love poems.

One of the treasured manuscripts to be found at Dorset County Museum is that of Satires of Circumstance, Thomas Hardy’s fourth book of verse.  At its centre are ‘The Poems of 1912-13’, a collection of poems about his first wife, Emma, who died in November 1912.

Overcome with remorse and an upwelling of love for the young Emma he had first met in Cornwall in 1870, Hardy wrote these elegiac poems – almost certainly the closest to his heart.

To celebrate the centenary of the writing of ‘Poems of 1912-13’, Furse Swann and Sue Theobald read the twenty-one poems that make up the sequence, with the performance of some of the tunes from the Hardy music books, played on fiddles by Lorraine Tillbrook and Elspeth Gracie.

‘O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free –
The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.’

Entry to the poetry reading is FREE but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book.  This event will start promptly at 1.00pm.

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

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Book Launch: Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels by JB Bullen

Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels by JB Bullen

Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels by JB Bullen

Hardy Book Launch at Dorset County Museum 6th June 2013 at 6.00pm

Thomas Hardy’s Wessex is one of the great literary evocations of place, populated with colourful and dramatic characters.  As lovers of his novels and poetry know, this ‘partly real, partly dream-country’ was firmly rooted in the Dorset into which he had been born.

JB Bullen explores the relationship between reality and the dream, identifying the places and the settings for Hardy’s writing, and showing how and why he shaped them to serve the needs of his characters and plots. The locations may be natural or man-made, but they are rarely fantastic or imaginary. A few have been destroyed and some moved from their original site, but all of them actually existed, and we can still trace most of them on the ground today.

Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels opens new and original perspectives for both those who already know his brilliant stories, and those who come to them for the first time.
JB Bullen holds the Chair of English Literature and Culture in the department of English Literature, Royal Holloway, University of London. He is also Professor Emeritus of the University of Reading where he lectured on English Literature and Art History for over twenty-five years. In 2010 he delivered the plenary lecture at the last international Hardy biennale. He is the author of many books and articles and lives in Oxford.

The book included chapters on Far from the Madding Crown, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Hardy’s poems.

Entry to the book launch is free.  It is followed at 7.30pm by an illustrated talk by Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah entitled ‘Emma: West of Wessex Girl’ on the life of the first Mrs Thomas Hardy.

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

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Event: Emma: West of Wessex Girl An illustrated talk by Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah

Emma Hardy

Emma Hardy from the Dorset County Museum’s Hardy Collection © DCM

On Thursday 6th June Helen Gibson, honorary curator at Dorset County Museum, and Marilyn Leah, former custodian of Max Gate, Hardy’s Dorchester home, discuss the life and work of Emma Gifford – first wife of Thomas Hardy.  This is a celebration of the life of a remarkable woman in words and images with reminiscences of her early life, her meeting with Thomas Hardy, the story of their courtship and their life together.

Emma Lavinia Gifford was the first Mrs Thomas Hardy.  Diarist, Suffragette and Campaigner, Emma’s own words describe her beliefs and convictions, and her artistic accomplishment is seen in images of her watercolours and sketches from the extensive Hardy Collection at Dorset County Museum.

Emma and Thomas married in 1874, and after eleven years of living in and around London, settled in Dorset at Max Gate, Dorchester, for the rest of their lives. European holidays, visits to friends, and extensive entertaining at Max Gate, all added variety to their life there together.

Come and find out what Emma thought about her husband and others in her life, her thwarted ambition, independence of spirit, and the recollections of those who knew her.

Just before the talk on 6th June, between 6.00pm and 7.00pm, there will be the launch of a new book by JB Bullen: Thomas Hardy – The World of His Novels which explores the settings of Hardy’s novels and shows how he shaped them to serve the needs of his characters and plots.

Entry to the book launch and to the talk is free but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book.

A second Hardy event, a reading of ‘Hardy’s Love Poems’ by Furse Swann and Sue Theobald takes place at 1.00pm on 13th June.

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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