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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Carols, Songs and Dancing: The Musical Heritage of Thomas Hardy’s Family

Among the fine collection of Hardy items in the Dorset County Museum, one of the most interesting is the music-book which belonged to his father and grandfather.  This is a hand-written book of carols, hymns, ballads and songs which had been passed down orally and collected over the generations, and the pages sewn together in this simple homemade book.

Here are two carols from the family carol book used for ‘Going the Rounds’ at Christmas, when the Mellstock Quire visited the cottages around Bockhampton and Stinsford to sing carols to the locals. If you’re musical, you might have a go at playing them!

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

hark-the-herald-angels-sing_1Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Thomas Hardy’s grandfather, father and other relatives played violins and cellos in the West Gallery church choirs at Stinsford and Puddletown until about 1835-40, when the church replaced the instrumentalists with barrel organs.

On Christmas Eve, the tradition was for these singers and players to walk through the dark night, lit only by lanterns, carrying their music and instruments, to sing and play carols at all the cottages and houses.

From these family musicians, the young Thomas inherited a love of music.  As a boy, he was taught to tune and play the fiddle by his father, with whom he played at parties and weddings.  He later drew on the family memories of the choir in Under the Greenwood Tree:

Chapter 4: GOING THE ROUNDS

Shortly after ten o’clock the singing-boys arrived at the tranter’s house, which was invariably the place of meeting, and preparations were made for the start. The older men and musicians wore thick coats, with stiff perpendicular collars, and coloured handkerchiefs wound round and round the neck till the end came to hand, which they just showed their ears and noses, like people looking over a wall. The remainder, stalwart ruddy men and boys, were dressed mainly in snow-white smock-frocks, embroidered upon the shoulders and breasts, in ornamental forms of hearts, diamonds, and zigzags. The cider-mug was emptied for the ninth time, the music-books were arranged, and the pieces finally decided upon. The boys in the meantime put the old horn-lanterns in order, cut candles into short lengths to fit the lanterns; and, a thin fleece of snow having fallen since the early part of the evening, those who had no leggings went to the stable and wound wisps of hay round their ankles to keep the insidious flakes from the interior of their boots.

……………….

 

Just before the clock struck twelve they lighted the lanterns and started. The moon, in her third quarter, had risen since the snowstorm; but the dense accumulation of snow-cloud weakened her power to a faint twilight, which was rather pervasive of the landscape than traceable to the sky. The breeze had gone down, and the rustle of their feet and tones of their speech echoed with an alert rebound from every post, boundary-stone, and ancient wall they passed, even where the distance of the echo’s origin was less than a few yards. Beyond their own slight noises nothing was to be heard, save the occasional bark of foxes in the direction of Yalbury Wood, or the brush of a rabbit among the grass now and then, as it scampered out of their way.”

Helen Gibson
Honorary Curator of the Thomas Hardy Archive and Collection

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Meet your favourite Sci-Fi and Superhero characters at the Dorset County Museum

StormtroopersIt’s nearly time for Dorchester Christmas Cracker night. The event that officially kicks off Christmas in the County town takes place this year on Thursday 8 December from 5.00pm.

This year by popular demand, everyone’s favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie and TV characters will be back at Dorset County Museum. Come along to see a host of characters from the Superheroes from the Marvel Universe, Star Wars, Doctor Who and many more….

Delicious mulled wine and mince pies will be available to buy and the Tea Room will be open for tasty snacks and refreshments.  A browse in the Museum shop will reveal a wide range of gift ideas including toys, games, books and jewellery.  The current exhibition Speed to the West: A Nostalgic Journey an exhibition of 20th Century Railway Posters will be on display, with prints and railway memorabilia on sale in the shop for just a few more weeks – another fantastic opportunity to pick up a very special Christmas present.

scifi-and-superheros-at-dorset-county-museumEntry to the Museum on Cracker Night is FREE and everyone is welcome. All the galleries will be open on the night.

For further information and other forthcoming events contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Mammoth Book Sale at Dorset County Museum

Book Sale at Dorset County Museum

The Dorset County Museum’s popular annual sale of second-hand books will be taking place on 11, 12 and 14 November 2015 between 10am to 4pm.

Thousands of quality books will be sold at bargain prices – fact, fiction, hardback and softback. Hundreds of subjects and genres will be represented including Dorset, travel, history, music, art and gardening.  A wide selection of fiction will also be available including hard and soft backs. A few minutes’ careful searching could reveal untold treasures!

In addition, there will be a sale of Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society publications at knock-down prices – available only to buyers who visit the sale in person.

All proceeds go towards the upkeep of the Museum and its extensive collections.

Dorset County Museum Book Sale 2012Donations of good quality second hand books will be gratefully received up to and including Friday 11 November.

The Museum’s well-stocked gift shop is also worth a visit with Christmas lines now available, and the popular tea room awaits weary bargain hunters.

Everyone is welcome and entry to the sale is FREE – it would help the Museum if visitors could bring their own bags as supplies of plastic bags will be limited. Please note the Museum will NOT be open on Sunday 13 November.

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: The Influence of Hardy on the Cornish poet Jack Clemo by Dr. Luke Thompson

Jack Clemo

Jack Clemo. Heather Spears/ Luke Thompson © 2016

Jack Clemo (1916-94) was one of the most unusual poets of the twentieth century, a deaf-blind, syphilitic, self-proclaimed sex mystic who placed his God within the scarred landscape of the china clay mining country in Cornwall. 

But Clemo began his writing life as a novelist, intending his work to be ‘the Christian counterpart’ of Thomas Hardy’s.  Hardy’s influence on Clemo’s debut novel, Wilding Graft, is unmistakable, and it is an influence to which Clemo would return throughout his writing.

On Thursday 3rd November 2016 at 7.30pm (The Museum doors open at 7.00pm).         Dr Luke Thompson will explore Thomas Hardy’s role in Clemo’s life and work, in the poetic and novelistic influences, and in the role of fate and faith, reading from poems such as ‘Wessex and Lyonesse’ ‘Tryphena’ and ‘Max Gate’

Dr Luke Thompson is a writer, editor and academic from Cornwall, who has written the first full-length biography of the poet Jack Clemo, entitled Clay Phoenix (Ally Press, 2016).

The talk is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

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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Lunchtime Concert – Earth and Air and Rain with Tenor Richard Fewer and Pianist David Price

Lunch Time Concert – Earth and Air and Rain with Tenor Richard Fewer and Pianist David Price On Thursday 20th October 2016 between 1.00pm to 2.00pm. Tenor Richard Fewer and Pianist David Price with perform folksong songs from Schubert’s Schwanengesang and Gerald Finzi’s Thomas Hardy settings.

Richard with his colleagues in ‘SUMMON THE MUSE’ have performed in Dorset on a number of occasions.  They gave evenings exploring ‘Thomas Hardy’ and ‘The Darwin Family’ for Dorchester Arts, and last autumn they presented ‘Lights Out’, their Great War programme, in the churches of St. Mary at Beaminster and Cerne Abbas.

Richard Frewer sings for the joy and challenge of it. He has performed both here and abroad in a wide range of repertoire.  His teachers have included the legendary Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Richard Lewis.  Throughout his career as an architect and University Chair Professor, he has maintained a considerable reputation as a concert singer and has worked closely as soloist for Sir John Eliot Gardiner, John Rutter, Dr. Martin Neary and the late Richard Hickox.

David Price, the former Director of Music at Dauntseys School, has been the conductor of both the Trowbridge and The Bath Symphony Orchestras and musical director of a number of West Country opera companies.  He is a passionate chamber music player and a distinguished freelance coach, accompanist, lecturer.

Thursday 20th October 2016 between 1.00pm to 2.00pm. The performance is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

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 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: 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

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

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All the fun of a Victorian Fayre at the Dorset County Museum

The Victorian Fayre last year at the Dorset County Museum

The Victorian Fayre last year at the Dorset County Museum

On Sunday 21st February, from 2.00pm to 5.00pm, the Dorset County Museum opens its doors for the second year running to a traditional Victorian Fayre to celebrate the birthday of William Barnes, Dorset dialect poet. This FREE event will offer something for all the family.

Stalls will include traditional crafts and gifts and the chance to learn rural skills. There will be Maypole dancing for the children as well as popular parlour games.

The friends of the William Barnes Society and Tim Laycock, well-known folk musician, actor and storyteller will provide traditional singing, music, dance and poetry reading throughout the afternoon.

Frome Valley Morris Mummer

Frome Valley Morris Mummer

The Frome Valley Morris Men will perform the Mummers and Hoodening play. The event would not be complete without a raffle, quiz and a Victorian afternoon tea.

Marion Tait, Honorary Curator of the William Barnes Gallery and Archive said that last year the Victorian Fayre was a huge success and was hoping for a repeat performance.

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