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

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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’.

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