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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Book Launch and Lecture – Genius Friend: G.B. Edwards and ‘The Book of Ebenezer Le Page’ by Professor Edward Chaney

Genius Friend: G.B. Edwards & The Book of Ebenezer Le Pageby Edward ChaneyThis Thursday evening at 7.30pm (doors open 7.30pm) at the Dorset County Museum is pleased to be hosting a talk and book launch by Professor Edward Chaney, a friend of the author of ‘The Book of Ebenezer Le Page’, Gerald Edwards.

For the talk Edward Chaney will return to the county in which he first met Gerald Edwards through his great-aunt Josephine, who lived in Upwey, near Weymouth. Gerald was living in the same village with the Snell family, where with the encouragement of Chaney, he completed his only novel, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. Published posthumously in 1981, it became a twentieth century classic. The literary connections with Dorset continued when the publishers asked local literary hero, John Fowles, to write an introduction to the novel when it was first published.

In the years since its publication, Professor Chaney has researched the life of his friend to reveal Gerald’s Guernsey origins, and his status as the ‘genius friend’ of a group of writers who contributed to Middleton Murry’s Adelphi in the 1920s. Part memoir, part biography – Genius Friend tells the story of Gerald Edwards’s life from his Guernsey origins through to the period when Chaney knew him in Dorset, illustrated by their correspondence.

This talk is open to everyone and is free of charge, 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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Dress owned by Thomas Hardy’s sister goes on display at Museum

Katharine Hardy

Katharine Hardy © DCM

Dorset County Museum’s textile archive includes a significant collection of clothing originally owned by Thomas Hardy’s family. Among the pieces is a stunning red bustle dress worn by his sister Katherine.

Until now most of the collection has remained in storage but a generous grant from the Daphne Bullard Trust has enabled the dress to be specially prepared and placed on display in the Museum’s Writers Gallery.

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014

The bustle dress has been mounted on a bespoke mannequin with text panels and photographs showing the context in which it was worn. The dress, made in about 1889, consists of a bodice and skirt in red grosgrain silk. It is an evocative, personal garment with a tight-fitting, fashionable bodice and skirt. With its luxurious red silk and bustle, it is similar to the fashionable dresses Tess wears in Hardy’s famous novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Displaying the dress both safely and sympathetically was a complicated project. A particular consideration was Kate Hardy’s large bust. She also had a very small waist and narrow shoulders so a special mannequin was adapted with additional padding in the relevant areas. A petticoat was added for support and padded arms allow the sleeves to hold their natural shape. Extra pads were finally attached around the hips to help support the weight of the skirt and prevent stress on the original fastenings.

To see the dress, visit Dorset County Museum between 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday.

Related Links:

Daphne Bullard Trust Hardy Signs

Katharine Hardy’s Dress exhibited at the Dorset County Museum

Katharine Hardy

Katharine Hardy © DCM

A significant collection of Thomas Hardy’s family clothes has recently been researched and documented at Dorset County Museum. This collection, spanning three generations of the Hardy family from 1800 to 1928, tell us so much about the shape, tastes and lives of the original wearers. It includes Thomas Hardy’s embroidered christening robe, a crinoline dress worn by his mother and a striking red bustle dress worn by his sister Katharine (Kate). Until now most of this collection has remained in storage, as it requires specialist mounting and display.

Dorset County Museum selected Katharine Hardy’s dress for display, as it is particularly significant in terms of colour, design, Hardy family history and in illustrating descriptions of dress in Hardy’s literature.

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014 Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy –
Images © Jonathan Gooding 2014

Kate Hardy, born in 1856, was also involved in bequeathing the Hardy archive to Dorset County Museum. The importance of this collection is recognised through its recent inscription on the UK Register of Important Literary Heritage under the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World’ programme.

The grant from the Daphne Bullard Trust enabled this dress to be mounted on a conservation-grade mannequin and displayed in the Thomas Hardy Gallery, in which there was previously no examples of dress. This display will be pivotal in engaging a new and broader audience for the Gallery. It is sure to stimulate public fascination and this visually attractive and accessible object of personal significance will bring the literature to life.

The Dress

Donated in 1984, the dress consists of a bodice and skirt in red, ribbed (grosgrain) silk. It was made in c.1889 by the linen drapers, Genge, Dixon & Jameson in Dorchester.

Kate Hardy (front left) with other teachers © DCM

Kate Hardy (front left) with other teachers © DCM

Kate Hardy (left) © DCM

Kate Hardy (left) © DCM

Tess of the DUrbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

An evocative personal garment with its tight-fitting, fashionable bodice and skirt, it closely resembles a dress worn by Kate, a local teacher, in photographs above. With its luxurious red silk and bustle it is also similar to the fashionable dress Tess wears in Tess of the d’Urbervilles when she is fleeing with her husband Angel Clare, having stabbed Alec d’Urberville:

‘Her clothes were of the latest fashion, even to the dainty ivory-handled parasol that she carried, a fashion unknown in the retired spot to which they had now wandered; and the cut of such articles would have attracted attention in the settle of a tavern.’

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Penguin Classics, 2008, (first published 1891), p. 390

Conservation and Mounting the Dress

Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_001 Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_003

The intention of this project was to display the dress both safely and sympathetically by providing adequate support. It was also important for the result to look aesthetically pleasing to the museum visitor.

Dresses of this period were less structured and supported by petticoats although there is a small bustle pad attached to back of skirt.

Dresses of this period were less structured and supported by petticoats although there is a small bustle pad attached to back of skirt.

A particular consideration was Kate’s large bust as it was difficult to weigh up “filling” every fold but wanting the bodice to look as natural as possible.

A particular consideration was Kate’s large bust as it was difficult to weigh up “filling” every fold but wanting the bodice to look as natural as possible.

Kate Hardy had a very small waist and narrow shoulders so a museum grade mannequin was purchased. This was adapted by padding relevant areas with polyester wadding. Strips of wadding were sewn onto the torso with care taken to work symmetrically. When the correct shape was acquired the entire mannequin was covered with cotton jersey. The fabric was left unstitched in places to allow more padding to be added if necessary when the dress was finally placed on mannequin.

Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_004 Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_005

A calico petticoat was made and attached to the torso and net flounces were sewn in layers to support the skirt and accentuate the slight train of the dress. A silk overskirt was made to prevent the net catching the fragile lining of the skirt and enable ease of dressing the mannequin.

Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_008 Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_009

Padded arm supports were made with a slight curve to allow sleeves to hold their natural shape. These were attached at the shoulder point only and allowed to hang freely to enable easier dressing of the mannequin.

Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_010Extra pads were attached around the hips to help support the weight of the skirt and prevent stress on the original fastenings.

A pattern was taken of neck and conservation board cut to shape and covered with a grey polyester fabric. The neck circle of the mannequin was covered in same way and reattached by sewing. A ‘bib’ was sewn onto the mannequin to match and fill the open neckline for photography and display.

The intention was to bring this vibrant dress belonging to Kate Hardy to life and this has been achieved. The dress is well supported on the adapted mannequin and is now on display in the Dorset Writers Gallery, enhancing this space with its dramatic presence.

Displaying the Dress

The display opened in the Thomas Hardy Gallery on Friday 12th December, 2014. The garment is displayed in a case together with Kate’s black and white striped parasol. It is the first time that it has been displayed alongside photographs of the wearer and in the context of Thomas Hardy’s literary heritage.

Displaying Kate Hardys Dress_004 Displaying Kate Hardys Dress_005
The dress is positioned in front of an illustration of Stonehenge, from the serialisation of Tess of the d’Urbervilles in The Graphic, 1891. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, wearing a similar dress, is resting on a slab of stone before being arrested © DCM

The dress is positioned in front of an illustration of Stonehenge, from the serialisation of Tess of the d’Urbervilles in The Graphic, 1891. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, wearing a similar dress, is resting on a slab of stone before being arrested © DCM

A text panel, labels and photographs interpret the dress in the context of Kate Hardy’s life, and the rich array of clothing described in Thomas Hardy’s works, illuminating fiction with fashion. The display also reflects the inspiring and engaging potential of collections, uncovering new research and displaying previously unseen objects for public enjoyment.

Displaying Kate Hardys Dress_001 Displaying Kate Hardys Dress_002

The dress will be linked with the Thomas Hardy: Fashion, Fact and Fiction exhibition at Dorset County Museum, planned for April 2019. This exhibition will examine Hardy’s work from a fresh perspective in the context of fashion, interweaving costume with images, letters, literature and diaries. It will be based around a core Dorset County Museum collection of dress worn by Thomas Hardy and his family, fashionable dress and rural workers clothing.

Dorset County Museum is very grateful to the Daphne Bullard Trust for its generous support in making this project possible.

Helen Francis, Mounting Conservator
Lucy Johnston, Curator
Dorset County Museum,
12th December 2014

Related Links:

Daphne Bullard Trust Hardy Signs

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

Author’s Talk and Book Signing – ‘Winter’ by Christopher Nicholson

Winter by Christopher Nicholson

Winter by Christopher Nicholson

London-born writer, Christopher Nicholson, was brought up in Surrey and went to school at Tonbridge in Kent. He read English at Cambridge and after university worked in Cornwall for a charity encouraging community development. He then became a radio scriptwriter and producer, and made many documentaries and features mainly for the BBC World Service in London. For the past twenty-five years he has lived in the countryside on the border between Wiltshire and Dorset.

His third novel, Winter, is an imagined account of a crisis in the career of one of England’s greatest writers, Thomas Hardy. Set in the English countryside, it traces the emotional lives of three characters – the elderly Hardy, his middle-aged wife and a young and beautiful local actress – over the course of a long and difficult winter in the mid-1920s.

Christopher Nicholson

Christopher Nicholson

Christopher’s previous book, The Elephant Keeper, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and the Encore Award. A serial adaptation was broadcast as a BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’.

Christopher Nicholson will talk about his new book, Winter, and sign copies at Dorset County Museum on Thursday 18th September 2014. Doors are open at 7.00pm and the event will begin at 7.30pm. The event is free, although donations are encouraged, and there is no need to book.

For more information please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

Thomas Hardy Lecture: The Remote and the Familiar: Hardy’s uses of Landscape by Prof. William Greenslade

Ringstead BayThe next in the current series of Thomas Hardy events at Dorset County Museum will discuss the way Hardy depicted the local landscape in his writing.

On Thursday 26th June, Professor William Greenslade from the University of the West of England will give a talk entitled, The Remote and the Familiar: Hardy’s Uses of Landscape.

In his obituary of his friend, the poet William Barnes, Thomas Hardy wrote eloquently of the remoteness of the landscape Barnes knew during his early life. In his talk, Professor Greenslade will show how Hardy also frequently referred to the Dorset, or Wessex landscape in his novels and poems – using the physical and atmospheric qualities of the natural environment to generate melodrama and set the scene.

The talk is free but donations are encouraged to cover costs. The lecture starts at 7.30pm on Thursday 26th June and the doors are open from 7.00pm. All are welcome to attend.

John Meade Falkner and Moonfleet

John Meade Falkner

John Meade Falkner © DCM

John Meade Falkner was born at Manningford Bruce, Wiltshire, the son of a curate. He spent his childhood in Dorchester and Weymouth. (His father later became curate at Buckland Ripers, close to the landscape of Moonfleet.)

After taking an Oxford degree, Falkner became a tutor. He was later a business man, and then an academic. He wrote poetry, guides to the counties of Oxford and Berkshire, and three novels: The Lost Stradivarius, Moonfleet and The Nebuly Coat, He lost the manuscript of a fourth novel on a train.

The Rat’s ‘Tale‘, an extract from a typescript account of his childhood by J M Falkner. The scene is the dining room of St. Mary’s Rectory, Weymouth…

“The room was by no means ill-favoured, it was warm, had always plenty of light, and in the evening found the amenities of sunset and a view of rising ground on the far side of the Backwater. But in it was enacted the first scene of a overwhelming family tragedy. We were dining one day about 1.30 (I think that was Thursday March 2nd 1871) and there was on the table a glass water-bottle cylindrical in shape with a flat under-side.

Taken in 1876, John Meade Falkner canoeing on the Backwater at Weymouth, Dorset

Taken in 1876, John Meade Falkner canoeing on the Backwater at Weymouth, Dorset © DCM

Someone noticed that there was something, like a piece of thick black sting, coiled round the bottom inside, and it was fished out.

It was fished out with one of our good old silver forks, and proved to be the tail which had dropped of a decomposed rat.”

The rat was a typhoid rat, and the disease afflicted all the family (except the father). Falkner’s mother died of typhoid ten days later.

MOONFLEET

Moonfleet is a tale of smuggling by John Meade Falkner first published in 1898.

Fleet Old Church, Moonfleet

Fleet Old Church, wrecked by the Great Storm of 1824. In the story of Moonfleet, John Trenchard is trapped in the vault underneath this church. © DCM

One frosty, moon-bright evening in 1758, John Trenchard discovers a secret passage leading from under a churchyard tomb down into the darkness of the Mohune family vault. There he finds not only coffins, but also casks of brandy, hidden by the village smugglers. John is in search of Blackbeards’s diamond, and this is the start of a cliff-hanging adventure which takes him halfway across the world. As in all Falkner’s novels, the finding of a lost object leads to terrible consequences. Heraldry, too, is a recurrent device. The Y of the Mohune’s shield is the mark with which John is branded at the hands of the Dutch – however faraway, John still remains the property of the Mohunes.

Sky1 TV adaptation of ‘Moonfleet’ starring Ray Winstone, Aneurin Barnard and Karl McCrone

The Poets’ Christmas Eve by Dr Alan Chedzoy

Rev. William Barnes © DCM

Revd William Barnes © DCM

On Wednesday 4th December Dr. Alan Chedzoy is giving a literary lecture at Dorset County Museum entitled The Poets‘ Christmas Eve: Mythology into Verse.

Dr. Alan Chedzoy is Chairman of the William Barnes Society and is well known in Dorset and beyond for his performances and recordings of the writings of the Revd William Barnes and Thomas Hardy.

All are welcome to the talk which starts at 7.30pm. Doors open at 7.00pm. The talk is FREE of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

Hardy’s Poetry of the First World War by Professor Tim Kendal

Hardys Poetry of the First World WarIn 1899, at the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa, Thomas Hardy was moved to express his loathing of war. Yet at the same time he confessed that his passions were stirred as soon as war became inevitable: ‘few persons are more martial than I,’ he told Florence Henniker, ‘or like better to write of war in prose & rhyme.’

Unlike his Boer War writings, Hardy’s poems of the Great War rarely attempt a documentary account, but they are similarly divided. Moments of Vision (1917) juxtaposes decent and dutiful verses like ‘Men Who March Away’ and ‘A Call to National Service’ with poems like ‘A New Year’s Eve in War Time’ describing horrors, griefs and self-doubt.

On Thursday 24th October 2013 at 7.30pm, Professor Tim Kendal of the University of Exeter will attempt to make sense of these apparent contradictions through an account of Hardy’s complex aesthetic and political reactions to the War.

Entry 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. 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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