Wednesday 8 July 2009

Hardyesque: Miscellaneous Notes

Michael Henchard's Will.
'That Elizabeth-Jane be not told of my death, or made to grieve on account of me.'
'& that I be not bury'd in consecrated ground.
'& that no sexton be asked to see my dead body.
'& that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
'& that no mourners walk behind me at my funeral.
'& that no flours be planted on my grave.
'& that no man remember me.
'To this I put my name.
'Michael Henchard.'
                      Thomas Hardy. The Mayor of Casterbridge. 1886.

The maternal tenacity of Hardy's mother on his life was so severe as to hamper and shadow everything in his first marriage. His biographer Michael Millgate writes that it marred him for life and was to answer for his noted immaturity. He describes himself as 'A child till he was sixteen, a youth till he was five-and-twenty, and a young man till he was nearly fifty.’[1]  Hardy told William Archer:
The town-bred boy will often appreciate nature more than the country boy, but he does not know it in the same sense. He will rush to pick a flower which the country boy does not seem to notice. But it is part of the country boy's life. It grows in his soul - he does not want it in his buttonhole. 
                             William Archer. Real Conversations. 1904. 32.

His wife Emma once wrote to a female friend:
He understands only the women he invents - The others not at all - & he only writes for art, though ethics shows up.
                 Letters of Emma & Florence Hardy. Edited by Michael Millgate. (Oxford University Press, 1996). 6.

Hardy was in on what has been dubbed the biggest cover-up of all time 'That terrible, dogmatic, ecclesiasticism - Christianity so called but really Paulinism plus idolatory.'[2]

In fact all forms of organised religion are consistently hostile to morality, the natural progress of mankind (both physical, mental and spiritual) and as such, to religion itself because it is always far removed from the original tenets of that faith. This is an ongoing theme in Hardy's novels: his distrust of and the hypocrisy of the established church and its denizens. It is also a major theme in Dickens. It is also a literary device in Persian and Urdu literature in the figure of the Sheikh:
The Shaikh is to Mir what the Holy Willies and the ‘Unco Guid’ are to his spiritual brother and younger contemporary, Robert Burns: and like Burns, he attacks them with ridicule, bawdy, and invective.
                              Ralph Russell. Three Mughal Poets. (Oxford University Press, 1991). 200. 

One of my favourite verses of Mir in this regard is:
If the Sheikh comes naked to the mosque it is because he spent the night in the tavernAnd in drunkenness gave off his expensive gown, his shirt, and his cap[3]
William Walsham How, Bishop of Wakefield burnt a copy of Jude the Obscure (Betjeman knew all about him and mentioned him in his Sweet songs of Zion radio broadcasts which have now, recently, been compiled and published) and boasted about it in a letter to the Yorkshire Post:
The only sad feature in the matter to Hardy was that if the bishop could have known him as he was, he would have found a man whose personal conduct, views of morality, and of the vital facts of religion, hardly differed from his own.[4]
[1] Thomas Hardy. The Life & Work of Thomas Hardy. (Palgrave Macmillan, 1984). 24.
[2] Hardy. The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy: ii. Edited by Richard Little Purdy & Michael Millgate. 8 vols, 
      (Oxford University Press). 143.
[3] Mir Taqi Mir.  Kulliyat e Mir.
[4] Hardy. The Life & Work of Thomas Hardy. (Palgrave Macmillan, 1984). 295.