Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography

Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography

Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography

Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography

Excerpt

Never were there such a gentry as the English. They will be the distinguishing mark and glory of England in history, as the arts were of Greece, and war of Rome. I am sure no travel would carry me to any land so beautiful as the good sense, justice and liberality of my good countrymen make this. And I cling the closer to it, because I feel that we are going down the hill, and shall perhaps live ourselves to talk of all this independence as a thing that has been .

EDWARD FITZGERALD

THE influence of the lady of the manor was almost as important, if not as lasting, as that of the world of books. The manor of Kingston, in the parish of Stinsford, was once a royal demesne which devolved upon the Maurwards. At the close of the 14th century it passed by intermarriage to the Greys, and after another three hundred years, again by intermarriage, to a collateral branch of the family of William Pitt. During the last century it has, however, changed hands no less than five times--a comment on prevalent social conditions--and it is now no longer a private estate.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, two ladies were connected with it, and one with the neighbouring manor of Stinsford, who impressed their characters on those who knew them, on posterity, even on the landscape. Hardy came under the indirect influence of the first two and the immediate influence of the third.

The first of these was Lora Grey, daughter and heiress of Audeley Grey. On her mother's side she was descended from the Stawells of Cothelstone and the Trevelyans of Nettlecombe, in west Somerset. On her father's she came from a long line of Dorset Greys, whose arms quartered with the Stawells are carved over the porch of the old Kingston Maurward manor-house, commemorating the marriage of Angel Grey. It was from this ancestor of Lora's that Hardy took the Christian name (originally a surname) of Angel for Tess' neglectful husband.

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