The English Past: Evocations of Persons and Places

By A. L. Rowse | Go to book overview

THOMAS HARDY AND MAX GATE

I was on my way to see Thomas Hardy. For that is how I think of it when going to see the place where a great man lived, one of the elect spirits of the past, or even some ordinary soul about whose course in life I know something now that it is finished. Some impress of personality remains on the place, all the stronger the more you know about the man, or perhaps the more subtly you are in tune with something in his personality or something that befell him in life. The scenes that surrounded him, the places that his eyes looked upon as a child, where he grew up, that were woven by a thousand threads, visible and invisible, into his work and life, where he lived and walked, the roads and lanes, field and hedge and woodland, where he was sometimes happy and sometimes suffered, where he is buried at last: all this retains some impress of him, a peculiar poignancy.

In fact Hardy was long dead. But not to me. For me he was more alive than anyone living there today: the whole place spoke to me of him -- the bare dry roads, the scraggy pines about the house, the rustle of dead beech-leaves, the defensive privet hedge, the path worn along the bank by so many admiring feet.

We were in the railway carriage approaching Dorchester. In the opposite corner an elderly business man who had been born there and lived there all his boyhood, his sister a companion to the first Mrs. Hardy. (Little did he know how much that meant to me, or how well I knew her -- that difficult, unsympathetic woman -- from the Life, the poems, from what Q. had told me and Arthur McDowell and others who knew her.) In the other corners two sailors, one of them sunk in silence and reserve, the other gay, alert, vivacious, all on the surface -- as it might be Bob, the Trumpet-Major's sailor brother.

Dorchester people did not care for Thomas Hardy, I

-165-

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The English Past: Evocations of Persons and Places
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • All Souls (1945) 1
  • Bisham and the Hobys 15
  • Hillesden in Buckinghamshire 46
  • Dear Dr. Denton - An English Gentleman of The Seventeenth Century 66
  • The Milton Country 85
  • Swift at Letcombe 113
  • Afternoon at Haworth Parsonage 143
  • Thomas Hardy and Max Gate 165
  • John Buchan at Elsfield 184
  • Nottingham: A Midlands Capital 196
  • D. H. Lawrence at Eastwood 217
  • Alun Lewis: A Foreword 238
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