The Hardy Style
UNFAVORABLE JUDGMENTS of Hardy's poetry have generally been of two kinds: either philosophical or stylistic. The philosophy has been criticized either because it is wicked-- the "village atheist" school of Chesterton--or because it gets in the way of the poetry ( Hardy, says R. P. Blackmur, was a "sensibility violated by ideas"29). The style has been criticized either because it is not poetic, or because it does not exist.
Maugham described it, writing of his transparent Edward Driffield:
He was for long thought to write very bad English, and indeed he gave you the impression of writing with the stub of a blunt pencil; his style was laboured, an uneasy mixture of the classical and the slangy, and his dialogue was such as could never have issued from the mouth of a human being.30
Although this passage is meant to describe the novels, it applies as well to a common view of the poems, a view which began with the first reviewers of Hardy's verse, and which still continues. In those early reviews, certain points were made again and again: Hardy's rhythms were prosaic, "arbitrarily irregular," "clumsy"; his language was "needlessly inflated," "persistently clumsy," "unexciting and un