Saturday, July 11, 2009

Speaking of love gone wrong -

Today, I was talking to Poetikat about Thomas Hardy's books. There was a time when I was so smitten with Hardy's novels, I read them all, one after the other, gobbling them like honey-roasted peanuts. I couldn't stop. That is, I couldn't stop until I got to Tess of the d'Urbervilles. I started reading Tess, thinking I would love it, as I had loved all Hardy's books. I think I got to about page three before I said aloud, "Will somebody please kill this cow so I don't have to read about her for another X pages?" (What was it? 400 pages? I've forgotten.) I put the book down and walked away from it. Thus ended my affair with Thomas Hardy.

Before that, though, in the flush of my first infatuation, I loved all things Hardy. One year, my husband and I were on holiday in England, taking day trips around Dorset. Before we set out in the morning, we would pore over the Ordinance Survey maps, looking for interesting destinations. Dorset is chock-full of interesting destinations.

One day, we happened to notice a reference to the Hardy Monument. "You're a Hardy fan," said my husband. "Would you like to go see his monument?"

Of course I would. What a silly question. As we made our way along the circuitous route, we joked about how many books you actually had to write before you merited a monument.

It was quite a trip, but at last we found what we were looking for. There was a narrow road winding its way up a hill, and at the top was the monument (see the photo at the top). We parked the car and walked to the tower. I had my camera ready. I could see a plaque, so I walked over to it for a little photo opportunity. I read the inscription. I learned that the monument was not erected to honour my Thomas Hardy at all. It was a memorial to Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Flag Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar - the Hardy to whom Nelson is supposed to have said "Kiss me, Hardy". ( - though, I read, he may actually have said "Kismet, Hardy" - which makes just about as much sense.)

I suppose I got an English history lesson out of that trip, but damn it, it wasn't my Hardy.

When I decided to tell you this story, I went looking for photos of the monument, and along the way I found out that there is a monument to The Real Thomas Hardy. It's located in Upper Bockhampton, on the other side of Dorset.

The next time I'm in England, I plan to make a pilgrimage. Thomas Hardy may have betrayed me by writing that Tess person, but I still love him.


SY6187 Hardy Monument
© Copyright Bob Tinley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

SY7292 Inscription onThomas Hardy Monument
© Copyright Jim Champion and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Megan said...

Tess bugs me.

Mayor of Casterbridge is my favorite.

Sandra Leigh said...

I believe Jude the Obscure would get my vote, but it's been so long now since the Hardy affair, I should really go back and read them all again. Heh. I was just thinking that maybe I should start with Tess, just to be fair - but maybe not.

fellow-ette said...

Great post. I was just at a family dinner and everyone was trashing Hardy for being depressing, when my poor mom just sat here, an unabashed Hardy-lover.

Poetikat said...

I didn't realize how long it's been since I was here.

As I told you in my message, Sandra, Jude is my favourite too. I also liked "Return of the Native". Tess, doesn't get better with age. I'm with Megan - Tess bugs me too.


Poetikat said...

I'll be back - got a mom-date today.


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