Tuesday, July 21, 2009


An addendum to the Morley post (and also something pertaining to my current writing project) - from Raymond Williams' The Country and the City, in the chapter on Thomas Hardy. By the time of Hardy's birth, Dorset was already being deeply modernised; he was the first person in his family history to receive further education, as an architectural pupil at Dorchester - a mere seven miles from his home, but even that was enough to effect a subtle break from the 'native' culture of village life:

"the separation of the returned native is not only a separation from the standards of the educated and affluent world 'outside'. It is also, to some degree inevitably, a separation from the people who have not made his journey... The complexity of Hardy's fiction shows in nothing more than this: that he runs the whole gamut from an external observation of customs and quaintness, modulated by a distinctly patronising affection (as in Under the Greenwood Tree), through a very positive identification of intuitions of nature and the values of shared work (as in The Woodlanders), to the much more impressive but also much more difficult humane perception of limitations, which cannot be resolved by nostalgia or charm or the simple mysticism of nature, but which are lived through by all the characters, in the real life to which all belong, the limitations of the educated and the affluent beaing an organic relation to the limitations of the ignorant and the poor... [The] real perception of tradition is available only to the man who has read about it, though what he then sees through it is his native country, to which he is already deeply bound by the memory and experience of another kind: a family and a childhood; an intense association of people and places, which has been his own history. To see tradition in both ways is indeed Hardy's special gift: the native place and experience but also the education, the conscious inquiry. Yet then to see living people, within this complicated sense of past and present, is another problem again. He sees as a participant who is also an observer; this is the source of the strain. For the process which allows him to observe is very clearly in Hardy's time one which includes, in its attachments to class feelings and class separations, a decisive alienation."


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