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Contemporary judgment on the growth of Hardy’s reputation as a novelist between 1971 and 1881

Smith, Peter D. (1967) Contemporary judgment on the growth of Hardy’s reputation as a novelist between 1971 and 1881. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract

Thomas Hardy's first eight published novels appeared between 1871 and 1881, and were extensively reviewed by the London news papers and journals of opinion. The thesis is based mainly upon one hundred and twenty-six such reviews. Comparison of these reviews with the general standards employed in novel-reviewing and with the reception of eight contemporary works reveals the 'ordinariness' of Hardy's early books. His settings may be unusual in some cases, his style slightly bizarre, and some of his characters peculiar, but, unlike Meredith or James, he is not seen as blazing any new trails; unlike George Eliot he is not considered a writer of 'literature'; nor is he regarded as using the novel to convey a view of life, as did Gissing or Samuel Butler. Rather, the reviewers deal with him as they deal with Trollope or William Black, as one who writes fairly straightforwardly about fairly ordinary people and events. It is therefore not surprising to find some opinions that run counter to modern criticism: A Pair of Blue Eyes highly praised. The Trumpet-Major described as his masterpiece. The Return of the Native confusing the reviewers and arousing hostility, and even warm compliments for The Hand of Ethelberta and A Laodicean. Many reviewers were nevertheless perspicacious enough to realize that Hardy has extraordinary gifts: his ability to describe rural life and natural phenomena, his profound understanding of women's hearts his skill as a plot-maker. The reviewers generally admired and encouraged him at this stage of his development, and, in spite of finding the reviews confusing and even painful. Hardy may have had cause to be grateful to them, for they must have helped to create the following that enabled him to devote himself to his career as a novelist and to his calling to be a poet.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Letters
Thesis Date:1967
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:26

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