Hardy Fever

Hardys-Cottage, Hardy's Wessex

You may have had the chance to see the film Far From the Madding Crowd. And it may have inspired you to dust down your Hardy novels (or indeed download them on your e-reader).

Putting the obvious romantic appeal of Hardy aside for a moment, there are some beautiful shots of the bucolic Dorset (Wessex) countryside and pastoral life in the film.

In all his novels, Hardy’s descriptions of the idyllic landscapes in which he was born and lived are astoundingly vivid and powerful. Also, one can find the recurring theme of the struggle of women against male-dominated Victorian morals and laws. And then there is the recurring depiction of the county town of Dorchester, which Hardy called Casterbridge.

We offer a chance to immerse yourself in Hardy landscapes and characters, staying at 350 year-old Yalbury Cottage near Dorchester (Casterbridge) with superb classic food cooked with local produce from talented owner-chef, Jamie Jones.

The commentaries on our Thomas Hardy’s Wessex Self-Guided Walks include references to the life and relationships of, arguably, Hardy’s most famous and tragic heroine, Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Here is a synopsis of the novel:

“Tess of the d’Urbervilles is, arguably, Hardy’s most descriptive and profoundly-emotive novel. Set in impoverished rural England in the 1870s, it was poorly-received when first published in 1891. This was because the novel questioned Victorian moralism of the time and the double standards that the heroine of the novel, through no fault of her own, falls victim to.

Tess, a very pretty country maiden, the daughter of a poor peasant farmer, is duped, seduced and raped in the woods one night by her cousin, Alec d’Urberville, a ‘nouveau-riche’ landowner. The baby that Tess gives birth to dies soon afterwards and she buries it secretly in consecrated ground denied her by the village vicar. Hardy portrays Tess as a good person and an innocent victim despised by society for losing her virginity before marriage.

Finding employment outside the village as a dairymaid, she meets Angel Clare, an apprentice farmer. They fall in love and he asks her to marry him. As the marriage date approaches, Tess becomes increasingly anxious knowing that Angel would assume she is a virgin. They marry, and on the wedding night, when Angel confesses he had a brief affair, she in turn tells him about Alec thinking he would understand and forgive. Instead, he is appalled and leaves her, sailing off to Brazil.

Completely shattered, Tess returns home to her parents but later meets Alec once more, who tells her Angel will never return. Tess’s family are living in considerable hardship and she feels she has no choice but to become Alec’s mistress. Angel returns from Brazil intent on finding Tess and discovers her living in a boarding house under the name of ‘Mrs d’Urberville’. She tells him it is too late and asks him to leave. When Alec returns home, blaming him for her belief that Angel would never return, she stabs him in the heart then runs after Angel. They are reconciled and spend the next five days together, rapturously happy before the police arrest Tess at Stonehenge to escort her to Winchester, where she is tried for murder and hanged. In Hardy’s day, Stonehenge was thought to be a pagan temple where human sacrifices took place. The novel is replete with similar symbolism portraying Tess as a sacrificial victim to Victorian double standards.”