One thing is clear: when asked as a youth what I wanted to be when I grew up, I did not answer ‘a Hardy specialist’. And yet, so it seems, I have become one. That life is governed by fortuity has struck me forcibly — perhaps through spending too much time in the company of Thomas Hardy — while preparing the present volume. If I hadn’t gone to Sweden in 1968 to take up my first lecturing post — never having read a word of Hardy — and hadn’t met an English colleague who was teaching Tess of the d’Urbervilles (as I was also to do) to large groups of bemused Swedish students for whom fatalistic tragedy in rural Dorset was not a burning issue in their lives just then, who knows what I might have done and become? But my friend was obsessed by the questions of determinism and free will he saw Tess as principally raising, and on my very first evening in northern Sweden, I was introduced to that burning issue without more ado. So I read Tess; tried to explain what ‘a blighted star’ and ‘the ache of modernism’ might mean to young people whose own blights and aches had more to do with the consumption of brenvin and the pursuit of sex than with savouring fin-de-siècle angst; and discussed, deep into the long winter nights, how far Tess was a victim of, or instrumental in, her own ‘Fate’: did she jump or was she pushed? We never solved it — which perhaps helps to explain why I became ‘a Hardy specialist’.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number