Hardy Explains Himself

February 25th, 2011

I’m about halfway through Tess of the d’Urbervilles, but I couldn’t resist sharing this line:

“the chronic melancholy which is taking hold of the civilized races with the decline of belief in a beneficent power.”

I’ve finally traced the well-spring of the despair that weaves through late 19th and turn of the century literature. And my long-time suspicions have been proven true!

You may laugh at my naiveté, but first consider that I missed out on all those comparative literature courses you had to suffer through. I’m seeing all this with fresh eyes and can’t help being a little bit excited.

For the record though, Tess is harder to read than Far from the Madding Crowd — it’s obviously further down the road of Hardy’s artistic development, and he has dared to put completely sympathetic characters in the path of dire and senseless misfortune. Harder to read isn’t always a bad thing though. Tess seems a more complex, complete work. And, so far at least, it abstains from self-consciously poking fun at itself, which, though fun to read, is the mark of an unsure author.

Ten points if any of you Jimmy Webb fans can figure out why I’m including this Art Garfunkel video in tonight’s posting.

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