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By Ian Scott-Kilvert

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Example text

This novel, I think, immense as it is in dissecting the problems of Jude and Sue and in describing their relationship, does leave a sense of horror at the end that is incompatible with the highest art, but in this case alone. In The Return of the Native the two characters who matter are Clym and his mother, Mrs. Yeobright. The tragedy is brought about by the error of Clym, who misconceives his mission in life, and above all by Mrs. Yeobright, whose prejudice and obstinacy are not atoned for by her gestures of forgiveness.

Fair prospects wed happily with fair times; but alas, if times be not fair. . Haggard Egdon appealed to a subtler and scarcer instinct, to a more recently learnt emotion . . " In The Woodlanders, too, though there are some gentler pictures, "the bleared 7 THOMAS HARDY pears, a pattern in accordance with which human nature manifests itself; the pattern yields a philosophy, imposed on Hardy by his intuitive reading of experience. There emerges a sort of theory of society into which the facts, as he sees them, fit; it widens into nothing less than a view of the universe.

Sue comes near to expressing the developed cosmology of The Dynasts. The characters, more sinned against than sinning, are those of human beings set in a framework of universal destiny. Hardy did not set out to give us a pessimistic philosophy. He did set out to show how certain persons, selected because they were interesting and had certain characters, would behave under certain circumstances, arbitrarily conceived, but not impossible. In bringing them to disaster he is prone to weight the chances against their prosperity by too many coincidences.

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