Hardy's Wessex: The landscapes that inspired a writer
This fascinating book tells the story of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. Accompanying a multi-venue exhibition, it explores Hardy’s life and work.
Internationally-acclaimed writer Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is best known for his evocative depictions of the West Country landscape and its people, a region that he called ‘Wessex’. What is less well-known is that this landscape also inspired him in many other aspects of his life, from campaigning for animal welfare to questioning the way society viewed women. This publication accompanies a blockbuster, multi-venue exhibition of the largest collection of Thomas Hardy memorabilia ever to be displayed at once.
Hardy was born in the West Country, a few years after Queen Victoria came to the throne, and spent most of the rest of his life among its landscapes and people. When he turned writer, these landscapes and people re-emerged as his ‘partly-real, partly-dream country’ of Wessex, in novels like Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd and Jude the Obscure.
‘Hardy’s Wessex’ now conjures up a range of mental images: from raging seas on the coast to haunting ancient monuments, Victorian towns packed with life to peaceful hillsides grazed by sheep. However, through Hardy’s 87-year life span, the West Country changed dramatically. Ideas of the role of women, humans’ responsibility to animals, the realities of war, love and courtship, superstition, social structure, religion and how people related to the world around them altered fundamentally. Through his stories and campaigning, Hardy was keen to show not only the rural idyll, but also the tensions and
difficulties that lay beneath these views.
These dramatic landscapes were the lens through which Hardy presented his worldview to his readership. From the tragedy of a woman saying farewell to her sailorlover on the end of Portland Bill, to a shepherd losing his fl ock and facing ultimate ruin on the chalky hills. The landscapes shape his characters, whose stories in turn convey his messages of social change to his readers.
This publication will explore the impact that Wessex had on Hardy’s works, and how living there shaped his views on the often divisive social issues of the period. Uniting beautiful landscape imagery with a selection of personal items from Hardy’s life, this book will show you the man behind the literature.
By Harriet Still
Paperback, 210 x 210 mm
60 pages, 50 illustrations
About the author
Harriet Still has worked in museums with Thomas Hardy and his world of Wessex for the past decade, managing Hardy’s Cottage for the National Trust as well as curating the Wessex Museums’ Thomas Hardy exhibition 2022.