Cancelled Words: Rediscovering Thomas Hardy by Rosemarie Morgan

By Rosemarie Morgan

The manuscript of Hardy's first nice novel faraway from the Madding Crowd vanished almost immediately after its first e-book. Rediscovered in 1918 it sheds extraordinary new mild most of the time of Hardy's paintings. The manuscript pages, a few of that are reproduced the following in facsimile, demonstrate Hardy's unique composition within the novel, and the reluctantly `cancelled phrases' that have been the results of an extended fight with Sir Leslie Stephen, Hardy's editor. Cancelled phrases finds the style within which Hardy labored, his resistance to censorship, his obsessive awareness to aspect and precision, and the usually hid tactics underlying his authorship. eventually, it serves to form our figuring out of the improvement of the fashionable novel.

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Hardy is gradually working his way towards full disclosure but it is not until he revises for the first complete collected edition of the Wessex Novels, issued by Osgood, McIlvaine in 1895, that we have the entire unexpurgated version: ‘H’m—… A slight romance attaches to him, too. His mother was a French governess, and it seems that a secret attachment existed between her and the late Lord Severn. She was married to a poor medical man, and soon after an infant was born; and while money was forthcoming all went on well.

If the truth be told, the ‘line or two’ Stephen says he has ‘ventured to leave out’ has a remarkable propensity to multiply. Even forgetting his silent excisions, his visible markings in the manuscript tell us enough! Take, for example, ‘honest girls’ and their doings: they have a most unlucky way of catching his eye, and, instantly, the censoring pencil strikes. And he is particularly watchful over the intimate conversations between the women. In Chapter XXX, entitled ‘Blame—Fury’, Bathsheba, laughing with Liddy at the picture of herself as an ‘Amazonian’ woman, goes on to say: I hope I am not a bold sort of maid—mannish?

These, then, are the signs of resistance; but ultimately the manuscript speaks for itself. There is no evidence in the manuscript, despite his sacrifices to the narrative conventions of the serial and the cultural prudery of the parsonage, that Hardy is ever actually willing to forgo ‘proper artistic balance’ and the ‘higher aims’ of literary art. Even minor substantive changes reflect these aims. The ‘height’ of Hardy’s concerns here is considerable. His revisions are at once pedagogical, stylistic, structural, philosophical, ethical and always unerringly artistic.

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