Hardy’s Unwritten Second Sensation Novel

  • Lawrence Jones
Part of the Macmillan Literary Annuals book series (MLA)


According to his friend Sir George Douglas, Thomas Hardy within ten years of the publication of Desperate Remedies in 1871 ‘was wont to treat it cavalierly, speaking of it as a “sensation novel” of the Miss Braddon school, which in the early ‘eighties implied reproach, if not contempt’.1 A further decade later, when he gave a copy of the novel to Florence Henniker in 1893, he apologised for the work, saying he ‘hardly’ thought it ‘worth having,’ but that she might be ‘amused to read’ his ‘first venture.’2 In the Prefatory Note to the 1912 edition of the novel he called it a ‘sensational and strictly conventional narrative,’3 and in the Life (composed a few years later) he made clear that he regarded the writing of a sensation novel as a false first step in his career, a mistaken attempt to write in a genre not suited to his talents. Calling Desperate Remedies a ‘melodramatic novel, quite below the level of The Poor Man and the Lady’ (his unpublished first attempt at fiction), he explained the work as the ‘unfortunate consequence’ of ‘too crude an interpretation of George Meredith’s advice’ (to put aside The Poor Man and the Lady and ‘attempt a novel with a purely artistic purpose’ and with ‘a more complicated “plot”’). In retrospect he could see that the plot ‘had been concocted in a style which was quite against his natural grain’


Short Story Favourable Review Prefatory Note Opening Scene Opening Chapter 
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  1. 2.
    One Rare Fair Woman: Thomas Hardy’s Letters to Florence Henniker ed. Evelyn Hardy and F. B. Pinion (London: Macmillan, 1972) p. 24.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Thomas Hardy’s Personal Writings ed. Harold Orel (London: Macmillan, 1967) P. 4.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Old Mrs Chundle and Other Stories with The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall ed. F. B. Pinion (London: Macmillan, 1977) pp. 117–18.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    ‘Sensation Novels’, Blackwood’s Magazine, xci (May 1862); reprinted in Wilkie Collins: The Critical Heritage, ed. Norman Page ( London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974 ) p. 112.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Evelyn Hardy, ‘Plots for Five Unpublished Short Stories,’ London Magazine, (Nov. 1958) 35;Google Scholar
  6. Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography (Oxford University Press, 1982) p. 134.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy ed. Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate, 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978) p. 8.Google Scholar
  8. 21.
    Charles Morgan, The House of Macmillan (1843–1943) (London: Macmillan, 1943) PP. 97–8.Google Scholar
  9. 28.
    See Purdy, Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954) pp. 11–12;Google Scholar
  10. Purdy and Millgate’s note in Letters, I,p. 14; Millgate, Thomas Hardy: His Career as a Novelist (London: Bodley Head, 1971) p. 66;Google Scholar
  11. Pinion, A Hardy Companion (London: Macmillan, 1968) pp. 7, 23;Google Scholar
  12. Gittings, Young Thomas Hardy ( London: Heinemann, 1975 ) pp. 155–6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Norman Page 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Jones

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