Of the books which Hardy inherited from his friend Horace Moule, three had considerable influence on his works: Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, J. H. Bridges’ translation of A General View of Positivism by Auguste Comte,1 and a translation of Goethe’s Faust2 Of these The Golden Treasury was Hardy’s favourite; he must have known many of its poems by heart, and he quotes from them frequently in his fiction and letters. In the long run Comte did as much as any other writer to mould Hardy’s basic philosophy of life. Goethe’s Faust was to have a more imaginative influence on his works, the Mephistophelian element entering the novels in one form or another over a period of more than twenty years. The Mayor of Casterbridge (xvii) shows that his interest in Faust was increased by Thomas Carlyle’s essays on Goethe; Henchard’s character, Hardy writes, ‘might not inaptly be described as Faust has been described — as a vehement gloomy being, who had quitted the ways of vulgar men, without light to guide him on a better way’.8 It is significant that, when his difficulties with Tess of the d’Urbervilles made him realize the crippling restrictions imposed by Victorianism, he included Faust among the ‘great works of the past’ which ‘the notions of the present day would aim to exclude from circulation, if not from publication’, had they been ‘issued as new fiction’.
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- 2.Evelyn Hardy, Thomas Hardy, A Critical Biography (London, 1954; New York, 1970), p. 51.Google Scholar