‘A man hit by vicissitudes’: A Laodicean (1881)
‘There is mercy in trouble coming in battalions,’ wrote Hardy in autumn 1880, ‘They neutralize each other. Tell a man that he must suffer the amputation of a limb, and it is a horror to him; but tell him this the minute after he has been reduced to beggary, and his only son has died: it hurts him but feebly.’ (L, 147) Hardy was seeking comfort in his present accumulation of troubles: the apprehensions in his note of November 1878 (quoted at the beginning of Chapter 5) had by now been realised in a situation which he could not have foreseen. The adversity under which Hardy was now forced to work had taken the unexpected form of a severe and painful illness, from which there was a possibility that he might not recover. Its onset had been sudden. After a week’s visit to Cambridge Hardy and Emma returned to London on 23 October 1880, the day on which The Trumpet-Major appeared in three volumes, and already Hardy felt unwell. A serious internal haemorrhage was diagnosed, and he was offered the choice of a dangerous operation or a prolonged period of prostration ‘on an inclined plane with the lower part of his body higher than his head’ (L, 145). Hardy chose the latter, remaining in bed from October until the following April.
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- 17.J.I.M. Stewart, Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography (London, 1971) p. 154.Google Scholar