At the still point of the Hardy world is the enduring art of a man who was, as Lord David Cecil said at the 1978 Hardy Festival, “tender-hearted and not very hopeful”: a gentle and exact description. Dr Robert Gittings has recently taken a rather different view of Hardy’s personal qualities. Gittings’s appearance on the biographical stage has been greeted by some as if he were the villain of a Victorian melodrama. The role is not, in a sense, inappropriate since this least villainous of men does pose a skilful challenge to the status quo. Instead of twirling a waxen moustache, however, he has come on propounding a revisionist view of Hardy’s character: in contrast to Cecil’s (and the prevailing) view of Hardy as “a good man as well as a great man”, Gittings depicts a mean-spirited and small-souled author. When one of our most distinguished biographers compounds indefatigable scholarship with what appears to be personal animosity toward his subject, the result is bound to be controversial, and I shall return to it later.
KeywordsCritical Edition Textual Study Creative Mind Great Poet Revisionist View
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