HARDY, Thomas, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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Hardy doubts himself

HARDY, Thomas (1840-1928). Poet and novelist.
Autograph Letter Signed to [Daisy] 'Margaret' [Gifford], 1 page small 4to, Max Gate, 26 July 1922. Expressing reservations about the verses he has written commemorating her sister, his cousin, Evelyn Hamilton Gifford.
'I am glad to know that you liked the verses on dear Evelyn. I wrote them offhand, when I had heard you had lost her; but I did not think them so good as they ought to have been: so I did not tell anybody. ...'
Mild as it is here, it is very rare to find Hardy expressing doubts about one of his poems in his letters. The letter is printed in The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy, vi. page 151.
Hardy and his first wife, Emma Lavinia Gifford, were married by her uncle, Archdeacon Gifford, father of Evelyn (1876-1920), who was thus Hardy's cousin by marriage. He inscribed a copy (one of only six recorded) of Selected Poems to her ('some of them written before you were born!' Letters, v. pages 188-189) and in Later Lyrics and Earlier included the poem on her death, which he comments on in this letter, entitled 'Evelyn G. of Christminster'.
Daisy Gifford's copy of Later Lyrics and Earlier, present and to be sold with the letter, has her ownership inscription and the 'G' in the poem to Evelyn extended to 'Gifford' in manuscript both in the table of Contents (page xxi) and on the poem itself (page 125). Also present is the dedication copy of Evelyn Gifford's Provenanzo the Proud, 1904, inscribed to her father.
Florence Hardy described her husband's 'dear Evelyn' as 'bright and affectionate'. She and Daisy had sent Hardy a telegram on his birthday in 1920 (Letters, vi. page 29). Writing to her mother on 14 June 1920, Hardy had hoped that Evelyn would be better, but she died on 6 September that year. He last saw her when he received his honorary D.Litt. at the Sheldonian when Evelyn's husband A.D. Godley, who was the Public Orator, made the speech of presentation. In a letter to Charles Gifford of 11 December 1920, Hardy recalled that when he was in Oxford 'she went about with us, & seemed so cheerful, & yet she was going to undergo an operation the very next day, which she would not tell us of lest it might be depressing'. Florence Hardy observed that had 'he known it when he was parting from her outside the Sheldonian in the rain that afternoon, his heart would have been heavier than it was' (Florence Hardy, The Life of Thomas Hardy, 1994, pages 202-203 and 214).
[No: 23887]

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