PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review Blog
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Vahni Capildeo The Boisterous Weeping of Margery Kempe Paul Muldoon The Fly Sinead Morrissey Put Off That Mask Jane Yeh Three Poems Sarah Rothenberg Poetry and Music: Exile and Return

This article is taken from PN Review 166, Volume 32 Number 2, November - December 2005.

The Thomas Hardy Birthday Lecture 2005 Michael Alexander

On his eightieth birthday, 2 June 1920, Thomas Hardy pencilled the following note: 'When, like the Psalmist, "I call mine own ways to remembrance", I find nothing in them that quite justifies this celebration.' He added, however, that long survival enables some who are 'late to develop... to complete their job'. This lecture is about long survival. A marker of anniversaries, and keenly aware of the passing of days, seasons, and years, Hardy was not a great celebrator of birthdays. 'How she would have loved a party today', he wrote of Emma. She would have loved it. As a small boy, he had, with his father, played music for others to dance to, and he loved dancing (like cyder and love, it was 'a great thing, /a great thing to' him), but he was also an observer, a bystander. Late in life, he wrote of himself that He never expected much, and that for Life I had never cared greatly. This Roman pose was struck in the late Empire, by Landor, Henley, Housman and Kipling. While such disclaimers reflect a recurring mood of Hardy's, I find them, as historical statements, entirely unconvincing. If Hardy had never expected much and hadn't cared greatly for life we would not be here.

What we did as we climbed, and what we talked of
        Matters not much, nor to what it led -
Something that life will not be ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image