Thomas Hardy and Pints at The Wiseman

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In 1996, I studied Thomas Hardy (Tess of the d’Urbervilles) in Dorset County, England for six weeks during the summer.  Dr. Morgan, an Illinois State University professor, was a Hardy Scholar and for over 20 years, he took students to this south-central slice of heaven. Before his retirement, I signed up for the graduate English course as one of a group of twelve. An Elizabethan summer home was converted into an Agricultural College and while students were out for the summer, our group used their dorm rooms and facilities.

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The upside to the incessant rain in June provided lush gardens for us to enjoy in July. img-216113732img-216113732

During the day, the gazebo at the top of this croquet garden was the perfect spot for reading Thomas Hardy’s books and poetry. At night, it was the perfect confessional for heart-to-heart talks under the stars.  Thomas Hardy lived in and loved Dorset County so much, he set his novels about the county, but changed the names of the towns and hamlets to fictional ones. For his most famous novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, our time in the Elizabethan mansion was a location spot, too. Hardy’s satirical story of Tess was a sad one. She was a milkmaid who was raped, loved and lost her man Angel. She became a mistress and a murderess. The double-standard of the Victorian female purity makes Tess a significant British novel.

For each of Hardy’s novels, we journeyed to the exact location of the plot and read it there. One such spot was Stonehenge. When I first visited Stonehenge in the late 70s, you could walk in and around and hug the stones, if you wanted. By the time I was last there in 1996, they had roped off the area due to vandalism. Imagine spray-painting one of the druid stones. Blasphemy! Now all one can do is walk around them from afar. If getting close to rocks is your thing, head up north to the other end of the island and take a ferry to the Orkney and Shetland Islands and you can dance around ancient rocks all day long.

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One spot (above) in Tess of the d’Urbervilles is the Sandbourne seaside resort area. Very close by is Lulworth Cove where a person can hike the trails for hundreds of miles along the southern coast. When I return to the area someday, I imagine hiking all day, followed by pints in the evening and a night in a B & B. What a great way to spend a summer in England, I daydream. Here are some of my favorite shots that I took.

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Speaking of pints, I love English pubs, especially thatched ones. When class was over for the day and we exhausted every angle of analyzing Tess, a small group of us would head off a mile away for evening mingling with the locals at The Wise Man Inn.

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Tuesdays were dart night. The league was getting ready to begin when a few of the men from the village had not shown up. There was a grandfatherly type who ran the show and he asked our table of six girls if anyone wanted to fill in. It just so happened I was a pretty good dart player; I had lots of practice when I lived in Scotland while stationed in the Navy.

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Feeling merry from the lager, I stood at the line, facing the board and wondered where to throw. UK dart players can count backward from 301 and reach zero a lot faster than I can, and the experienced dart players in a league liked to play quickly. It was our turn, and we had 103 points remaining to win the game. My partner, the old gentleman who’d been playing for sixty years, stood next to my ear and whispered where I was to throw the darts. “Triple 20.” Pling!  He whispered again, “Triple 13.” It was like he was in my mind talking to my hand. Perfect. Finally, he said, “Double two.”  Ha! We won the game, and everyone clapped. It was one of my finer moments.

“The Voice”

By Thomas Hardy

 

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!
Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?
Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.

31 thoughts on “Thomas Hardy and Pints at The Wiseman

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  1. Rain in the summer, in England? Welcome to my world, Cindy… 😉

    My favourite Hardy novel is The Mayor of Casterbridge, I never got to study it in Dorset though.
    (We never use ‘County’ here, after the name.)
    Love the photos of an area I know quite well. It has been a long time since I was there though.
    Nice recollections that I enjoyed recollecting with you.

    The Toby Jugs hanging up in the pub were once a common sight in English Inns. Rarely seen these days.
    If you ever get to where I live, I will take you for dinner here.
    http://thompsonchequers.co.uk/ It has a wonderful thatched roof, and is about 20 minutes by car from Beetley.

    Best wishes as always, Pete.

    1. I accept your invitation! Don’t be surprised when I show up on your doorstep. I’d love to have dinner at the Thomson Chequer. I didn’t think you used county but I couldn’t remember what the right term was. Pershaps shire? Anyway, great memories which feel strange to me that they are now 20 years old. Eegads.

      1. In Scotland, they add the Shire, as in Dumfriesshire, Aberdeenshire, etc. In Wales, the also use it, as in Monmouthshire.
        County is used before the name in Ireland, as seen in County Cork, County Donegal, etc.
        In England, there is only one example in common usage, and that is County Durham. This is to differentiate places there from the city of Durham. Otherwise, it is just the name, like Norfolk, Essex, Devon, and so on. Just a small introduction to some British quirks!
        Make sure you are hungry when we go to The Chequers, the portions are huge! x

  2. Looks like you had an amazing time, Dorset it a lovely part of the UK. Like the photos you took, can’t beat a nice English pup either! Hope you had fun playing darts, I like the game, I’m not very good though 🙂

  3. What a contrast between that English countryside and Arizona you live in now. Each has it’s own separate beauty but starkly different. I enjoyed the poem too. You have had such an interesting life.

    1. Hi, Ian. Oh, I think we all have. It seems more exotic the farther you are away from home. You, for instance, all the way over in Australia. Why, your daily routine would be fascinating to me! Thomas Hardy’s poems are beautiful and easier to read than some of his novels. He was a man of his time and I learned to like his writing. It certainly helped standing on the same spot he was inspired for his Wessex/Dorset stories.

  4. You certainly visited some excellent places in England and Scotland! My favourite Hardy novel is The Woodlanders although beware that the film has a completely different ending from the book. For sheer unadulterated misery, you cannot beat Jude the Obscure.

    1. You are right about Jude, John! I remember when we were reading that novel, a few of the louder, friskier grad students would roll their eyes. “Kill yourself, already, Jude, and let’s get on with it!”

    1. These pictures are 20 years old. I got a kick out of the scratch in the Sandbourne shot and the faded colors in the rest. It was a long time ago, and yet, still seems like yesterday. I feel like the pictures–gritty and fading. 😉

    1. The pictures are 20 years old and the colors are fading, but I like them anyway and appreciate your memories, too. I would have loved to have perched on top of one! A hug was good enough.

    1. I learned while in Dorset that there were three famous men by the name of Thomas Hardy. The author, the sea captain, and the owner of the vineyard. However, it’s the fourth that makes my knees go weak and you named him. 🙂

  5. A wise man once said: “Pass me a couple of pints, I’m feelin’ hardy.”
    Or something like that.
    OK … I never studied Thomas Hardy when we wuz young.
    A loss to me. Yet still to be regained.

    Darts are a big deal over there …

  6. I really enjoyed this post Cindy. I would love to have had D&M in that gazebo of an evening with Scotch, cigar and good friends. Congrats on your victory at darts and of fun nights in English pubs and good days in famous literary countryside. Does it get any better than that.

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