Letter from Thomas Hardy to Florence Henniker, 21 December 1913

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Max Gate

My dear friend:

I had reserved my reply to your last kind letter till to-day, in order to make it a Christmas greeting, & now I have a double impulse to write, having received the picture-card & words on it this morning. It seems, so far as I can judge, a very pretty place, but I cannot tell the sub-soil from the view. However I hope it is dry, & will suit you.

The new Christmas does not [Page 2] exhilarate me much. But of course I cannot expect it to. The worst of a sad event in middle life & beyond is that one does not recover from the shock as in earlier years; so I simply say to myself of this Christmas, "Yet another!"

The alliance with Cambridge, to which you allude, is pleasing: it gives me a fresh centre of interest, & they are all such nice friends to me there. I am intending to visit it very often, but whether I shall is doubtful.

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I read Miss Wedmore's poems, that you were good enough to send, & liked best those you had marked, as was natural. The half-page of The Sphere of this week, which I enclose as a sort of Xmas card, gives a few verses I was asked for by the editor, but a periodical is a chilling atmosphere for poems: the mood induced by a newspaper is just the wrong one, & puts them out of tune.

Do you ever see a quarterly magazine called "Poetry & Drama". It is written by a group of young men whose idea of verse is that [Page 4] nobody has ever known how to write it in the whole history of literature till they came along to show the trick to the world; so it is amusing reading, which I think you would like.

A young lady came this week to photograph me in colour, at the request of a friend of mine. The specimens she showed me were extraordinary in their reality. But I am getting tired of it all. My niece & Miss Dugdale are here ministering to my wants: I don't know what I should do without them, & I am sorry to say that just now Florence [Page 5] has a bad cold. I want her to stay in bed, but cannot get her to. I do not see many people. Mrs Sheridan says she is coming, but she has not come. Lady Ilchester is at Melbury, & tells me she will be there if all's well till June. Mrs Asquith tells me she is ill, & going away — not for a "rest cure" — she is too weak for that she says. ^I am sorry for her^. Sir H. Herkomer is doing ^films of "Far from the Madding Crowd," for the picture palaces: young Herkomer came here a few days ago to get local colour, [Page 6] & has photographed the real jug used in the malt-house.

There: that is about all the social & artistic intelligence I can think of — a poor supply. One thing more: did you see my letter in the Times about performing animals? You may not have done so, & I send it on. But the words "Performing Animals" do not clearly indicate the matter: what I object to most are performances with animals — ^^in which they are passive^ — e.g. bringing live canaries, rabbits, pigeons, &c. out of the sleeve or handkerchief. Every spectator can see that the wretched creature is in the greatest misery, & I [Page 7] believe that a great many are "used" in these tricks — that is, tortured to death.

I wonder when I shall see you. Not very soon I suppose; and you have many interests outside my life.

Your affectionate friend

Tho. H.
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