Letter from Thomas X. Lewis to Thomas Hardy, 17 May 1926

[Page 1]


Thomas Hardy Esq.








[Page 2] 1926

Dear Sir

I have been writing this letter to you since 1921, Somehow my letters seemed too impulsive, and gave me away too much to a stranger at the [Antipodes]. — when re-read after a month's mellowing, so to speak. Under the terrible obsession, which "Jude" and " Tess" brought on me, — my letters to you (lucky, I burnt them) seemed to me like the ravings of a lunatic, and to tell you the truth, — I was thoroughly unbalanced for months. Jude! the very name used to give me palpitation!! I am much saner now, and have not touched any book ^by^ you for two years, - so I can now write with a detached mind.

But please do not let me weary you, — I will just say a few words, — for I will never be able to rest till I do, — You are a wonder novelist. I believe you to be the greatest writer that has ever lived, to say nothing of the greatest living. I looked you up in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, — It gives a [bald foul] account of your career! It said that "Jude" was your most unpopular work!!! And I think "Jude" to be an immortal book. — the fools!! (I beg your pardon).

I could go down on my knees, before such greatness and consumate genius as yours, — and I mean it.

This is how I came to discover you. — I was [Page 3] [Page 4] looking in one day at the free public library, and I saw a series of books by T. Hardy. The name meant nothing to me, for I had studied only the lives of dead authors in College. — Something about the "nice binding" made me choose one, — and I did not rest till I had read all the rest. I made enquiries, but nobody seemed to know T. Hardy. I wrote a letter to the Rangoon Gazette, – and I was told that T. Hardy was a living novelist, and just celebrated his jubilee etc etc.. You can imagine my feelings!

My^r^ Hardy! I am not exactly what is understood as a white man. I have never been out of India. But in my little sphere, books have been of great solace to me. Please do not think me extravagant or insincere if I say that if every word and letter in your Immortal works "Jude, the Obscure," "Tess" and the REST. were to be engraved on solid sheets of pure gold and the whole of your works compiled and embossed with all the most precious jewels in the world, then placed reverentially on a diamond studded altar in a Taj Mahal, for all posterity to behold and be lost in everlasting wonder, it would not yet be a fitting tribute to your immortal Godlike, — supernatural genius.

One day, I hope to work my passage to England and behold with my own eyes so great a man. I wish also to take my degree in Engineering. I am only 26. [Page 5] [Page 6] and am more or less a square man in a round hole. I used to have literary leanings, which I crushed early.

I enclose the saner ravings which perusal of your books have periodically brought on me. They are extracts from my scrap book and diary. Will you forgive me for sending them? My perceptions and sense of perspective sometimes gets obscured by my feelings, – but you may know more from what I have held back than from what I have confessed. that I have been through fire, – but far from coming forth purified – all the finer feelings and capacity for delicate thought and joy, – have been singed and evaporated away. Now what remains of a bald, wretched husk, - burnt and smelling evilly, - hating itself life, and everything morbidly, – blind to everything good, — abnormally sensitive to the wicked in this world, – lies in a welter of misery, — in engineering parlance, — the limit of elasticity having been over-reached, – a permanent set a strain occurred.

Your characters are my most intimate friends and companions in misfortune. They console and reconcile me to my lot and cheer me on while pointing with ghostly fingers to the brightness on the ^dark^ Horizon, which I consider my RELEASE, and DISSOLUTION. I have lived — suffered — died, — and resurrected several times in your works — have been reincarnated over and over again. So, for giving me just the [Page 7] solace I needed, and my greatest friends, "Jude" and "Tess," - I am under an eternal debt of gratitude to their creator.

Now, that I have at last achieved this letter; — I am happy.

I remain

Your humblest a^A^dmirer








P.S. I am afraid to post this letter. — I am nervous — hypersensitiveness!! It may find its way to the wastepaper basket – like the rest. Perhaps I have been overpresumptuous. — I — a nobody! I throw myself on your magnanimity and mercy. Forgive me I had to write, – otherwise Jude would not let me rest



[Page 8]

(extract from my diary & scrapbook)


I have just finished reading a novel of Thomas Hardy " The Woodlander's," is the title of this particular one. It is exactly 9-10pm. as I write and my impressions of the novel are so inexplicable, so subtle and so productive of a tender sympathy and sadness that sleep has been chased away from my eyelids.

.................................. His (Winterborne's) was a pure, undiluted passion, that had nothing in it of the grosser nature seen in temperaments of less finer fibre, – a passion, – so sacred, so true, so nearly approximating to anything that could be sublime on this earth – the devotion of a simple, manly nature, that suffered self-immolation for the dear object of its regard. – too beautiful – too noble for words. Cool, heartless cynic as I am turning out to be, – contemplation of such a love, the like of which I have never come across in the material form – in reality, I mean, - awakes my heart to the romantic ideals of ignorant childhood, whose dreams fancy-woven were one productive of a delightful fairyland.

Thomas Hardy,– in my opinion, in his subtlety, in his art rankshigh above more boosted novelists of any time or country. I have all along been anal[i]^y^sing my impressions, checking them with their direct cause – taking notes mentally registering etc, contrasting cause and effect,– as the wondrously vivid narrative passes in delightful, sad ^,^ whimsical, soul stirring episodes before my me^n^tal vision, and I have been struck - dumb - founded with the with the subtle, exquisite art and marvellous psychological insight of T. Hardy. There is one other, who shows this quality - Shakespeare. His (Hardy's plots are - well, I cannot find words to express their peculiar similarity to tra-j^g^edies with which the world is full. His inimitable style goes into rare, deep, penetrating, psychological analysis. His characters live. In short his stories are more vivid than everyday scenes and everyday happenings, with this quality as an appendage - while in essence taking of the trajedy, sorrow, unexpectedness of this world,- the utterly sordid is left out. There is enough cynicism in the characters to give them just the right amount on inter[s]^e^st, and love - the passion - is exhibited as a more rarefied emotion than its more sordid replica of poor imperfect humanity.

Ivan Turgenev's "dream world" has some approximation to the more practical tone of Hardy's novels.

N.B. – I must get a full [oc] collection of all the works of Hardy and Turgenev for perusal as well as the gratifying sense of possesion, when I have money, – possibly when I have finished my apprentice time and passed out.


(11.30 p.m.) - I cannot get rid of that sadness - melancholy which enwrapped me like a dark, soft mantle after reading "Woodlander's" - A certain depression, which I am loth to part with,– a certain tension in the strings of my heart, strings s [Page 9] [Page 10] ( 2 ) still vibrating with the echo of "Woodlander's", I feel strangely at a loss to express this feeling. Grace's turning to her husband after her passion,- true feeling for Winterborne, now nine months in the grave – and poor Marty South's going alone to his grave - and her words, her sublimity as she apostrophises him, she loved with such a lasting, enduring love – she, a girl, heroically battling against so many troubles which a malignant fate had thrust upon her, – whose form had not yet showed the 'contours of womanhood' – with her words, "Now my own, own love, you are mine and my^ony^ mine for she (Grace) has forgot 'ee at last, altho' for her you died! But I – when ever I get up I'll think of 'ee. Whenever I plant the young larches, I'll think that none planted as you planted,- If ever I forgot your name, let me forget home and heaven! But no, no, my love, I never can forget 'ee for you was a good man and did good things!" Poor - poor Marty!!

These words end the book. Marty's love for Winterborne was never returned, and the simple confession over his grave, altho' in the events and turmoil before his death, she kept silent as the grave - )^(^ even when visiting his tomb with Grace) this simple confession plucks one's heartstrings – the poor girl opening her aching heat^r^t over his grave strikes a vibrant, pathetic note, – redolent of all the frailties, the joys, sorrow impotency of poor humanity Human emotion evanescent a fitful fever..................................... Mrs Fitzpier's love and her aversion to her faithless husband................ Thus the totally unforeseen happens. What feelings were in operation in Mrs Fitzpier's heart, how the enshrined memory of Winterborne gets totally subverted, – how she turns slowly to her husband are all brought before the minds vision by the consummate genius of Hardy. To Hell with conventional plots It does not depict life. In making his heroine go back to her husband, altho it makes painful reading, Hardy strikes a true note of unconventionality, thoroughly consistent with Life. That is why his works, his characters, are so re^a^listic. They are true to life. He shows how frail human nature is - there is just enough cynicism to make his story charming without diverging from the truth. How true ! How true and sad ! the readers crys with tears in his eyes. Then he strikes a note of sublimity in Marty South, "the lonesome lass"............................. grave...... diction superb ! Divine T. Hardy.

2/9/21 ThoXLewis [Page 11] [Page 12] (1) [1]0/7/24

I have just come to the end of "Jude, the obscure," another of Hardy's marvellous, inimitable works, - masterpieces. If ever, I, by the grace of God, meet this man (I believe he is still living) I will kneel and kiss the hem of his garment! - absolutely! - This man is supernatural! - What he writes is not of mortal brain or mind or intellect. I have never in the whole wide range of classic and standard literature, ever come across his name, spoken of either as a genius of otherwise. It was by the merest accident that I picked up one of his novels, – how I bless the day! – – and then it was as if I had never known what character portrayal, – what life mirrored in the magic of words, – how tragedy is brought up and served [gap] living, palpitating – was. I repeat again - this man is not born of woman. I have read all his works, – and this last one, I found by accident and the pleasure – pain it has given me – the depths it has stirred me – My God! – is it possible for mere fiction to do this much? I feel still as in a dream and everything unreal, except the scenes, the characters, the sorrow, the tragedy of this immortal book. I feel again the sadness of all things on this earth. – the vanity of earthly gain – the spectre at the feast. Oh! what suffering we mortals are destined from our birth – fretful, struggling, burning, acting [Page 13] [Page 14] (2) till puff! - and out of the world again, and all the time this old world turns on heedless, unfeeling

Hardy has made his characters more real than myself, [gap] ^it^ seems to me, and this story more true than my life and surroundings. I can't believe it is a story Oh it cannot be - cannot be - it is more - much more, it is real tragedy, real life, - handled and depicted by a masterly hand immortal genius - a man not of this earth, – or born of woman – this fact is forced upon me, every[gap] time I read a chapter and see the way – the manner – oh! words are useless. – useless. – My humour is too deep for words.


I can't sleep – I can't think, – "Jude" haunts, - All the sad characters and incidents of that wonderful book haunts me, - and I feel inexpressibly depressed A settled melancholy, oppressive and sadly sweet has fallen on me and my heart is affected to its core. I wish I had never read it.

The whole work is a biography, in which the biographer does not appear. He never obtrudes himself in the slightest. He does not condemn, counsel, remark, or criticize. The life of a man accursed is shown, from his boyhood to his death. - Love, passion, fever, and fret, - derision and disaster [Page 15] [Page 16] (3) are all shown too vividly and the reader loses a sense of his individuality and his surroudings and it is days before he can dis emerge from the individuality of the hero and the reality of the fictitious scenes lose their vividness. He feels and suffers with these characters, and if he has not a strong heart, – emotions strong and terrible are sure to grip him, – and it were better for him to leave Hardy alone.

I am actually afraid to go near "Jude, the obscure," – it lies on the dressing table – I can see it, – but I avoid going near it, – my eye accidentally alighting on it makes my heart beat irregular and give a stifling sensation.

Many would say that Hardy was unhealthy morbid, but that is only condemning what they would not understand, and does not come in their daily materialistic, prosaic lives. Hardy deals with the higher passions, - refined love and sentiments unknown, to the gross individual. He is essentially unconventional, – so is life! – I worship hi I worship him, and am lost in wonder at his performance of such miracle. Such power – consumate genius, – Why does not the whole country raise him up and place him on his proper pedestal. Fools! Fools!!