Letter from Frank Theodore to Thomas Hardy, 19 February 1915

[Page 1]

Ashleigh. Marlborough Road.

Ashford. Middlesex

Dear Master Hardy.

This is not where I really live, but the place whereat our regiment is billeted in training for the Front - myself being a private temporally in the Tenth Middlesex during this awful, though fortunately only transitory time.

I have recently read Tess of the d'Urbervilles and while I am still in [Page 2] the [way], wish to thank you. I am in rather a difficult position, for as you clearly show in your writings, you do not care what any man thinks of your books. The expression of thanks to you, must be similar to that tendered to a great surgeon by a patient, whose life he has saved under the influence of anaesthetics.

I can only ask you to believe in the sincerity of my appreciation.

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I know the country well. My grandfather - Master John Beard was master at the Port Bredy National Schools from about 1850 until 1894 and still continued to live in that lovely little town until his death in 1910. With him I spent my holidays walking through the Matchless Vale of Marshwood and roaming over Pilsdon Pen and Lewesdon Hill.

Then again the story is modern, within the period of railways. There [Page 4] is no "wrapping up" in an age of which we know nothing. Not that I wish to depreciate "mystery." That is the lovely charm of Gothic Architecture.

I have never read a story which subdued and impressed me so much. Not even "Hereward the Wake" or "The Cloister and The Hearth" in which, in the legend of "The Cross in Hand" there is a similarity. – I went out into the night air to meditate upon the tragedy under the stars [Page 5] I could not help wondering how you being a man could so well imagine the thoughts of an outraged pure woman. Could all that agony be borne by one poor girl? Surely an English Court of Law would not have condemned her to death considering the evidence which would have been brought forward at the trial by Angel Clare and the landlady? I felt that the false d'Urberville deserved [Page 6] to die from some horrible lingering disease. I have little sympathy for Angel Clare — how about his sin of which he says no more and over which Tess seems to pass? It is a kind of poetical justice that Tess refused to see him longer. He spoke the truth when he remarked, previous to his emigration to Brazil "that it would break the continuity of his life."

After spending seven or eight years in and out [Page 7] an architect's and church decorator's office, I went to Canada, expecting to find work of that description but was disillusioned. I did some farming - amongst other things - but I did not find the rising at three in the morning so romantic as in "Tess"

It is one thing to gaze down upon a dairy pasture and listen to the lowing of cattle in the distance, and another thing to have them bellowing underneath your bedroom window [Page 8] at three A. M.

I am commencing "The Return of the Native" which I have heard described as a tragedy of "temperament and environment." I understand this first appeared in 1878 and Tess in 1891.

Thanking you again

I am

yours sincerely

Frank Theodore

[Flower-shaped image with four petals, two of which right-angled, with stalk. Two diagonal P-shaped images either side of flower.]

hys mark.