Letter from Harry Timbres to Thomas Hardy, 24 July 1925

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Dear Thomas Hardy,

Why did you write "Tess of the D'Urbervilles"? I wake up at night, screaming against the injustice of it, and I cannot rid it from my thoughts. It is the most haunting tragedy I have ever experienced.

Is it necessary to add sorrow to an already overburdened world, even in the form of a novel? Or perhaps you have known a person, or persons, who have undergone these experiences, and you wished to proclaim the injustice that had been done to them.

Is it the fate of some people to go through life, utterly alone, although longing and yearning for true [Page 2] companionship and never finding it? Then suppose there is no life after death? Where does justice come in? Where are the long years of loneliness and unrelieved pain, and impositions upon innocence and helplessness made up for?

What hope is there for Tess, or Clare, or even D'Urberville, or those who have suffered as they? Telling about it may prevent others from falling into snares of folly and ignorance and misunderstanding, but little good will the telling of it do Tess in finding what she sought for in vain. And why the exquisite touch of torturing her and Clare with ^by giving them^ the happiness they sought where it was too late for them to hold it? What [Page 3] is behind the Fate that controls these things? What is the ultimate answer?

You are an artist and can see into the depths of sorrow and feel it, and can also describe what you see and feel. What what of those who are not artists, on or only half,-artists, and who also see & feel sorrow as clearly as you, but have not the gift of raising a voice in protest? They can only suffer and say nothing. What hope do you offer them, or do you offer them any?

What is there to live for? Must we accept an inevitable Fate, which doles happiness to some and sorrow to others? Have you any vision of what lies behind it all, or beyond?

You are old, and I am young, and [Page 4] you have plumbed the depths of men's hearts. Can you not give me a notion of what the answers to my questions are, before you come to the place where you know the true answers, but cannot tell them? My life should be happy, considering its circumstances, but sometimes I feel as if an awful chasm were opening at my feet, and there below only cries of unrequited pain, unredeemed injustice, are heard. It seems that the only life left after death were sorrow.

There are some who would say that all pain was not as bad as it seems. But I cannot make fine distinctions. The tragical facts of life, are facts, and the fund of human [Page 5] happiness will not be increased until these facts are altered. In the meantime – what? And will they ever be altered? People do commit unremediable folly, and do die in hopelessness, even as Tess died. Every day, appalling injustice is done, which is not ameliorated in any degree by the fact that justice and mercy are also sometimes done. What of those whose lives have been ruined? Why is pain? Why is injustice? Are they fundamental and ultimate defects in the scheme of things, that will never be altered, but must be borne? If this is an answer, then it were better not to live, if by dying we could escape these facts defects.

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These questions sometimes almost drive me mad, but that does not bring an answer.

I write this in the hope that perhaps you can help me, even a little,

yours very respectfully

Harry [J.] Timbres.

5701 Kenwood Avenue

Chicago, Illinois. U.S.A.

After September 1st.

2101 Park Avenue

Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.