Letter from Leslie Stephen to Thomas Hardy, 17 February 1874

[Page 1]



8 Southwell Gardens

My dear Mr Hardy,

I have read through your MS with very great pleasure; though I had seen most of it before. As you ask me for my opinion I will say frankly that I think the sheepshearing rather long for the ^our^ present purpose. When the novel appears as a whole, it may very well come in in it's present form. For periodical purposes, I think it rather delays the action unnecessarily. What I should be inclined to do would be simply to omit the chapter headed the "shearing supper" & to add a few paragraphs to the succeeding and preceding, just explaining that there has been a supper. The chapter on the "Great Barn" & that called "a merry time" seem to me to be excellent & I would not omit [either] ^them^ or shorten them. The other seems to me the least good of the three - & [therefore] the best to abridge. I don't know whether anything turns on the [Page 2] bailiff's story; but I don't think it necessary.

I shall take the MS to Smith & Elder's today & will tell them that they will hear from you. Please write to them (to S.E & Co 15 Waterloo Place ^ S. W.^) & say whether the whole is to be printed as it stands; or whether the chapter I mention is to be omitted; or whether you would like to have the MS again to alter previously to printing. Do whichever judgement commands.

I have heard of the story from many people & have only heard one opinion of its merits, wh. coincides with my own. As it goes on & gets more into the action, I am sure that the opinion will be higher still. In short, I think you have every reason to be satisfied & encouraged.

The Spectator's instincts are better than it's reasons. It generally recognises a good thing; but almost always talks nonsense about the causes of it's admiration. As for the supposed affinity to George Eliot, it consists, I think, simply in this that you have both treated rustics of the farming class in a humorous manner - Mrs Poyser would be at home I think, in Weatherbury - but you need not be afraid of such criticisms. You are original [Page 3] & can stand on your own legs.

Yours very truly

Leslie Stephen

I have said frankly what I thought; but I hope you will not attach too much importance to my criticism - Do exactly what you think right - I shall be content. [T]^V^ery likely, it will be best for you to see the whole in print before [acting]; if so, do let it go to the press as it stands