Letter from Leslie Stephen to Thomas Hardy, 13 April 1874

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[Centre, stamped in blue ink. Oval containing a bundle of corn sheaves above two crossed sickles, with THE CORNHILL MAGAZINE SMITH ELDER & Co. running around inside of oval.]

My dear Mr Hardy,

I have read the new instalments of the Madding Crowd with great pleasure - I think the story grows in interest & is equally vigorous in description. You need not be afraid of [gap: tearing]

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part of the story; Wh., however, must be prefaced by the general remark that all I object as editor, not as critic, ie. in the interest of a stupid public, not from my own taste.

I think that the reference to the cause of Fanny's death is unnecessarily emphasized. I should, I think, omit all reference to it except just enough to indicate the true state of the case; & especially a conversation between your heroine & her maid, wh. is a little unpleasant. I have some doubts whether the baby is necessary at all & whether it would not be sufficient for Bathsheba to open the coffin in order to identify the dead woman with the person she [meets] on the road. This is a point wh. you can consider. It certainly rather injures the story, wh. & perhaps if the omission were made it might be restored on republication. But I am rather [necessarily] anxious to be on the safe side; and should somehow be glad to omit the baby.

However, these changes can be easily made when the story is in type & I shall send it to the printers now; & ask you to do what is necessary to the proofs.

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We can talk about it when we meet. Meanwhile I am more than satisfied in all other respects.

I shall be very glad to see you when you come to town. Can you dine with us on Friday the 24th at 1/4 to 8? If so, my wife bids me say that she will be delighted to see you. You will find me at home any morning.

Yours very truly

L. Stephen