Letter from Harold Temperley to Thomas Hardy, 28 January 1924

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Thomas Hardy, Esq., O.M., Litt.D., etc.,

Max Gate


Dear Mr Hardy,

As one who had the pleasure of meeting you here at Magdalene College, I am venturing to write to you on a subject which has always been of interest to me, and which forms a striking incident in the 'Mayor of Casterbridge'. The incident there related of the sale of the wife is I believe authentic to judge from your Preface. It is a curious fact that Marcellus, the Chargé d'Affaires of France records the sale of wives at Smithfield in 1823. I find two incidents confirming this in the contemporary press, but I have not come across the instance you mention. I am proposing to make a short communication to the second number of the Cambridge Historical Journal on this subject, and I should be very grateful if you could give me any information as to the case you yourself mention. In case you have not seen the first number, I enclose a copy. You will see the table of contents on the last page of the cover, and it would go in as a note and communication.

Apologising for troubling you on a subject which you have made more interesting and well-known than would otherwise have been the case and which is in any circumstances of considerable social interest.

I remain, with the greatest respect,

Yours very truly,

Harold Temperley

Draft reply in pencil by

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Dear Mr Temperley:

(Please pardon a dictated letter, on account of weakness of sight)

In reply to your inquiry on the sale of a wife in The Mayor of Casterbridge, alluded to in the preface to that tale as being based on fact. I can only say that in the eighteen twenties – a time assumed for the incident there were many wife-sales – as you may easily see by looking through a file of newspapers of that date. These sales had various features of detail, but how much either sale resembled that of the story in its details I am unable to remember. (the novel was written nearly 40 years ago.) I fancy a sailor was the purchaser in one of the true instances, but I am not quite sure. Many thanks for the Historical Journal.

I am,

Yours truly

Thomas Hardy.

H. W. V. Temperley esq. M. A.