Saturday, 29 January 2011

Hardy Perennials

far from the madding crowd 2

'When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance to his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.'

I think “Far From the Madding Crowd” is just about my favourite Thomas Hardy novel**. I have really enjoyed listening to the serialisation of it on BBC Radio 7 this week. The great thing about BBC 7 classic dramas is that they repeat throughout the day – so if you miss the morning 10am one, you can catch it again at the insomniac hour of 3am – or just pick it up on BBC iPlayer.

I loved the 1967 film with Julie Christie, Alan Bates,Terence Stamp and Peter Finch. I had just discovered Hardy that year. We had to read “The Mayor Of Casterbridge” at school – and our teacher kept banging on about “Hardy’s main theme is Fate – if you are fated for bad things to happen to you, then they will” [Mind you, she was a fairly miserable lady herself] I am not sure I altogether agree with this analysis of Hardy – I think that often he was showing that the ‘bad’ things happen because someone has made a ‘bad’ decision.

far from the madding crowd 

But I remember our adolescent arguments [it was an All-Girls school] about who was the better suitor- Troy or Oak. The Soldier or The Shepherd [we may have been in Norfolk, but nobody in the class wanted Rich Farmer Boldwood – he was just old and creepy!]

We definitely fell into two camps – those who thought handsome, dashing Sergeant Troy, for all his faults, was The One. He brought excitement and romance and fun into the equation, and knew how to show a girl a good time. The bright uniform, the thrilling displays of swordsmanship, the sense that if he took you out, then people would regard the pair of you as two of the beautiful people. And somehow, he’d always find the cash to buy special, sparkling presents

And there were those who felt that good, solid Gabriel Oak was a better choice. He may have been not quite as good looking, but he was reliable, and faithful – and in a crisis, he was the one who could be trusted to make the wise decisions and take the best course of action. But he wasn't rich and never would be.

I suspect that having seen the film, many of the class voted for Troy thinking that Terence Stamp was more glamorous in appearance than the homely Alan Bates.

Bates died in 2003 – but I think both retained their good looks as they grew older.

terence stamp

alan bates


Julie Christie doesn’t look bad for a 70 year old either!

julie christie 2010

I was – unsurprisingly – firmly in the Oak Camp – and got more and more annoyed, as I worked through the book, at Bathsheba’s short-sightedness when it came to her relationships with the men in her life. All that time wasted, when there was a good bloke right there beside her!

It was years later before I made the connection that the first Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 was originally married to a soldier- and then married a man who had once been a shepherd.

**My least favourite Hardy is Jude the Obscure. Those poor children!

Trivial factoid…

The Kinks recorded Waterloo Sunset in 1967, which ends with

Millions of people swarming like flies 'round Waterloo underground
But Terry and Julie cross over the river
Where they feel safe and sound
And they don't need no friends
As long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset
They are in paradise
Waterloo sunset's fine

There is an urban myth that the T&J here are Mr Stamp and Ms Christie – but in his autobiography, Ray Davies denied this – and said it was based on his own sister and her boyfriend of the time!

Do they still read Hardy in school these days? Which of his books is your favourite?


  1. Gosh, I wouldnt mind looking like Julie!

    M. is reading Jude at the moment (on his Ipad) and says he is really enjoying catching up with Hardy again.

  2. One of my first downloads on my Kindle was the Mayor of Casterbridge and I loved it. Sadly we didn't do Hardy at school and I confess that I have not read many of his works, but I did thoroughly enjoy reading The Woodlanders.

  3. I don't know Madding Crowd- but now will read it soon! We did Casterbrifge at school as well and I went into Hardy overload- crying over Tess and struck down by fate in Jude the Obscure. Why can't I see Candles and Kindles yet?! I already have my comment and haven't accessed the post!

  4. E -Glad to know M getting full use of the iPad!
    J -I never really clicked with The Woodlanders
    M - I have emailed you with an explanation!

    I must reread Hardy's "The Distracted Preacher" sometime!!


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