AGORA

Thomas Hardy: Novelist, ‘Editor’ and Mentor — Building a Fictional Community, a Community of Readers and a Community of Writers

Peggy BLIN-CORDON

When considering the idea of community in Hardy, recollections of the novels conjure up images of a preserved rural community, threatened by modern times: the imaginary country of Wessex. If the fictionalized topography of an existing territory expanding beyond the borders of Dorset presents a certain uniformity today, it is mainly because it is the “final” product of substantial revisions by the author with the aim of giving consistency to a work spanning several decades. Indeed, after 1895 and the “Wessex Novels” edition, “Hardy the novelist” turned into “Hardy the would-be editor”. By way of the substantial revision of his work, (first in 1895 and then in 1912 with the “Wessex Edition”), he gave shape to another type of community: the community of “model Hardy readers”, as the author meant to target a community of readers which was quite different from that imposed by the magazines and publishing houses at the time of first publication. During his later years as a novelist, Hardy also expressed the desire to shape a community of writers who would follow in his footsteps, in what we could trivially call a “community of followers”. The targeted “artists in the making” were a group of malleable young women, who consented to writing under Hardy’s close literary guidance. 

Keywords: Thomas Hardy, Wessex, community, magazines, revision, Victorian publishing practices.

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