On Friday 28 October 2016 one of our members, Charles Buckler, gave a very interesting talk (with songs) on the subject of Thomas Hardy, poet, musician, and novelist.
Born in 1840 in Bockhampton, Dorset – Hardy’s youth was influenced by the musicality of his father, a stonemason and fiddler. Although his mother, Jemima, was described as the real guiding star of Hardy’s early life. His family played in the church band in Stinsford, where he was christened, and this area if Dorset influenced his life. However, at 16 years of age his left for London to be an architectural apprentice. At this point he began to visit museums and art galleries to improve on his education – an education started by his tutor in Dorset, The Rev. William Barnes who became his friend and mentor. He also took up dancing at this point, but by 1867 he had returned to Dorset, and worked in agriculture whilst writing novels. This soon became his full-time occupation.
A Victorian, his writing was influence by Romanticism, and although considered to be very alive to the past, Hardy was also sensitive to the future, and younger authors, such as Sassoon and Virginia Woolf visited him.
Charles also read extracts from Hardy’s work: Under The Greenwood Tree, The Choirmaster’s Burial and O ‘Melia, The Ruined Maid, were amongst them.
This last mentioned poem, O ‘Melia, was said to be the favourite of Norrie Woodhall. Born in 1905 in Dorchester, and named Augusta Noreen Bugler, whilst still a teenager in the early 1920s she joined the original Hardy Players, and local group of amateur players, founder by Thomas Hardy in 1908. The group disbanded after Hardy’s death, but in 2003, when she was 100 years old, Norrie formed the New Hardy Players, and served as its president. When she died in October 2011, Norrie was thought to have been the last surviving person to have known Hardy himself.
In 1914 he is recorded as visiting the Hoare family, and Pen Selwood Castle remains. A very local connection.
This ended a very interesting talk and was followed by coffee and discussion.