Thoms Hardy, A Biography by Michael Millgate - review by April FitzLyon

April FitzLyon

Thomas The Obscure

Thoms Hardy, A Biography


Oxford University Press 657pp £15 order from our bookshop

Thomas Hardy, the most devious of men, left a number of minefields and boobytraps for his future biographers. But he has mel his match in Michael Millgate, author of Thomas Hardy: His career as a novelist (1971) and co-editor of Hardy’ s Collected Letters, who has now produced a mammoth academic biography. Henry James, who foresaw the way modem biography would develop (but failed to avoid Leon Edel’ s scalpel himself) observed that ‘ the cunning of the inquirer ... will exceed in subtlety and ferocity anything we today conceive’ ; and he warned ‘ the pale victim’ that he would only be safe from posterity ‘ with every track covered, every paper burnt and every letter unanswered.’

Hardy’ s technique was rather different; he did not bum all papers, but wrote ambiguous ones; he left misleading autobiographical writings, and made his wife pose as the author; he left teasing little signposts in his works, particularly in the choice of names, in order to lure his biographer down

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