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Clothing the Landscape: Change and the Rural Vision in the Work of Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)

  • RACHEL WORTH (a1)

Abstract:

This article considers the ways in which clothing is represented in selected work of Thomas Hardy in the context of wider social and economic change in nineteenth-century English rural society. While taking into account the difficulties of using fictional literature in this way, I suggest that it is precisely Hardy's subjectivity that makes his observations so compelling and that his perception of change lies at the heart of his representation of dress. I endeavour to show how in his writing, the perceived tension between an unchanging, idealised, countryside increasingly subjected to the influence of an urban culture is frequently expressed, either directly or metaphorically, in terms of clothing. The social and economic changes, including agricultural change, of which Hardy was so acutely aware, help to account for the disappearance of traditional features of rural dress, such as the smock-frock and the sun-bonnet. In their place were adopted styles influenced by notions of ‘fashion’ and made available through the process of mass production which Hardy associated primarily with towns. For Hardy, the influence of urban fashions alienated people from that individuality and speciality in dress which formed a link with their environment and ultimately their own past and history.

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References

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Notes

References to the novels are given by chapter number and/or part or book rather than by page number so that readers can locate them irrespective of which edition they use.

1. Thomas Hardy, from ‘At Middle-Field Gate in February’, published in Moments of Vision, 1917, lines 11–15.

2. Buck, Anne, ‘Clothes in Fact and Fiction’, Costume, 17 (1983), 89104, see especially 89–90.

3. Worth, Rachel, ‘Elizabeth Gaskell, Clothes and Class Identity’, Costume, 32 (1998), 5259, especially p. 53.

4. Byrde, Penelope, Jane Austen Fashion: Fashion and Needlework in the Works of Jane Austen (Ludlow, 1999).

5. Hughes, Clair, Dressed in Fiction (New York, 2005).

6. Hughes, Dressed in Fiction, p. 6.

7. Gatrell, Simon, Thomas Hardy Writing Dress (Bern, 2011), p. 5.

8. Gatrell, Thomas Hardy Writing Dress, p. 2.

9. Bullen, J. B., The Expressive Eye: Fiction and Perception in the Work of Thomas Hardy (Oxford, 1986), p. 147.

10. Uglow, Jenny, Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories (London, 1993), p. 47.

11. Roche, Daniel, The Culture of Clothing: Dress and Fashion in the Ancien Régime (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 1819.

12. For a discussion of recent work in this field see Worth, Rachel, ‘Developing a Method for the Study of the Clothing of the “Poor”: Some Themes in the Visual Representation of Rural Working-Class Dress, 1850–1900’, Textile History, 40:1 (2009), 7096, especially 70–5.

13. Worth, Rachel, ‘Thomas Hardy and Rural Dress’, Costume, 29 (1995), 5567.

14. Thomas Hardy, from ‘Domicilium’, published in Wessex Poems (1898), lines 26–8.

15. Williams, Raymond, The Country and the City (London, 1985), p. 197.

16. Mingay, G. E., Rural Life in Victorian England (Stroud, 1990), p.19. and Howkins, Alun, Reshaping Rural England: A Social History 1850–1925 (London, 1991), p. 4.

17. Hardy, Thomas, ‘The Dorsetshire Labourer’, Longman's Magazine, Volume 2 (1883), 252–69, (262–3).

18. Millgate, Michael, Thomas Hardy: A Biography (Oxford, 1982), p. 35.

19. Bellamy, Liz and Williamson, Tom, eds, Life in the Victorian Village: The Daily News Survey of 1891, two volumes (London, 1999).

20. Ewart Evans, George, The Crooked Scythe: An Anthology of Oral History (London, 1993), pp. 78.

21. Thomas Hardy, General Preface to the Wessex Edition of 1912.

22. Williams, Merryn, Thomas Hardy and Rural England (New York, 1972), p. 193.

23. Snell, K. D. M., Annals of the Labouring Poor: Social Change and Agrarian England 1660–1900 (Cambridge, 1985), p. 374.

24. Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor, p. 374.

25. Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor, p. 375.

26. Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor, p. 380.

27. Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor, p. 379.

28. Pearce, Susan M., ed., Interpreting Objects and Collections (Oxford and New York, 2006), p. 23.

29. Pearce, Interpreting Objects and Collections, p. 28.

30. Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor, p. 410.

31. Kemp, Martin, Behind the Picture: Art and Evidence in the Italian Renaissance (New Haven and London, 1997), p. 7.

32. Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor, see especially pp. 375–95. See also Ebbatson, Roger, Hardy: The Margin of the Unexpressed (Sheffield, 1993), pp. 129–53.

33. See, for example, Hardy's discussion of the causes of rural depopulation in Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), Part VI, Chapter LI, and a very similar discussion in ‘Dorsetshire Labourer’, pp. 268–9.

34. Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), Chapter XXII.

35. Worth, ‘Thomas Hardy and Rural Dress’.

36. Gatrell, Thomas Hardy Writing Dress, p. 5.

37. Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), Part I, Chapter IV.

38. Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd, Chapter IX.

39. Tomalin, Claire, Thomas Hardy: The Time Torn Man (London, 2006), p. 353 and footnote on p. 448 where she ascribes the information to Parsons, W. G. L., A Mellstock Quire Boy's Recollections of Thomas Hardy (St Peter Port, 1967).

40. British Library Add. MS 84021, p. vii.

41. Hardy, ‘Dorsetshire Labourer’, pp. 258–9.

42. Jefferies, Richard, Wild Life in a Southern County (Bradford-on-Avon, 1978), p. 136.

43. Hudson, W. H., Hampshire Days (Oxford, 1980), p. 148.

44. Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Part VI, Chapter L.

45. See Worth, Rachel, ‘Some Issues in the Representation of Rural Working-Class Dress in British Nineteenth-Century Photography’ in Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire, 87:3–4 (2010), special issue, The Historical Use of Images: Theory, Methods, Practice, 775–91.

46. Thompson, Flora, Lark Rise to Candleford (London, 1987), p. 81.

47. Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Part IV, Chapter XXX and Part VI, Chapter XLVII.

48. Thompson, Lark Rise, p. 259.

49. Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders (1887), Chapter V.

50. Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Part V, Chapter XLII.

51. Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native (1878), Book IV, Chapter V.

52. Hardy, Return of the Native, Book 5, Chapter VII.

53. Hardy, Woodlanders, Chapter XLII.

54. Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd, Chapter IX.

55. Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure (1896), Part I, Chapter II.

56. Hardy, Return of the Native, Book I, Chapter I; See Bullen, Expressive Eye, pp. 151–2.

57. Bullen, Expressive Eye, pp. 148–9.

58. Hardy, Woodlanders, Chapter VII.

59. Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Part II, Chapter XV.

60. Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Part VII, Chapter LV.

61. Thomas Hardy, ‘The Ruined Maid’ [186?] published in Poems of the Past and Present (1901), lines 1–8 and 21–4.

62. Roche, Culture of Clothing, p. 411.

63. Hardy, ‘Dorsetshire Labourer’, p. 259.

64. Emily Hardy, Florence, The Early Life of Thomas Hardy, 1840–1891 (London, 1928), p. 293.

65. Hardy, Jude the Obscure, Part III, Chapter 2.

66. Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography, p. 265.

67. Thomas Hardy, ‘The Profitable Reading of Fiction’, Forum (March 1888), 57.

68. Hardy, Jude the Obscure, Part I, Chapter IX.

69. Bullen, Expressive Eye, p. 148.

70. See Taylor, Lou, Mourning Dress: A Costume and Social History (London, 1983).

71. Hardy, Jude the Obscure, Part V, Chapter VII, p. 380.

72. Hardy, Jude the Obscure, Part VI, Chapter II.

73. Thomas Hardy, ‘She at his Funeral’, [187?] published in Wessex Poems (1898), lines 5–8.

74. See Mary Newton, Stella, Health, Art and Reason (London, 1974).

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