Friday, 8 February 2013

Thomas Hardy on Life

"Where he differed from so many of his contemporaries was in the absoluteness, the literalness, with which he believed that not to be born was best, that consciousness was a curse, and that while death might be distressing to the bereaved the dead were not themselves to be pitied. 'Heu mihi, quia incolatus prolongatus est!'; so wrote Hardy inside the back of his copy of The Missal for the Use of the Laity, marking also the passage and its translation ('Woe to me, that my sojourning is prolonged!') at the point at which they occured withing the volume. In February 1896 he insisted in conversation with Clodd that he wished he had never been born, and 'but for the effort of dying, would rather be dead than alive'; on Christmas Day 1890 he made a note for a poem: 'The amusement of the dead - at our errors, or at our wanting to live on'. He told the grieving Rider Haggards that a child's death was 'never really to be regretted, when one reflects on what he has escaped', and when writing to Mrs Henniker about the fighting in South Africa, at a time when her husband was on active service there, allowed himself to remark: 'It is sad, or not, as you look at it, to think that 40,000 will have found their rest there. Could we ask them if they wish to wake up again, would they say Yes, do you think?'

                                                                                                                                                  Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography (1982), 410