Thomas Hardy: Inspiring Adventures in Wessex, England with Sue King

Thomas Hardy: Inspiring Adventures in Wessex, England with Sue King


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Can't make this time? A video recording will be sent to all participants after the seminar.

Thomas Hardy was born in the county of Dorset, England and he used the locations he knew best as the background for his novels and poetry. His writings were highly critical of Victorian Society, especially the declining status of rural people in Britain – brought about by economic pressures and the introduction of machinery which could do the work of six men in a reduced amount of time. He described the rural landscapes familiar to him, with an eye to naturalistic detail and here he placed his characters who were country people living in a time of change. Their lives were circumscribed by the opportunities available to people of their class and limited education, and they were ruled by customs, beliefs, superstitions, and the foibles of nature which surrounded them.

In his third novel, Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy first introduced the idea of calling the region in the southwest of England, where his novels are set, Wessex, which had been the name of an early Saxon kingdom, in approximately the same part of Britain. In 1902 a book called The Wessex of Thomas Hardy was written by Bertram Windle and – based on correspondence with Hardy – mapped the place names which Hardy used in his novels. These corresponded to actual places in the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire. The area includes the beautiful cities of Dorchester, Salisbury, and Oxford and such impressive locations as the Jurassic coast of Dorset, the ancient stones of Stonehenge, and the rolling fertile hills of this still largely unspoiled agricultural region. 

Led by an expert historian and tourist guide, Sue King, this conversation will explore the landscapes of southern England which inspired the locations in the novels of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the landscapes and locations which inspired Hardy’s work, and which continue to charm those who venture to visit them. 

Sue King was born a Londoner and has lived in several other cities including Seoul, Berlin, and Washington DC. Since returning to London, she has spent the last three years studying its art, architecture, literature, and history. Sue holds a research MPhil in History of Art from the Barber Institute, Birmingham University and has specialist knowledge of Victorian Britain through her study of its painting and literature. Her thesis, on symbolism in Victorian Art, focused on the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and she has also made studies in 20th Century American art. Sue is fascinated by London's history and is most interested in the artists and writers who have helped to define it. She loves to recount stories of their lives and works, and their connections with each other and the city.

Not suitable for children under age 13 (sensitive content).

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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