Hardy's World

Hardy and Archaeology

Colleen Garrity Class of '97
Amy Rose Class of '97
Franklin & Marshall College

In the late nineteenth century, as the fields of archaeology, geology and paleontology began to gain greater recognition among the open-minded thinkers of British society, Thomas Hardy adopted many of the new claims of Victorian Science and infused them into his writing. Hardy scholar Harold Orel described Hardy's passion for these new hard sciences as his way to explore "the evidence provided by material remains of the past" (Orel). While all of the three scientific disciplines--geology, paleontology, and archaeology--share a common focus on the Earth's history, each one explores a specific aspect of that history. While geology and paleontology are concerned with ancient rock formations and the fossils contained therein, archaeology is concerned with the human past. Thus, each discipline adds a different richness to the fabric of Hardy's writing .

In order to understand Thomas Hardy's interest in these three sciences and his use of them in his work, it is helpful to look at the intellectual and social climate of the day. Hardy's friend and colleague, General Augustus Pitt-Rivers, was among the first men to organize and systematize methods used in archaeological digs. He and others like Hardy attempted to formalize a pursuit that had formerly been a middle-class entertainment through archaeological societies. Pitt-Rivers was not the only influence on Hardy. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was a catalyst for Hardy's imaginative use of scientific thought in his novels and poetry. These were only two of the many men who inspired Hardy's imagination and desire to explore the past.

The intellectual influence these scientists had upon Hardy is evidenced in his novels. He incorporated actual archaeological sites into the settings of his works. In The Mayor of Casterbridge, Hardy mentions many of the archaeological discoveries made at Max Gate. He also makes reference to the archaeological site at Poundbury; he uses it as the location of Henchard's "failed entertainment" (Pentney, 18). In addition, the Woodbury Hill site appears in Far From the Madding Crowd, the Rainbarrows are in The Return of the Native, and Stonehenge plays an important role in Tess of the d'Urbervilles. A Pair of Blue Eyes serves as an example of the far-reaching influence of paleontology, archaeology, and geology upon Hardy's writing. These sciences affect not only his settings, but his language. In his article, "The Perfection of Species," Bruce Johnson argues that the "buried geological or archaeological, or even paleontological, metaphors of his [Hardy's] work really imply an ideal mode of consciousness, an awareness of the primeval energies that have shaped even the mind's outward topography" (Johnson, 261). From this it is clear that Hardy believed the past to be important, so much so that his writing is preoccupied with the passage of time. This concern is highlighted by his repeated geological, archaeological and paleontological references in his novels.



Bowden, Mark. Pitt-Rivers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Hardy, Thomas. Thomas Hardy's Personal Writings. Ed. Harold Orel. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1966.

Johnson, Bruce. "The Perfection of Species." Nature and the Victorian Imagination. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977. 259-64.

Orel, Harold. "Hardy and the Developing Science of Archaeology." Thomas Hardy Annual,. No. 4 (1986) 19-44.

Pentney, Josephine. "Archaeology and Thomas Hardy." The Thomas Hardy Journal. 4:2 (1988): 17-18.