Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Dorchester and Thomas Hardy

While in London, I took a daytrip to Dorchester to visit Thomas Hardy country. Having lately fallen in love with Thomas Hardy’s books, it seemed like a good idea to visit the area he comes from. Dorchester is a small, country town in the south of England, where you reach most places by foot. The small cobbled street are lined with old houses and historical places. You also find many of the places and buildings that was an inspiration for Hardy in his writing.

I started out at Max Gate, which is the house Hardy designed in 1885. He was trained as an architect, so he must have known what he was doing. Being from a humble background, he wanted the house to show that he was now part of the wealthy middle classes. At this time he was already a successful writer and poet.  The house today is taken care of by the National Trust, and they have done a wonderful job in furnishing the house to reflect the atmosphere of Hardy's time. He wrote some of his most famous novels here, including Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure.  The house is situated in the outskirts of the town, in a green area, but you can easily reach it by foot. It is surrounded by a beautiful park, which unfortunately, I had no time to stroll around. The original house was rather small and with the years he extended it with more rooms. He used three different rooms as his writing den through his life. The last one, is on the top floor with a wonderful view of the surrounding garden. I took the opportunity to try the desk and felt very inspired!

Me in Hardy's study! 
After Max Gate, I took a taxi to visit the cottage where he was born in 1840. It was built of cob and thatch by his grandfather, and looks more or less the same today. It is very romantic and lovely, and what I imagine to be a typical, British cottage. Much smaller than Max Gate, but not less charming. He started early to write and in this house he wrote his earlier works like Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd. 

The garden is what I imagine being a traditional cottage garden, with roses around the door and the birds singing. It is well taking care of even today, and the trustees grow plants and herbs, which also are for sale. You can dream yourself away for a while.

Being inspired by the surroundings I bought his book Under the Greenwood Tree (not yet read) and a biography by Andrew Norman (review later on). 

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