Letter: Hardy's house

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Sir: Anna Pavord's article about Thomas Hardy's house, Max Gate ('Plum brick that hides no poetry', 16 October), claims that the council of the Hardy Society turned down the generous proposal of Dorset County Council to guarantee pounds 9,000 (not pounds 11,000) of the annual rent of Max Gate if the society were to become the tenant. At its meeting on 9 October, the council decided by a substantial majority to negotiate on this basis with the National Trust if no satisfactory private tenant were found. If a private tenant is found, the society has agreed to give every possible help with the opening and stewarding.

There is, of course, no argument about taste, and Ms Pavord is entitled to regard Max Gate as a disappointment, 'plain' and 'lacking aesthetic or architectural interest'. But visitors will not be going there for aesthetic or architectural reasons, and she is wrong to describe it as badly built. It is an interesting and substantial piece of Victorian architecture, which has already provided a good home for more than a century and will continue to do so when many of our 20th-century buildings have either fallen or been knocked down.

Max Gate will be visited by thousands of Hardy admirers from all over the world because it was his home for half his life, because he wrote there three of his greatest novels and almost all his great poetry. There are at least 30 or 40 poems that refer to the house and garden, and it is for such literary associations that next year people will come to Max Gate.

Yours faithfully,

JAMES GIBSON

Chairman, Thomas Hardy Society

Dorchester, Dorset

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