Letter: Hardy's prophecy

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Sir: Anna Pavord's article on Thomas Hardy's house at Max Gate misses the point ('Plum brick that hides no poetry', 16 October). If the house is indeed 'staggeringly ugly', this surely enhances our sense of wonder at the transformational powers of imagination and memory. Hardy himself offers a clue in his prophetic poem The Strange House, which pictures the experiences of visitors to Max Gate in 'AD 2000':

Ah, maybe you've some vision

Of showings beyond our sphere;

Some sight, sense, intuition

Of what once happened here?

The house is old; they've hinted

It once held two love-thralls,

And they may have imprinted

Their dreams on its walls?

The sensitive visitor may 'hear the piano playing', even though there's no piano today, and recall the person for whom the house at Max Gate was originally built: Hardy's first wife, Emma. The echoes of her music, resounding through his poignant poetry, give that 'house so bleak and cold' its unique character.

Yours sincerely,


Professor of German

School of European Studies

University of Sussex

Falmer, East Sussex