Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thomas Hardy as a Literary Tourist

I have confessed here before, and indeed demonstrated in posts about Robert Louis Stevenson and Muriel Spark, that I am a shameless literary tourist. Many years ago, I took a copy of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles with me on a trip to the south of England and had the pleasure of wandering about Hardy country as I read. Thus my memory of the novel is thoroughly steeped in the actual landscape as well as that so vividly conveyed therein by Hardy.

While reading Claire Tomalin’s biography of Hardy, I was charmed to learn that he shared my penchant for this sort of literary tourism at an early age. Here’s how eight-year-old Tom occupied himself on his first trip to London in 1849:

He had prepared for the trip by acquiring a map of the City and marking out the streets described by Harrison Ainsworth in Old St. Paul’s, a favourite book at the time, and he went out and traced the steps of the hero.

I’m three chapters in now and relishing this biography.


Anonymous said...


I envy your trip to England while reading Hardy. I am a big fan and devoured half a dozen of his novels about 10 years ago. I am about ready for a couple of rereads- Tess, Return of the Native, and Jude the Obscure are favorites. Now you have me thinking about planning a vacation around some favorite authors. I have never done that. I may not be able to pull of a trip to England, but it is nice to think about. :)

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading "Kidnapped" and now I want to go hike around Scotland...I know exactly what you mean.

Eva said...

Hi! Just wanted to let you know that I'm participating in the Reading Across Borders challenge. My list can be found at

Thanks for such a neat challenge!

Anonymous said...

I'd be a shameless tourist too, if I only had more opportunity to travel. I did manage to convert my honeymoon into a literary pilgrimage without my husband quite realizing it. We went to Cornwall (King Arthur), Wales (Susan Cooper among many others), Yorkshire (James Herriot, Wuthering Heights) and the Lake District (too many to mention). I think the place I'd most like to visit now is Nova Scotia.

Heather said...

I love that! I really must read this biography.

Bybee said...

I absolutely loved Claire Tomalin's biography of Katherine Mansfield, so I know the Hardy one is terrific as well.

Nyssaneala said...

I too am a literary tourist. I am already thinking ahead to the books I will take when I visit Hungary and Romania later this year.

When I can't travel, I compromise. While reading Mrs Dalloway, I listened constantly to music from the 1920's and rekindled old memories of when I visited London, travelling many of the same streets.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of being a literary tourist, but I am too poor these days to be a real one..and go too far anway. Have you read much RL Stevenson? I plan on trying Hardy soon!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Dorset, and loved being able to put names to places portrayed in Hardy's novels: the quarry where Gabriel Oak loses his flock in the opening chapters of Far From the Madding Crowd? yup, just over the hill from my village. The cross by the road encountered by Tess d'Urberville? on the way to Batcombe. The Mayor of Casterbridge? good ole Dorchester, aka Dorch Vegas.

Another good author for literary tourists is John Cowper Powys - also a Dorset man, like Hardy.

Chasing the Dream said...


I am a student of Tourism Management moving into my final year at uni. I have decided to base my dissertation on Literary Tourism, and what motivates people to visit literary destinations.

My mum instilled a love of literature at an early age, and as such I spend what personal time I have devouring classics as well as current best sellers, so can understand the desire to visit Hardy's England, Dickens and other such authors. I would really like to talk to you about the subject if you are interested