Archaeology pops up all over the place in Hardy, to cite a few:
Stonehenge in Tess of the D'Urbervilles ("A band of silver paleness
along the east horizon made even the distant parts of the Great Plain
appear dark and near; and the whole enormous landscape bore that impress
of reserve, taciturnity, and hesitation which is usual just before day.
The eastward pillars and their architraves stood up blackly against the
light, and the great flame-shaped Sun-stone beyond them; and the Stone
of Sacrifice midway. Presently the night wind died out, and the
quivering little pools in the cup-like hollows of the stones lay
Angel Clare makes Tess swear on an ancient cross - the Cross at Hand,
Batcombe Cross ("Of all spots on the bleached and desolate upland this
was the most forlorn. It was so far removed from the charm which is
sought in landscape by artists and view-lovers as to reach a new kind of
beauty, a negative beauty of tragic tone. The place took its name from a
stone pillar which stood there, a strange rude monolith, from a stratum
unknown in any local quarry, on which was roughly carved a human hand.
Differing accounts were given of its history and purport. Some
authorities stated that a devotional cross had once formed the complete
erection thereon, of which the present relic was but the stump; others
that the stone as it stood was entire, and that it had been fixed there
to mark a boundary or place of meeting. Anyhow, whatever the origin of
the relic, there was and is something sinister, or solemn, according to
mood, in the scene amid which it stands; something tending to impress
the most phlegmatic passer-by.")
The 'Imperial Archaeological Association' visits Corfe Castle aka
Corvsgate Castle in The Hand of Ethelberta, meanwhile the eponymous
heroine visits the ruins: "Accordingly Ethelberta crossed the bridge
over the moat, and rode under the first archway into the outer ward. As
she had expected, not a soul was here. The arrow-slits,
portcullis-grooves, and staircases met her eye as familiar friends, for
in her childhood she had once paid a visit to the spot. Ascending the
green incline and through another arch into the second ward, she still
pressed on, till at last the ass was unable to clamber an inch further.
Here she dismounted, and tying him to a stone which projected like a
fang from a raw edge of wall, performed the remainder of the ascent on
foot. Once among the towers above, she became so interested in the windy
corridors, mildewed dungeons, and the tribe of daws peering invidiously
upon her from overhead, that she forgot the flight of time."
Grace Melbury thinks Sherborne Castle degraded by agricultural usage in
The Woodlanders ("The remains were few, and consisted mostly of remnants
of the lower vaulting, supported on low stout columns surmounted by the
crochet capital of the period. The two or three arches of these vaults
that were still in position were utilized by the adjoining
Farmer as shelter for his calves, the floor being spread with straw,
amid which the young creatures rustled, cooling their thirsty tongues by
licking the quaint Norman carving, which glistened with the moisture.
It was a degradation of even such a rude form of art as this to be
treatad so grossly, she thought, and for the first time the family of
Fitzpiers assumed in her imagination the hues of a melancholy
Hardy used Maumbury Ring, the Neolithic / Roman amphitheatre south of
Dorchester as a trysting place for Henchard and Susan, the wife he sold
as a young man, in The Mayor of Casterbridge. "The Amphitheatre was a
huge circular enclosure, with a notch at opposite extremities of its
diameter north and south. From its sloping internal form it might have
been called the spittoon of the Jötuns. It was to Casterbridge what the
ruined Coliseum is to modern Rome, and was nearly of the same magnitude.
The dusk of evening was the proper hour at which a true impression of
the suggestive place could be received. Standing in the middle of the
arena at that time there by degrees became apparent its real vastness,
which a cursory view from the summit an noon-day was apt to obscure.
Melancholy, impressive, lonely, yet accessible from every part of the
town, the historic circle was the frequent spot for appointments of a
furtive kind. Intrigues were arranged there; tentative meetings were
there experimented after divisions and feuds. But one kind of
appointment - in itself the most common of any - seldom had any place in
the Amphitheatre: that of happy lovers."
He says of Dorchester/Casterbridge:
"Casterbridge announced old Rome in every street, alley and precinct.
It looked Roman, bespoke the art of Rome, concealed dead men of Rome.
It was impossible to dig more than a toot or two deep about the town
fields and gardens without coming upon some tall soldier or other of the
Empire, who had lain there in his silent unobtrusive rest for a space of
fifteen hundred years. He was mostly found lying on his side, in an
oval scoop in the chalk, like a chicken in its shell; his knees drawn up
to his chest; sometimes with the remains of his spear against his arm; a
fibula or brooch of bronze on his breast or forehead; an urn at his
knees, a jar at his throat, a bottle at his mouth; and mystified
conjecture pouring down up on him from the eyes of Casterbridge street
boys and men, who had turned a moment to gaze at the familiar spectacle
as they passed by."
Apparently Hardy had first hand experience of such remains, having dug
through Conquer Barrow to build the drive to his house, Max Gate,
decapitating a family of skeletons, two of which were entwined like
lovers. These are also enshrined in the literature, in his poem 'The
Clasped Skeletons', where he shifted their assumed era to one even
earlier to provide an eternal continuity for lovers. Hardy even gave a
talk on 'Some Romano British relics found at Max Gate' to the Dorchester
Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club in 1884.
From: British archaeology discussion list
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Paul Barford
Sent: 26 January 2004 20:53
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Hedges and Thomas Hardy
Well, that's the quote I was thinking of (though I had remembered it as
bit longer) so can anybody enlighten us, what's it from? Does Hardy have
some other nice descriptions of archaeological sites?
> "It is varied with protuberances, which from hereabouts have the
aspects of warts, wens, knuckles and hops. It might indeed be likened to
enormous many-limbed organism of anti-deluvian times". Thomas Hardy