MARION THAIN homas Hardy was a man who hated to be touched. Life records this fact through an observation of a childhood playmate, and continues: "This peculiarity never left him, and to the end of his life he disliked even the most friendly hand being laid on his arm or his shoulder."1 To offer a poetics of touch through which to read Hardy's work, then, may seem contrary. Yet, it may be that his dislike of actual physical contact in some sense prompted the form of phenomenological encounter that can be found in his poetry. To read his poetry in this way is to read against the grain, but to do so in a way which this deceptively simple poetry encourages. In a recent issue of The Review of English Studies, Tim Dolin wrote that "although a constitutionally backward-looking man, Hardy's mood was so intensely introspective in 1915 that the idea of publishing his own memoirs must have seemed a trivial distraction."2 Hardy is still defined through these concepts of introspection and retrospection, and it has become a critical truism that "so often with Hardy, solipsism is not far away."3 It is not surprising then that he is
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
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