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Thomas Hardy, the last of the great Victorians, is now writing only for private reading. His latest efforts, written in the seclusion of his home in Wessex, are mostly short poems, written for his friends. He has no desire, he states, that these should ever see print, or that they should ever be placed on sale. He is writing because he loves to do so.
This decision is in strong contrast to the custom of most of our modern writers. They feel called, by some great power, to produce voluminously; and they feel pledged to publish voluminously. Every thought which their minds conceive, every word which their facile pens write, must be perpetuated in print. They are writing literature which the public should have. Even after their death, their heirs gather up the last scraps of paper and edit them, so that the world may have all that the authors wrote.
In this sense, Mr. Hardy is not a modern; he is a Victorian. He does not believe that all he has written is great literature; he has been wise enough to exercise a critical ability in choosing what he admits to print; he is wise enough to know that his later offerings, done at an advanced age, may be lacking in power. So, in true Victorian fashion, he refuses to allow these poems to be published. Moderns will declare that he does not know so much about contemporary fashions in literature as do authors of this generation, that he does not realize the sacredness of advertising, that he does not understand the importance of royalties. This he would grant them. Yet the world may rejoice that he is great enough to overlook these petty trivialities while he keeps his eyes fastened on the ideal of literary art.
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