The Thomas Hardy Connection

The following information can all be found on various internet sites. Many thanks to Terry for passing this information on to us.

Thomas Hardy, author & poet was born & bred in Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester, Dorset.

Whilst writing one of his more celebrated novels “The Return of the Native”, he used the name “The Quiet Woman Inn” for the pub which plays a central part in the story. The following 3 paragraphs explain how this came about:

The 'Red Lion' at Winfrith is part of a composite picture comprising Thomas Hardy's 'Quiet Woman Inn'. The old ale house he describes features significantly throughout 'The Return of the Native' and reappears in his later short story 'The Fiddler of the Reels'. In a postscript to the 1912 edition of the novel Hardy explained that: 'The inn which really bore this sign and legend (of the Quiet Woman) stood some miles to the northwest of the present scene, wherein the house more immediately referred to is no longer an inn; and the surroundings are much changed. But another inn, some of whose features are also embodied in this description, the 'Red Lion' at Winfrith, still remains as a haven for the wayfarer.'

Whenever Hardy describes the setting of the Quiet Woman Inn, it is consistent with the former ancient 'Wild Duck' set at the edge of 'Egdon Heath', immediately to the east of his Higher Bockhampton birth-place. The author used artistic licence because both narratives rely on crucial scenes where large gatherings of people congregate at the inn. The Wild Duck was in the right place but it was too small for his dramatic purpose. In consequence he imagined the action taking place inside the present-day Red Lion.

Although the inn doesn't have a view of Egdon Heath, other outside physical characteristics are similar to those described. It still stands with its back to the village looking to travellers along the highway for the majority of its custom. It has a large area of garden with a 'still deep stream' forming two sides of the boundary - indeed you have to cross a small bridge to access the car park. Unfortunately Hardy's 'Red Lion' fell partial victim to fire and the present-day inn looks nothing like the one he would have known. However, the external stone walls of the original pub were so thick and resilient they remained intact after the blaze and can still be evidenced forming part of the interior of the extended inn you see today.

Further information from the internet connecting Thomas Hardy to our immediate area:

The Halstock pub and its strange name would have been a topic of conversation in the Hardy household when he was growing up. At some stage in his life Hardy would have stood looking up at the sign; reading the wording and wondering. If he did this as an adult he would, almost certainly have visited the inn. And, as I said before, he uses the name of 'The Quiet Woman Inn' a number of times in 'The Return of the Native' and also in the short story 'Fiddler of the Reels'.
Hardy's parents, Jemima Hand and Thomas Hardy Snr, were married in the church of St. Osmund at Melbury Osmond in 1839, and at the northern end of the footpath through the churchyard is a thatched house where Hardy's mother is thought to have lived as a child. In Hardy's novels the village is known as Great Hintock and is the setting for 'The Woodlanders'.
 Nobody knew Dorset like Hardy did. He walked it, cycled it and toured by car. He wrote 'A Trampwoman's Tragedy' after a cycle trip from Dorchester to Glastonbury. If he avoided the main road (now the A37) his most direct route would have taken him through Cattistock, East Chelborough and Halstock. (just as the present-day cycle route does)
I have a little booklet of memories by a chap called Harold Lionel Voss, who was Hardy’s favourite car-hire chauffeur, and who says of the author: “He really loved the old Dorset inns”.

“Hardy particularly admired the unspoilt inns he had known as a young man, when he and his brother used to bicycle about the country and stop at such places for a glass of shandy”. In later life Hardy still liked to have tea in them and would direct Voss accordingly.

On one occasion (in 1927) Mrs Hardy wanted to take tea in Maynard’s Café in Yeovil but Hardy didn’t. Voss says he: “instructed me to drive to the ‘Rest & Welcome’ Inn at Melbury. When we reached it we could not make anyone hear and I suggested to him that we should go to the ‘Strangeways Arms’ at Evershot. Mrs Hardy was not pleased… I was supplied with tea in the inn kitchen”.

In addition, we have learned that Thomas Hardy was obviously familiar with the Quiet Woman as the following explains:

Denys Kay-Robinson is one of the most (if not the most) respected authorities on Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. In 1984 he produced a book called: “The Landscape of Thomas Hardy”
Published by Webb & Bower ISBNo – 86350 - X

He says:

“Duck Dairy Farm (or Dairy House), Hardy’s ‘Quiet Woman’, was originally the Traveller’s Rest – mentioned as such in the poem ‘Weathers…”

“A footnote in ‘The Return of the Native’ tells us that the real Quiet Woman ‘lay some miles to the north-west’ – in fact at Halstock, where it still flourishes, adorned with a modern sign faithfully bearing out *Hardy’s description’.

“The same footnote states that the fictional Quiet Woman was partly modeled on the Red Lion at Winfrith”.

*Hardy’s description in chapter 5 of The Native reads:

“…they turned towards the inn, known in the neighbourhood as the , the sign of which represented the figure of a matron carrying her head under her arm, beneath which gruesome design was written the couplet so well known to frequenters of the inn:-


*   *   * 

This is proof that Thomas Hardy was well acquainted with The Quiet Woman Inn at Halstock. 

We hope that the above is of interest to any Thomas Hardy followers.

If anyone has any further information that we can add to this page, please contact us.

Thomas Hardy with bicycle

This is a picture of Thomas Hardy, time & place unknown.

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