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Manners of Ghosts
A Study of the Supernatural in Thomas Hardy's Short Poems
By Sven Backman
Goteborg University Press
274 pages, 6 1/4" x 9 1/4"
$63.50 Paper Original
This book is an attempt to fill a gap in the studies of Hardy's poetry, by focusing on an area more or less neglected so far, i.e. the supernatural motifs he uses in his shorter poems. In the introduction it is claimed that though Hardy may have been intellectually convinced by the views of the leading rationalists of the period, as a poet he often drew from his Dorset relatives and neighbors. The first chapter, "the Attraction of the Unknown", gives a background and attempts to define Hardy's attitude to the supernatural by using material drawn mainly from his Life, letters, literary notes, and fiction. The discussion as a whole then moves from the poems Hardy himself called "dramatic or impersonative" to the purely private ones, beginning with his supernatural ballad poems, and followed by those dealing with various omens - or "prefigurative superstitions" as Hardy called them - and the ones presenting ghosts, wraiths and "transformations", i.e. metamorphoses of the dead into trees or plants. After these poems, which often adopt a "folk" point-of-view, there is a chapter on supernaturalism in the more or less fantastic pieces where Hardy gives his imagination free rein to present his views on various religious, philosophical or ethical questions. The chapter called "Visions and Voices from the Past" is focused on Poems where Hardy describes scenes from his own past in terms of spectral visions seen or spectral voices heard, i.e. on how he depicts dead relatives and friends in terms of ghosts, and even renders himself in the form of a wraith, having put on "the manners of ghosts." The concluding chapter, "Poems of Regret and Alienation," deals with supernatural motifs on these themes in a number of poems from Hardy's later life.
Gothenburg Studies in English No. 82