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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Dorchester, Dorset: A Guided Tour by Thomas Hardy, January 1928

From The Guardian Archive:

A correspondent writes:- “I was once lucky enough to be taken round Dorchester with two friends by Thomas Hardy. He led us down the old High Street and into the warehouse at the back of one of the shops where he believed he had discovered an Elizabethan theatre, and after that to the tiny thatched cottage on the river bank, once the hangman’s house, where, he told us, he used to go after dark with the other boys of the town in order to climb on the window-sill and peep through the blind - not out of idle curiosity, he explained, but because they all felt less terrified of the hangman as a bogy if they saw him going to bed like any other ordinary mortal.

“Mr. Hardy also pointed out the spot, I think outside the Black Bear Hotel, where he remembered the public hangings taking place. He had never forgotten that the hour for the executions was fixed at ten minutes past twelve, in case the midday coach should bring a reprieve. To hear him speak of these early reminiscences was to gain some insight into the sensitive spirit that suffered so acutely all through life at any manifestation of human suffering or human cruelty.

“It seemed to please him when he heard that ‘The Return of the Native’ was at least one reader’s favourite among his novels, and he pointed out from the end of his garden the heather-covered hill in the distance that was the original of Rainbarrow in the Egdon Heath of his story.”

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