Thursday, May 27, 2010
‘“Timothy Titus Philemon, by permission Bishop of Bristol: To our well-beloved Robert Loveday, of the parish of Overcombe, Bachelor; and Matilda Johnson, of the same parish, Spinster. Greeting.”’ (Chapter 22)
which Bob calls "beautiful language." Bob continues reading,
“Whereas ye are, as it is alleged, determined to enter into the holy estate of matrimony—”
but cuts the reading short, saying the document is composed of "the splendid words [that] are all wasted upon air."
Hardy then makes a possible allusion the Arthurian Legend through Bob:
"It seems as if I had been hailed by some venerable hoary prophet, and had turned away, put the helm hard up, and wouldn’t hear."
Hardy uses this illustration to make a point about the futility of words. When Bob first reads the license, he reads in "feeling tones," adding a musical quality to the words, causing Mrs. Garland (now Mrs. Loveday, having married the miller) to agree with Bob about the beauty of the language. But as he continues to read, he realizes that, in the end, it is just words. Miller Loveday suggests that Bob can pay someone to read those words to him so that the license won't be a total waste, but Bob recogizes that words must have meaning behind them to be effective. Words alone may be beautiful, but meaning adds texture to those words. Without meaning, words are a lifeless soul.
The reference to the Arthurian legend is interesting because though the book takes place in the past, it is more of a book that includes a historical backdrop than it is a historical novel, much like Vanity Fair. Nevertheless, Hardy conducted much historical research in order to depict accurately the English calvary, navy, and aspects of the English countryside in the early 19th century. Nevertheless, his allusion to the Arthurian Legend reminds the reader that the story is fictional after all.
The above painting is Reading the Letter by Thomas Benjamin Kennington (1856-1916).