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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Death and burial

Monday, January 16th., London.

Last Wednesday, the 11th., the Daily News rang up to say that Hardy was dead, and would I say something. I wouldn't, but I decided to write a Standard article and I finished it the next day. It was published on the 12th. - "The True Greatness of Thomas Hardy".
In it I referred to the last time we met (see 'Wartime Interlude' and 'Writing for Victory'), and reiterated how much I liked Hardy; there was no nonsense about him, no pose.
I pointed out that whilst there is crude and sentimental melodrama in his novels, what interests us with Hardy, as with Shakespeare, is not his defects but his positive qualities.
There were times when he showed a sustained power which has not, in my opinion, been surpassed by anybody anywhere.
I am inclined to think that how great a writer he was, some of us yet but imperfectly comprehend.

Today I had lunch early in order to go to Hardy's funeral at Westminster Abbey. It was all done very smoothly and calmly. Music good. South transept not full. John Galsworthy as a pall-bearer made a magnificent figure.

In the morning I had written a letter to the Daily Express animadverting upon the distribution of tickets for this affair. My concern was that all invitations, other than those sent privately by family, were absolutely in the hands of Hardy's publishers, Macmillan & Co. They had seen fit to issue only two tickets to the Society of Authors, of which, incidentally, Thomas Hardy was President. Thus many authors who would have wished to be present at the funeral, and who had a moral right to be present, could not be present. I also pointed out in my letter that not a single member of the Royal Family was present at the funeral. One of the main functions of the Royal Family (apparently) is to represent and symbolise the feeling of the country. As a rule it fulfils that function. But in this instance a telegram from the King, though a suitable and sympathetic gesture, was not enough. Hardy was a citizen of the very highest importance. Had the funeral been a military funeral of similar importance, half the male members of the Royal Family (in uniform) would have attended as a matter of course.

According to my information Hardy had a pretty good idea that he might have to be buried in the Abbey, even if he did not want to. As to the excision of the heart, I regard that as merely outrageous.

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