Lot 196
Sold for £5,000 (US$ 8,404) inc. premium
Lot Details
HARDY, THOMAS (1840-1928)
AUTOGRAPH MUSIC MANUSCRIPT WITH THE LYRIC OF HIS SONG 'O I WON'T LEAD A HOMELY LIFE' '(To an old air)', signed ('Thomas Hardy') with his note 'From "Late Lyrics & Earlier"', a sixteen-bar melody in D major written in pencil on a single stave over two systems, with the lyric, and with autograph variants inserted in red pencil ('If sung by a woman the words in red may be used'), 1 page, oblong folio, written on the verso of a printed circular from Investment Registry Limited, laid down, with a note by Sydney Cockerell 'This circular dated 23 Aug 1922', ownership inscription of 'Sydney C. Cockerell / Cambridge', printed version of Nicholson's 1921 portrait of Hardy pasted on rear paste-down, full crushed red morocco, gilt, dark blue slip case, quarto [1922]

O I won't lead a homely life
As father's Jack and mother's Jill
But I will be a fiddler's wife
With music mine at will!
Just a little tune,
Another one soon,
As I merrily fling my fill!

And she became a fiddler's Dear
And merry all day she strove to be;
And he played & played afar and near,
But never at home played he
Any little tune
Or late or soon;
And sunk & sad was she!

MUSIC MANUSCRIPTS BY HARDY ARE EXTREMELY RARE; no others have been sold at auction in the last forty years at least. Indeed NO OTHER MUSIC MANUSCRIPT FOR A POEM OF HIS OWN COMPOSITION HAS BEEN FOUND - the music manuscripts in the Dorset County Museum are the family music books, a transcript of country dance tunes and a book of dance tunes.

Only one other manuscript of the present poem (without the music) is recorded (fair copy Dorset County Museum).

Music was the art form with which Hardy was most deeply imbued as a child: it was his 'earliest delight' (Gittings). His grandfather, father and Uncle James were all violinists and he played the instrument extremely well himself. All four of them in their time played at Stinsford Church and at local dances and the Saturday night 'randy' where single numbers could sometimes go on for an hour - he is recorded as having been stopped after a three-quarter of an hour stint. Hardy learned musical notation from his father. He always treasured his father's violin and the family handwritten music books. There are innumerable references and allusions to music in his prose and poetry, both in direct descriptions of occasions and direct references (as in the present poem) and in imagery. He particularly used music in both the structural composition and thematic development of his poetry.

'Words, with Hardy, were never solely literary; they were almost always linked to a remembered and familiar tune, undivided. This was his real strength as a lyric poet; his poems are hardly ever formal exercises on the page, but contain the most subtle modulation, stresses, and changes, entirely reminiscent of musical composition' (Gittings).

Hardy had a prodigious memory for old tunes. Jessica Stevens recalled that in 1910 'he borrowed a violin and played in a lively manner all the required tunes from memory' and when they played together at Max Gate 'he played old dance tunes on the fiddle.'

This is a rare manuscript survival of his musical knowledge, sense and proficiency, which he sometimes used, as here, overtly and directly for the metrical rhythm in a poem. Purdy noted in his bibliographical study the existence of this manuscript when it was in Cockerell's possession.

Sydney Cockerell, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, was a friend, adviser and literary executor of Hardy. In 1911 Hardy had encouraged Cockerell to present his manuscripts to libraries on both sides of the Atlantic, believing that it would 'not be becoming for a writer to send his own MSS to a museum on his own judgment.' Cockerell also facilitated the binding of Hardy's manuscripts.

PROVENANCE: Sydney Cockerell; Frederick B. Adams Jr.

REFERENCES: Eva Mary Grew, 'Thomas Hardy as Musician', Music and Letters, volume 21, 1940; Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography, 1982; Richard Purdy, Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study, 1979; Robert Gittings, Young Thomas Hardy, 1975; Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume IV, 1800-1900, compiled by Barbara Rosenbaum, 1990, Hardy HrT 835.

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  1. Simon Roberts
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