AN IMPORTANT HARDY RARITY Available at LAKIN AND MARLEY
Hardy, Thomas. ON THE WESTERN CIRCUIT. Complete original 43-page typescript with Hardy's extensive holograph revisions of this important Wessex short story which was first published in The English Illustrated Magazine (December, 1891), and later collected in LIFE'S LITTLE IRONIES (1894). First page slightly worn and soiled, else Very Good, the typescript consists of 43pp, 4to, one page trimmed to half size, with numerous holograph revisions throughout, many extending to several lines, and one whole page (numbered 27-28) entirely in Hardy's hand. In total, 38 of the 43 pages of this unexpected survival bear Hardy's deletions and insertions, representing an extensive re-working of the short story. While a manuscript version of ON THE WESTERN CIRCUIT was given by Hardy to the Manchester Central Public Library in 1911 under a different title, printers marks here indicate this to be the copy used to set the type for its initial periodical appearance. See Purdy pp.81-86. Housed in a full green morocco folding box. $115,000.00
ON THE WESTERN CIRCUIT is one of the finest and today quite possibly the best known of Hardy's forty-nine short stories. Under the name "Day After The Fair," it has been adapted to the London stage by Harold Pinter, toured the world with Deborah Kerr, later developed into a BBC televised drama, and most recently produced on the New York stage as a musical. The tale was composed between the completion of "Tess" and the beginning of "Jude" when Hardy was at the height of his fiction writing prowess. Its tragic story of a doomed courtship by letters is set in contemporary urban Melchester (Salisbury) and entangles a London lawyer, traveling 'on the western circuit' of town-to-town judiciary matters, with two Wessex women (one bored and married, the other beautiful and illiterate), pursuing its dark and ironic anti-marriage theme both with an admirable economy of plot and an uncharacteristic sharp stab of realism.
As Hardy gave away virtually all of his manuscripts while he was still alive, the survival of this revised typescript is no doubt due to the special requirements of its serial publication. The periodical editors of The English Ilustrated Magazine characteristically imposed on Hardy certain restraints so he would not, as usual, offend the perceived Victorian taste of the time. Although Mrs. Harnham is here made a widow and there is no mention of Anna's pregnancy (as is found in the final version in LIFE'S LITTLE IRONIES), Hardy uses this revised typescript to do a more substantial exploration of his material. Almost all of the heaviest revision involves new phrases and changes which subtly increase the frankness of the characters' sexuality in counterpoint to his editorial instructions. Most important of all, here he adds in a long handwritten marginal paragraph, the key incident...Raye's accidental and erotic touch of Mrs. Harnham's hand at the crowded fair... which triggers the whole tragic consequence of the story.
Provenance: Ex- A.P. Watt, Thomas Hardy's literary agent, who handled the publication of ON THE WESTERN CIRCUIT both in England (English Illustrated Magazine, December 1891 with four illustrations by Walter Paget) and in America (Harper's Weekly 28 November 1891 with one illustration by W. T. Smedley). In the Collected Letters, Hardy writes Watt thanking him for his services in regard to this story's publication (January, 1892). Last sold at Sotheby's (London, lot 47) on December 15, 1988 for a then-whopping GBP 28,600 ($58,345).
Pricing: Thomas Hardy fiction in manuscript has only rarely appeared at public auction in the last fifty years. Since the 1960s, only three other Hardy revised page proofs or typescripts have been offered. At the disbursal of the Frederick Adams Collection (Sotheby's London) on 7 November 2001, a 37pp. typescript with autograph revisions by Hardy of "The Spectre Of The Real," a short story written jointly by Hardy and Florence Henniker in 1893, sold for GBP 55,450 ($113,118) despite the fact the story was his only attempt at collaboration, is still considered a critical failure, and was never collected by Hardy but was instead revised by Mrs. Henniker and collected in her 1897 volume: IN SCARLET AND GREY. No longer on the market, this version of "The Spectre Of The Real" has now been permanently institutionalized at Yale's Beinecke Library. This past December 13, 2007 brought two further Hardy fiction manuscripts onto the rare book market, also at Sotheby's London. The appearance of the legendary page proofs for the 1894 first book edition of JUDE THE OBSCURE, the most important text-related Hardy item to appear at public sale since 1918, fetched GBP 162,500 ($331,500). The following lot, a 1900 disbound reprint edition of FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD hand-corrected by Hardy for a now-lost 1901 paperback edition, made a strong GBP 46,100 ($94,045) despite the fact that fewer than forty corrections ...even fewer word-for-word... made it into the standard Wessex Edition.