Thomas Hardy – Cornwall’s Favourite Poet

June 13, 2018Cornwall, News

Born on 2nd June 1840 and living to the grand old age of 88, Thomas Hardy was one of the most renowned poets and novelists in English literary history. Heavily influenced by Romanticism, Hardy was first and foremost a landscape novelist and a landscape poet who painted literary pictures of a natural world – the rugged wild beauty of Cornwall proved such inspiration to this great modern-day novelist.

Hardy began his life in Dorset and lived in London for some time before, at the age of 30, he reluctantly travelled to North Cornwall to work as an architect’s apprentice restoring the church of St Juliot in Boscastle. With his dreams of becoming a published writer seeming to drift further and further away due to having to work as an architect, ironically it wasn’t until Hardy moved to Cornwall that his writing career truly flourished.  After his first visit to Tintagel, Beeny Cliff and the Valency Valley (the areas which surround Trevigue) Hardy decided to move here and make it his home and inspiration. And we don’t blame him!

The Thomas Hardy Trail in Cornwall

thomas hardy- cornwall's favourite poetHunkered down just off the South West coast path in a magical place between Bude and Boscastle, Trevigue occupies the rolling pastures which look over Strangles beach and the wildly beautiful stretch of coast which inspired the works of Thomas Hardy. His third book, “A Pair of Blue Eyes” was based on his experiences in Cornwall and on his love affair with his future wife, Emma Gifford. There are several poignant spots to visit in Cornwall which were instrumental in making Thomas Hardy one of Cornwall’s favourite poets, most of which are a short distance from Trevigue:

St Juliot

St Juliot was the place where Thomas Hardy met his first wife, Emma Lavinia Gifford, sister-in-law of the rector of the church.  St Juliot sits in a beautifully-isolated position on the northern slopes of the wildflower-strewn Valency Valley. The church is snugly tucked away below the road and the walk along through the woods from Boscastle is perhaps the best way to find this magical spot which has become indelibly associated with Thomas Hardy.

The Old Rectory in St Juliot

The Old Rectory in St Juliot where Hardy met his first wife

Beeny Cliff

Trevigue sits just below Beeny and is the spot where Thomas Hardy met and courted his first wife. Some of his most moving poetry was inspired by the scenery in this area and when you see the rolling Atlantic surf, surging blow hole and powerfully mystical waterfall you’ll see why. A walk from Beeny Cliff to Pentargon Falls will give you first glance at the dramatic heart-stirring scenery which evoked such drama in Hardy (be sure to look out for seals on the rocks just below Fire Beacon Point too).

“Beeny Cliff”, by Thomas Hardy

O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free-
The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.

The pale mews plained below us, and the waves seemed far away
In a nether sky, engrossed in saying their ceaseless babbling say,

As we laughed light-heartedly aloft on that clear-sunned March day.

A little cloud then cloaked us, and there flew an irised rain,
And the Atlantic dyed its levels with a dull misfeatured stain,
And then the sun burst out again, and purples prinked the main.

– Still in all its chasmal beauty bulks old Beeny to the sky,
And shall she and I not go there once again now March is nigh,
And the sweet things said in that March say anew there by and by? 

What if still in chasmal beauty looms that wild weird western shore,
The woman now is – elsewhere – whom the ambling pony bore,
And nor knows nor cares for Beeny, and will laugh there nevermore.

Valency Valley

The Valency Valley is a beautiful heavily-wooded valley near Boscastle which is where Hardy made his home for some of his time in Cornwall. The Valency river runs right through the valley which is buzzing with wildlife and full of beauty and intrigue. Thomas Hardy’s novel, “Far from the Madding Crowd” features parts of the Valency Valley heavily, with mentions of sweeping views across the valley setting the scene.

St Clether

Before Thomas Hardy married Emma Gifford, her beau was a curate’s son who lived on the edge of the village of St Clether. This small parish not far from Boscastle was the location of where, after Emma paid a final visit to the spurned suitor, Hardy noticed Serjeant’s face at the window and in a cruel symbolic act, put his arm around Emma as they left as if to say ‘she’s mine’. Serjeant’s actions inspired Hardy’s haunting poem ‘The Face at the Casement’. This historic Grade-II cottage in St Clether was recently up for sale for £750,000.

st clether house thomas hardy link

(c) BNPS

So there you have it – a stay at Trevigue puts you in the centre of the most awe-inspiring locations which inspired the legendary poet Thomas Hardy (and continues to inspire poets and artists alike). If you have any other interesting locations which inspired Thomas Hardy during his time in Cornwall then please get in touch. We can’t wait to welcome you to this most beautifully poetic part of the world…

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