Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is unique. He is known today as a poet and novelist, as well as the writer of a number of short stories. However he started his career as an architect. His novels and poems are now known and loved throughout the world, yet he was born, grew up and lived most of his long life in a provincial backwater - Dorset! When he died, he was known for his fatalistic views of life and for being an agnostic; and yet Hardy was quoted as saying that he had once wanted to be a clergyman. He longed to be educated at one of the great universities; although failing his ambition he is now one of the world's most studied authors His blend of nostalgic longing for a simpler past, together with a "modern" philosophical view of the world, gives us unique insights into the human condition. And his sheer longevity in terms of creative output is amazing in itself. He managed in all more than 70 years of writing novels, short stories, poems and the occasional theatrical exploit. And he was published for more than 50 of those years. Bere Regis features in several of Hardys novels and he renamed the village Kingsbere, for this purpose. I have outlined the novels it appears in below...
The D'Urberville family was based on the real life Bere Regis Turberville Family. One of the main scenes in the book centres around Tess visiting the D'Urberville family Tomb in Kingsbere Church - St. John the Baptist Church in our village.
"Not so very far to the left of her she [Tess] could discern a dark patch in the scenery, which inquiry confirmed her in supposing to be trees marking the environs of Kingsbere -- in the church of which parish the bones of her ancestors -- her useless ancestors -- lay entombed."
Click the above image to read the full text & plot summary.
Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)
Some of the Characters travel through Bere Regis driving their sheep to new pastures. Though I'd like to think the village has improved in appearance since then.
The Well-Beloved (1897)
This Poem below involves a man travelling to meet his Bride in Kingsbere...
I wayed by star and planet shine Towards the dear one's home At Kingsbere, there to make her mine When the next sun upclomb.
I edged the ancient hill and wood Beside the Ikling Way, Nigh where the Pagan temple stood In the world's earlier day.
And as I quick and quicker walked On gravel and on green, I sang to sky, and tree, or talked Of her I called my queen.
"O faultless is her dainty form, And luminous her mind; She is the God-created norm Of perfect womankind!"
A shape whereon one star-blink gleamed Glode softly by my side, A woman's; and her motion seemed The motion of my bride.
And yet methought she'd drawn erstwhile Adown the ancient leaze, Where once were pile and peristyle For men's idolatries.
"O maiden lithe and lone, what may Thy name and lineage be, Who so resemblest by this ray My darling?--Art thou she?"
The Shape: "Thy bride remains within Her father's grange and grove." "Thou speakest rightly," I broke in, "Thou art not she I love."
"Nay: though thy bride remains inside Her father's walls," said she, "The one most dear is with thee here, For thou dost love but me."
Then I: "But she, my only choice, Is now at Kingsbere Grove?" Again her soft mysterious voice: "I am thy only Love."
Thus still she vouched, and still I said, "O sprite, that cannot be!" . . . It was as if my bosom bled, So much she troubled me.
The sprite resumed: "Thou hast transferred To her dull form awhile My beauty, fame, and deed, and word, My gestures and my smile.
"O fatuous man, this truth infer, Brides are not what they seem; Thou lovest what thou dreamest her; I am thy very dream!"
"O then," I answered miserably, Speaking as scarce I knew, "My loved one, I must wed with thee If what thou say'st be true!"
She, proudly, thinning in the gloom: "Though, since troth-plight began, I've ever stood as bride to groom, I wed no mortal man!"
Thereat she vanished by the Cross That, entering Kingsbere town, The two long lanes form, near the fosse Below the faneless Down.
When I arrived and met my bride, Her look was pinched and thin, As if her soul had shrunk and died, And left a waste within.