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Hardy’s Palette and the Colours of Nature

La palette de Hardy et les couleurs de la nature
Andrew Hewitt


This paper invites an intertextual reading of Hardy’s use of “green” in his descriptions of nature, arguing that the English imaginary is by now so steeped in “green” that any mention of the colour inevitably calls up other texts that write nature as the site of health, youth, and vigour. By contrast Hardy’s greens are both a sign of ill health in nature and of his judicious distancing of himself from the English green tradition. As Hardy predicted in The Return of the Native, a different palette is now needed to paint nature in its damaged state.

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1It is now more than twenty years since Richard Kerridge described Hardy as an “obvious candidate for the ecocritical canon” (Kerridge 126). A number of critics had, of course, already perceived Hardy’s potential relevance to the burgeoning ecocritical movement, notably Kim Taplin, Lawrence Buell and Jonathan Bate. And for Raymond Williams, whose work anticipates some of the main concerns of ecocriticism, Hardy was a necessary and inevitable resource. One way to answer the question “How green is Hardy?” would therefore be to say: “canonically” – meaning not only that Hardy’s work is “required reading” for anyone who wishes to explore the intersection of ecology and literature, but also that it affords a richer, more rewarding ecocritical experience than that of other writers.

2But – all of “Hardy”? The Hand of Ethelberta? The collection Satires of Circumstance? The autobiography? Thus far, ecocriticism – defined by one of its early practitioners as “an earth-centred approach to literary studies” (Glotfelty xix) – has tended to reproduce a normative view of Hardy by focusing on his more explicitly “earth-centred” works. A survey of ecocritical accounts of Hardy shows that The Return of the Native, The Woodlanders and Tess of the d’Urbervilles are by far the texts most frequently discussed. Kim Taplin’s survey of Hardy in her collection of essays Tongues in Trees (1989) contextualises The Woodlanders with reference to Under the Greenwood Tree, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Lawrence Buell (1995) acknowledges Hardy’s powerful representations of the natural world, as exemplified by Egdon Heath in The Return of the Native; Egdon, says Buell, is not only depicted “in fine visual detail” but endowed with “aboriginal personhood” – even if, ultimately, Hardy fails “to do justice to place” (Buell 255). In his section on Hardy in The Song of the Earth (2000), Jonathan Bate focuses on The Woodlanders. For him this novel is a “perfect example” (Bate 15) of how Hardy uses his characters to embody the “irreconcilable clash between the forces of tradition and of innovation” (14). Richard Kerridge’s chapter “Ecological Hardy” in the important anthology Beyond Nature Writing (2001) draws again on the same selection of novels as Taplin, with an aside on Desperate Remedies noting that Hardy’s first published novel was “praised for its rural scenes” (Kerridge 127). Ronald Morrison (1998; 2007; 2012; 2013) has written extensively on Hardy from an ecocritical perspective (including a paper on Hardy as ecocritic), with The Mayor of Casterbridge as his main text for exploration. William Cohen’s essay “Arborealities” (2014) links affect theory and environmental studies for an insightful and deeply moving account of The Woodlanders. Benjamin Morgan’s contribution to the collection Anthropocene Reading (2017), “Scale and Form: Thomas Hardy’s Rocks and Stars”, stands out from the mainstream of ecocritical treatments of Hardy for its engagement with two less well-known works, namely A Pair of Blue Eyes and Two on a Tower. That these two novels are also the focus of Aaron Rosenberg on “scale” in Hardy (2018) suggests that the Romances – particularly those concerned with the pressure that the inclusion of the gigantic (interstellar space) and the minuscule (fossil traces of extinct life) exert on narratives fundamentally concerned with events that unfold on the scale of the human – are beginning to attract the attention of ecocritics. Morgan has also argued for Tess as an example of how form can help readers gain “imaginative purchase” on climate change, a “crisis that is massive at the scale of geological time but mostly imperceptible at the scale of human experience” (Morgan 2019, 44). Jillmarie Murphy also chooses Tess as her lens for reading issues of women’s labour and environmental justice in her chapter in Victorian Ecocriticism (2017); most recently, Anna Burton (2021) draws on The Woodlanders and Tess to illustrate important aspects of her thesis about trees in Victorian literature.

3It is, in other words, this subset of novels that provides the “obvious” basis for Hardy’s inclusion in the “ecocritical canon”. Nevertheless, a strong case can be made for reading any of Hardy’s novels ecocritically. One might begin with the recurrence of scenarios in which nature is seemingly pitted against itself: for example, when the sound of water that has been made to run uphill darkens the affective world of the heroine of Desperate Remedies with images of skeletons and starving captive bodies (Hardy 2003, 87), or when the discovery of more starving captive bodies in the knacker’s-yard-cum-larder turns Ethelberta against one of her suitors in The Hand of Ethelberta (Hardy 1997a, 186). Similar scenes can be found in all of Hardy’s novels in which – as happens today whenever we switch on the news – a character is confronted with the disturbing consequences of the entanglement of natural and cultural processes; expanding our ecocritical reading of Hardy to embrace a wider selection of novels helps to highlight such patterns. Then there is the poetry, which ecocritics have only begun to explore, which along with his life-writing (letters, autobiography) Hardy used to reflect even more boldly on what we would classify today as “green” issues – animal welfare in particular (though see Tait 2012 and 2015; Roth; and on Hardy and animals, West).

4In short, when it comes to Hardy, the opportunity for ecocriticism is wide open. Indeed, as Gabriel Egan remarks with reference to green Shakespeare, it is the job of criticism “to move from the obvious cases to the not so obvious” (Egan 34). Just as green criticism of England’s national dramatist “has an application beyond the obviously green-world plays such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (175), so this special edition of FATHOM can test and extend the boundaries of green Hardy beyond the “obvious cases”.

5In this brief essay I want to draw out what I believe to be one of the implications of the notion of canonicity itself, namely that all texts exist in relation to other texts. For it seems to me that not only have ecocritical approaches to Hardy thus far tended to limit themselves to the “obvious cases”; they have also, even while invoking the notion of a canon, tended to overlook the fact that Hardy is first and foremost a writer among writers. To put it another way, for a writer of Hardy’s extreme literariness, ecocritics do not seem to take much account of the literary “environment”. This is possibly because they wish to avoid any risk of confusing the ecocritical position with a social-constructivist view of nature. To be clear, nature is not a cultural construct; when Hardy uses the word “tree”, he is not simply invoking a “constructed” idea of tree-ness but referring to something that exists in the real world, something you might actually shelter under or chop down. There is no doubt that Hardy’s writings are suffused with his response to the natural world. At the same time, however, they do also arise in response to other writing, and represent a search for a writerly niche which affords scope for his outlook and capabilities. I am not talking about the literary marketplace, which of course also had to be reckoned with, but about literary tradition and the writer’s finding-out of their place within it. Traces of this search for a place from which to write range from the ambiguous and general to the specific and undeniable. For instance, there are clear similarities in the overall plot and structure of Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree to the second-century Greek pastoral romance Daphnis and Chloe (Turner 30–31), as well as some very specific references: Chloe’s unsuccessful suitor is called Lampis, derived from the Greek word for “shine”, while Fancy’s unsuccessful suitor is called “Shiner” (see Harrison 96). Shakespeare is, of course, even closer to hand, supplying the novel’s title and the general air of green-world comedy. These echoes and allusions have been evaluated before; my point here is simply that the author of Under the Greenwood Tree wants his readers to know that his novel has a literary-traditional “setting” as well as a physical one.

  • 1 It is unlikely that Hardy was familiar with Clare and possible that he did not know his work at all (...)

6To take another example, Hardy’s bird poems, fresh as they are, often seem to ask to be read alongside those of John Clare (1793–1864)1. Here is the opening of Clare’s sonnet on “The Yellowhammer”:

When shall I see the white thorn leaves agen
And Yellowhammers gath’ring the dry bents

                                         (ll.1–2; Clare 417)

7And here is Hardy’s voicing of the bird’s reply, in a late poem also titled “The Yellow-Hammer” (uncollected, n.d.):

When, towards the summer’s close,
    Lanes are dry,
And unclipt the hedgethorn rows,
    There we fly!

                                         (ll.1–4; Hardy 1976, 946)

8Part of the pathos of Clare’s poem derives from our knowledge that Clare spent decades in an asylum, cut off (though by no means completely) from the country walks and open-air pursuits that had once sustained him. The speaker of the poem is not asking when do yellow-hammers build their nests, but “When [if ever] shall I”, locked away in my asylum, “agen” partake of the experience of watching them go about their work at first hand? Hardy’s response could be read as rather bluntly sidelining that pathos – the yellow-hammers will go about their seasonal business whether you or any other human is there to see them or not – but I prefer to read it as consoling: in a topsy-turvy world that confines sane and indeed highly sensitive and intelligent people to the “madhouse”, the yellow-hammers can be trusted to carry on as they always have, and you will be able to find them again just where you saw them last. We can pursue the Clare/Hardy comparison by pairing another two poems on another bird celebrated by both. In “The Blackbird”, Clare honours this “bonny bird” who sings morning, noon, and night:

O bonny is the blackbird still
   On top of yon fir tree
On which he wipes his golden bill
   And blithely whistles he

                                         (ll.9–12; Clare 365)

9Not until the end of the second stanza of Clare’s poem does an “I” appear, and then not to take credit for noticing such things, but simply to give thanks for the blackbird’s rich music, saying: “Oft’ have I quit towns noise and folk” in order to hear it (l.15). Hardy’s “I Watched a Blackbird” (Winter Words, 1928) treats the same subject, but places the “I” firmly on the scene from the start:

I watched a blackbird on a budding sycamore
One Easter Day, when sap was stirring twigs to the core;
   I saw his tongue, and crocus-coloured bill
   Parting and closing as he turned his trill

                                         (ll.1–4; Hardy 1976, 866)

10Which of these approaches might be deemed more “green”: Clare’s poetry of seeming absorption in nature, or Hardy’s scrupulous acknowledgement of the natural world as always and inevitably observed? A remark by the art critic, anthropologist and cultural theorist Aby Warburg may be relevant: “The conscious creation of distance between oneself and the external world can probably be designated as the founding act of human civilization” (Warburg 276). Poetry is always “conscious”; nevertheless, in its insistence on the speaker’s role in representing nature’s effects (“I watched…”, “I saw…”), Hardy’s poetry might be said to commit this distancing/civilising “act” more explicitly than Clare’s, which has often been read as a conscious rejection of distance between humankind and the “external world”. According to John Middleton Murry it was “hardly a metaphor” to say that Clare “was an actual part of the countryside” (Murry qtd in Coupe 42).

  • 2 Garrard calls it “a prototype of ecocritical theory” (49).

11The question, or opposition (Clarean absorption vs Hardyan observation?), leads back to Schiller’s categorisation of poets as either “in” or “out” of nature, in one of the foundational documents of ecocriticism, “On Naive and Sentimental Poetry” (originally published in 1795–1796)2. “The poet”, says Schiller, “either is nature or he will seek her. The former is the naive, the latter the sentimental poet” (Schiller 193). These categories, he argues, can be roughly aligned to “ancient” and “modern” (195), for “in the earlier state of natural simplicity […] man still function[ed] with all his powers simultaneously as a harmonious unity and hence the whole of his nature is expressed completely in actuality”, whereas now the “poetic spirit […] stands in quite another relation to nature”, the “correspondence between feeling and thought” having become an ideal rather than an actual condition of existence (193–194). In brief, Schiller declares: “They felt naturally; we feel the natural” (190) – “they” being the naive, and “we” the sentimental poets.

  • 3 T. S. Eliot, who objected to Hardy’s morbidity, uses the same trope of nature as invalid, for examp (...)

12Hardy was sceptical of the kind of Romanticism Schiller championed, and I am not suggesting that he would have turned to Schiller to help articulate his aims in writing about nature, simply that we can. In practice Schiller’s distinction does not bear up very well when applied to literary artists, though in Hardy’s works it could, perhaps, help define certain characters vis-à-vis his narrators. The woodlanders Giles and Marty, for example, are nature to the extent that they know “by glance” whether a tree has a “sound” heart, or is “tainted with incipient decay”, and can easily judge how deep its roots are by taking in “the state of its upper twigs” (Hardy 1998, 331); but the narrator of the novel in which they appear stands apart from them, witnessing their natural feeling but not at one with it. The point is that although Giles and Marty are still described as relying on observation, their powers go much deeper than the appreciation of aesthetic surface: heart and roots are present to them in a way that suggests a different way of relating to the natural world that experiences it as much more continuous with their own selves than the narrator’s. In Schiller’s terms, Giles and Marty are naive, the narrator sentimental (where this term means something like “self-conscious” or “reflective”, not mawkish or emotional, as it might be understood today). With respect to Hardy, however, another comment of Schiller’s may be more suggestive: “Our feeling for nature”, Schiller says, “is like the feeling of an invalid for health” (Schiller 190). Many of Hardy’s poems perform a kind of inversion of this metaphor in which the speaker is up and about, listening, observing – we might suggest, diagnosing – and nature is figured as an invalid or even a corpse3; “The Darkling Thrush” (Poems of the Past and the Present, 1901) provides the best-known example:

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.


The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant

                                         (ll.1–4, 9–10; Hardy 1976, 150)

13“The Darkling Thrush” is a tissue of intertextual references. “Darkling” evokes the invocation to Book 3 of Paradise Lost (“as the wakeful Bird / Sings darkling, and in shadiest Covert hid / Tunes her nocturnal Note. Thus with the Year / Seasons return”; ll.38–41, Milton 63), as well as Keats’s nightingale (“Darkling I listen”; Keats 194) and Arnold’s Dover beach:

[…] the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain

  • 4 See also Catherine Lanone’s essay “Mechanical Birds and Shapes of Ice: Hardy’s vision of the ‘Blind (...)

14Consciously or unconsciously, Hardy has taken Arnold’s stretched-out world which offers “no help for pain” and imagined it as an actual “corpse outleant”. Cue the wind-battered songbird – ironised, demythologised, “aged […] frail, gaunt and small” (l.21; Hardy 1976, 150), who sings without apparent cause a song of “blessed Hope” (l.31). This time the reference is to Canto LVI of Tennyson’s In Memoriam: “O life as futile, then, as frail! /| O for thy voice to soothe and bless! / What hope of answer, or redress?” (LVI, ll.25–27; Tennyson 135, my emphasis). If we restrict ourselves to Schiller’s terms, we would have to say Hardy was a sentimental (i.e. reflective) rather than a naive poet. But it is clear that Hardy’s reflective mindset takes in the literary tradition in which he happens to be working at any given moment (elegy, in the case of “The Darkling Thrush”) as well as the “external world”, and puts it to particular, ironic use, partly no doubt because irony was at the core of his own way of relating to a world he saw as full of paradox, incongruity and ambiguity, but also because he is deliberately positioning his work against the literary tradition it inherits/inhabits. Neither in nature nor a seeker after a lost intimacy with it, the ironic poet bears witness to the fact that both these positions have already been written out. Nature has in a sense been over-written; to a poet (or reader) steeped in literary evocations of the seasons, of birdsong and so on, there is a risk that Nature comes to seem like one gigantic quotation. The desire to avoid simply being absorbed into the palimpsest entails a complex, even convoluted stance. Thus in “Shelley’s Skylark” (Poems of the Past and the Present, 1901), the speaker first debunks Shelley’s “Blithe spirit” of “unbodied joy”, noting that on the contrary, the skylark “only lived” like any other bird, embodied in a “little ball of feather and bone”, then calls on the “fairies” to inter its dust in a bejewelled casket, not because such a life has value in itself but because it inspired a poet to reach “[e]cstatic heights” (l.24; Hardy 1976, 101) in a work (i.e., Shelley’s ode) that actually begins by denying the bird’s feathers-and-bone actuality (“Bird thou never wert”). If the naive poet is nature, and the sentimental poet can only testify to it, the ironic poet plays off material reality and testimony against each other – while leaving us to wonder if the presence of “fairies” bearing tiny silver-lined caskets is to be taken seriously as an attempt to re-enchant nature itself, or read as a tongue-in-cheek comment on the more hyperbolic reaches of the kind of writing-about-nature that is the domain of the sentimental4.


15We can see this ironic approach at work by following the single most important word in the vocabulary of environmentalism, the word “green” itself, in Hardy and other writers. For most English people, nature is self-evidently green, and this is true partly because the literary tradition says it is so. According to W. J. T. Mitchell, the “English imaginary” is steeped in green (Mitchell 247). Stopping-points on any tour of English literary history would include the “green otherworlds” of medieval literature (Siewers, passim), the forest settings of Shakespeare’s “green world of comedy” (Frye 70), and Andrew Marvell’s “green thought in a green shade” (“The Garden”, 1681; Marvell 101), before arriving at the Romantics, whose colour-scheme is entirely dominated by that “green and simple hue” that Wordsworth found so exhilarating as he surveyed the “green pastoral landscape” around Tintern Abbey with its “pastoral farms, / Green to the very door” and “orchard tufts” loaded with “unripe [i.e. green] fruits” (Wordsworth ll.14, 159, 17–18, 11–12). Indeed, in his history of green, Michel Pastoureau identifies the Romantic period specifically as the moment when a colour associated with “all that was changing, changeable and fleeting” became fixed as “the color of nature and thus of freedom, health, hygiene” (Pastoureau 7). For John Clare, green may not be exclusively linked with youth and new growth – there are bright but also, in autumn, “deadened greens” – but it is the keynote colour all the same. In “Summer Images” its countless tints and hues make up a “harmony of varied greens” (l.135; Clare 128). In “Pleasant Places” Clare lists some of the “picturesque” locations he prefers – old stone pits, crooked streams, tree-shaded lanes, heaths “oer spread with furze” – noting how “the wild wind to complete the scene / In rich confusion mingles every green” (ll. 7, 11–12; 169). In “Shadows of Taste” he describes a landscape of “Sunshine and shade one harmonizing green / Where meads and brooks and forests basking lie / Lasting as truth and the eternal sky” (ll. 74–76; 172). Green in Keats can be “chilly”, but it is also the colour of health and wisdom, as in the description in Hyperion of oak-trees as “green-rob’d senators” (Book I, l.73; Keats 142).

16Indeed, it may be that the “English imaginary” is so steeped in green as to have given rise to a sense of equivalence between the two terms: to be green is to be English, to be English is to be green. Thus Patrick Parrinder in Novel and Nation can state unequivocally that Shakespeare’s Falstaff “die[s]…thinking of England” (Parrinder 16), on the evidence of the Hostess’s famous account of that death in Henry V: “for after I saw him fumble with the sheets and play with flowers and smile upon his fingers’ ends, I knew there was but one way; for his nose was as sharp as a pen, and a’ babbled of green fields” (I.3). But how can we be so sure? Why could not Falstaff have been thinking of fields in Ireland, or France? As Parrinder observes, Falstaff’s “green fields” are English mainly by association, not because the grass is less green in other countries; but they are English nonetheless.

17By contrast, for Hardy “green” may also be the sign of something disturbing or uncanny in nature. This is in line with the second meaning of “green” documented by Stephanie LeMenager and Teresa Shewry in Keywords for Environmental Studies: green as “a sign of illness or an excess of bile”, derived from “medical traditions, and the classical Latin viridis”. Green in this sense points towards “the in-between space of existential nausea […] slime, the monster, the sterile light of the surgery” (LeMenager & Shewry 128). Hardy’s greens are often unsettling by virtue of this “in-between”-ness. Sometimes, green comes quite literally “in between” a character and the world, as when Clym Yeobright, looking through a window, finds his sight hindered by the “green antiquity of the panes” (Hardy 1990, 387), or Captain De Stancey of A Laodicean looks up from his card game at an old yew outside “whose boughs as they moved were distorted by the old green window panes” (Hardy 1997b, 144). Bottle-green glass in the church windows block out the light in “The Waiting Supper” (Hardy 1999, 288).

  • 5 Some editions print Hardy’s emendation of “hurt” to “disagreed with”.

18But Hardy’s greens are “in between” in another sense too, as they simultaneously evoke the material reality of nature – buds and shoots and blades and leaves, and other bodies touched by light passing through or deflected off these surfaces – and question, invert, or extend prior literary usages of “green”. Thus when the narrator of The Woodlanders describes how the “green shades” of early summer in Hintock woods “hurt the complexion of the girls who walked there” (Hardy 1988, 129), he is not simply remarking on an effect procured by nature, or even indicating (through the choice of the word “hurt”5) how this effect is perceived in a culture that favours fair skin, but revisiting and ironising the locus classicus of “green shade”, Marvell’s “The Garden”, in which the mind enhanced by immersion in the beauty and bounty of the natural world is figured as “Annihilating all that’s made / To a green thought in a green shade” (ll.47–48; Marvell 101). The narrator of The Woodlanders wants us to know that his “green” is not the same as the green of Andrew Marvell or, more broadly, the English tradition of which Marvell forms a part, though this “green” must be acknowledged at the same time as it is ironised: “The boughs cast green shades, which hurt the complexion of the girls who walked there; and a fringe of them which overhung Mr. Melbury’s garden dripped on his seed-plots when it rained, pitting their surface all over as with pock-marks, till Melbury declared that gardens in such a place were no good at all” (Hardy 1988, 129). The girls’ skin is not only “hurt” by being tainted green: the near-juxtaposition of “complexion” and “pock-marks” suggests a different disease that may also “hurt” people in the face. Finally, Melbury’s negative verdict on “gardens in such a place” seems calculated to put paid to Marvell’s notion of the natural world as a garden wherein health and beauty may be found.

19My suggestion is that “green” in Hardy bespeaks a degree of alienation from nature, and it does this first by serving as “a sign of illness” rather than health, and second by invoking other literary uses, so as to textualise “nature” in subtle ways. In the poem “The Ivy-Wife” (Wessex Poems, 1898), for example, the ivy silently, stealthily strangles its host-tree with its “soft green claw” (l.16; Hardy 1976, 57), an image of almost Gothic horror. Ivy does actually do this. But the echo of In Memoriam is hard to miss: nature is not, or at least not only, “red in tooth and claw”: it has green claws too. The reader is reminded on the one hand that nature includes illness, predation and death in its green ambit as much as vigour and health; and on the other, that the literary tradition is Hardy’s to adopt and adapt as he wishes.

20This is not to say that “green” is never a sign of health or fresh life in Hardy – clearly it sometimes is – but that the richness of his palette signifies both his attention to actual particulars to be found in nature and his careful distancing from the English literary green-world tradition. Green does not even appear in that most “obvious” case of Hardy’s writing about nature, The Return of the Native, until Book 2; it does not feature in the magnificent opening description of the heath at all. For his initial depiction of Egdon, Hardy relies on a scheme of browns, whites, purples and blacks. The narrator muses that generations to come may find in this sombre landscape of “gaunt waste” a new standard for beauty (Hardy 1990, 10). The heath turns green in spring, but this is not its most beautiful period: “the one season of the year […] in which the heath was gorgeous” is July, when the sun “fire[s] its crimson heather to scarlet” (233). Green is also unnecessary for the painting of that other famed site of Hardyan nature, the “polychrome” garden through which Tess passes, mesmerised by Angel’s harp-playing:

The outskirt of the garden in which Tess found herself had been left uncultivated for some years, and was now damp and rank with juicy grass which sent up mists of pollen at a touch; and with tall blooming weeds emitting offensive smells – weeds whose red and yellow and purple hues formed a polychrome as dazzling as that of cultivated flowers. She went stealthily as a cat through this profusion of growth, gathering cuckoo-spittle on her skirts, cracking snails that were underfoot, staining her hands with thistle-milk and slug-slime, and rubbing off upon her naked arms sticky blights which, though snow-white on the apple-tree trunks, made madder stains on her skin; […] and the waves of colour mixed with the waves of sound. (Hardy 1990, 138–139)

  • 6 See for example Edward Burtynsky’s photographs at <>, or the photographs by Daniel Beltrá of the afte</https> (...)

21Brown, white, purple, black; red, yellow, purple, white; and combinations of these like the reddish-purple madder… As it happens, environmentalists in the twenty-first century are indeed highlighting just these colours: black for the black rain of nuclear fallout, brown for the rust that stains the metal of obsolete industrial infrastructure, black-and-red for the waste products of nickel mining, as well as a shimmering rainbow of browns and blues and golds and reds and pinks for oil spills on water6. “Perhaps”, write LeMenager and Shewry, “green will recede from the colour palette of the Anthropocene” altogether (130). If it does, “green” Hardy will have anticipated the change.

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1 It is unlikely that Hardy was familiar with Clare and possible that he did not know his work at all. Arguments for intertextuality may be strengthened by, but in my view do not depend on, evidence that Author A actually knew certain specific works by Author B; we are entirely free to read the poets side by side.

2 Garrard calls it “a prototype of ecocritical theory” (49).

3 T. S. Eliot, who objected to Hardy’s morbidity, uses the same trope of nature as invalid, for example in the scene-setting metaphor that opens “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”: “the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherised upon a table” (ll.2–3; Eliot 13).

4 See also Catherine Lanone’s essay “Mechanical Birds and Shapes of Ice: Hardy’s vision of the ‘Blind Watchmaker’”, which argues that Hardy’s poetry uses bird “to pinpoint the shift from Romantic Nature – a Wordsworthian, benevolent field of immanence – to the bleak empty machinery of a cold post-Darwinian world” (Lanone §6).

5 Some editions print Hardy’s emendation of “hurt” to “disagreed with”.

6 See for example Edward Burtynsky’s photographs at <>, or the photographs by Daniel Beltrá of the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill at (last accessed 29/11/2022)

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Electronic reference

Andrew Hewitt, Hardy’s Palette and the Colours of NatureFATHOM [Online], 7 | 2022, Online since 23 December 2022, connection on 14 June 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Andrew Hewitt

Independent scholar

Andrew Hewitt completed his PhD on emotion and affect in Hardy’s fiction at the University of Hull in 2020, under the supervision of Professor Jane Thomas. His papers have appeared in the Thomas Hardy Society Journal, FATHOMVictorian Popular Fictions Journal and other publications.  


By this author

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