Producer: Jonathan Powell
Director: David Giles
The Mayor of Casterbridge/Episode1/Intro by Alistair Cooke
Good evening, I'm Alistair Cooke.
Tonight we begin a new series in seven parts. It is Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, which he wrote about halfway through the quarter century that he devoted entirely to novels.
Now, this is the second Hardy novel that we've done on Masterpiece Theatre. The first you may recall was Jude the Obscure, which turned out to be his last novel, because when he finished it he was overcome by a depression that had washed on him periodically since his youth. And he resolved at the age of fifty-seven never again to write a novel, and he didn't. He devoted the next thirty years of his life to an epic poem on England and the Napoleonic Wars and to a body of lyric poetry. I don't suppose that today many people read the Dynasts, the epic or the lyric poetry but in the few years since we put on Jude the Obscure there has been a big--I think, overdue--worldwide revival of interest in the novels of Thomas Hardy inspired by, of all people, the Japanese. In 1957 they founded the first Thomas Hardy Society. Hardy was born in 1840. He was the son of a master mason whose family had been in the county since the fifteenth century. The boy went to a village school, then to Dorchester, then got interested in churches and he got articled to an architect. At the age of twenty-two he went to London and in time, won two medals from the British Institute of Architects--one for an essay on church architecture and the other on design. And he decided that's what he was going to be, an architect. But he had an itch for writing and it's an irony, I think, which he would have been the first to appreciate, that his first published work was a humorous sketch in a magazine. However, he got depressed again; he got ill and he went back to Dorset, at the age of twenty-seven, practically for keeps.
Now, The Mayor of Casterbridge was shot, of course, in Dorset, which is where all his novels are placed, and even today much of Dorset is undefiled from 1830s and 40s. This book begins with an incident that sent a shock wave of protest through the critics and the readers. They said it was brutal and it was improbable. It's about an auction, as you will see. But Hardy actually got the idea of the novel from going through county records and newspapers of the 1830s and 40s and finding there actual advertisements for such an auction as the novel begins with.
To set up this trio walking down a road in Dorset here is the first page:
One evening of late summer, before the nineteenth century had reached its thirtieth year a young man and woman, the latter carrying a child, were approaching the large village of Vleydon-Priors in Upper Wessex on foot. His measured walk was the walk of the skilled countryman, as distinct from the shamble of the general laborer. They preserved a perfect silence. The man and woman were man and wife and the parents of the girl in arms there could be little doubt. No other than such a relationship would have accounted for the atmosphere of stale familiarity which the trio carried along with them.
The Archive Database | Program History | Poster Gallery | Awards
Home | About The Series | The American Collection | The Archive
Schedule & Season | Feature Library | eNewsletter | Book Club
Learning Resources | Forum | Search | Shop | Feedback
Masterpiece is sponsored by: