Important letter will guarantee long-term access to Archives

Important Thomas Hardy correspondence purchase
will guarantee long-term public access

Saving Dorset’s Disappearing History

An important letter by literary giant Thomas Hardy has been jointly purchased by Dorset Archives Trust and the Thomas Hardy Society for public benefit. The handwritten letter, composed in June 1922, six years before the author’s death was addressed to Sir Clifford Allbutt, Regius Professor of Physic at Cambridge. Hardy references the “strange experience” of visiting a mental institution, Clerkenwell House with Allbutt and of his fascination with meeting the patients there. Hardy had a keen interest in the work of asylum hospitals and their treatment of the individuals within, although it is not known if he ever visited Dorset’s own Herrison Hospital.

In the letter, Hardy also alludes to his first meeting with Allbutt in 1893, and that given that so much time has elapsed since then and because of Hardy’s own advanced years, refers to the two of them as “the remnants of the Victorians of that day”.

The letter, whilst one of thousands written by Thomas Hardy who was an energetic correspondent, represents an important part of our understanding and knowledge of this great Dorset writer.

Tony Fincham, Hon Chairman of the Thomas Hardy Society said “The THS are very pleased to have been able to contribute to the acquisition of this important letter from Thomas Hardy to a physician, whom he most admired – and for the letter now to be kept safe and available for scholarly inspection at the Dorset History Centre.”

Carola Campbell, Chairman of the Dorset Archives Trust said “The Dorset Archives Trust is delighted to have led the acquisition of this historic letter with the generous support of THS.  Thomas Hardy’s novels and poems reflect the social history of Dorset during his life time and are loved & admired across the globe.  This correspondence provides another little window into the personal life of this iconic author”. 

The letter has been deposited at the Dorset History Centre where it can be viewed alongside a range of other Hardy-related archives.  

For further information, please contact Sam Johnston, Hon Sec, Dorset Archives Trust on 01305-228929 or


Dorset Archives Trust is the charitable body set up in 2009 to support the work of Dorset History Centre (DHC). Its principal aims are to fundraise (to assist with the purchase of documents and for archive related projects), encourage the donation of collections for public benefit and to promote archives and the work of DHC as widely as possible:

The Thomas Hardy Society, based in Dorchester, was founded in 1968 to promote understanding and appreciation of the life and works of the novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). It is one of the largest literary societies in the world.

Dorset History Centre in Dorchester is the archive service for Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole. It holds 1000 years of the county’s written history held within thousands of varied collections – the ‘raw materials of history’:



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