Wreath-Laying at Stinsford on the 93rd Anniversary of Thomas Hardy's Death
As the New Year dawned for 1928 Hardy's health was fading rapidly. He could no longer hear the church bells ringing, nor could he listen to the reading of prose for any length of time, though a short poem now and again interested him.
On January 10th he made a strong rally, and insisted upon writing a cheque for his subscription to the Pension Fund of the Society of Authors. For the first time in his life he made a slightly feeble signature, unlike his usual beautiful firm handwriting, and then he laid down his pen.
In the evening he asked that Robert Browning's poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra” should be read aloud to him. While reading it his wife glanced at his face to see whether he were tired, the poem being a long one of thirty-two stanzas, and she was struck by the look of wistful intentness with which Hardy was listening. He indicated that he wished to hear the poem to the end.
He had a better night, and in the morning of January 11th seemed so much stronger that one at least of those who watched beside him had confident hopes of his recovery, and an atmosphere of joy prevailed in the sickroom. An immense bunch of grapes arrived from London, and this aroused in Hardy great interest. As a rule he disliked receiving gifts, but on this occasion he showed an almost childlike pleasure.
As it grew dusk, after a long musing silence, he asked his wife to repeat to him a verse from the Rubbiyat of Omar Khayyam, beginning: “Oh, Thou, who man of baser Earth...” In the evening he had a sharp heart attack of a kind he had never had before. The doctor was summoned and came quickly, joining Mrs Hardy at the bedside. Hardy remained conscious until a few minutes before the end. Shortly after nine he died.'
(Life's Decline – The Life Of Thomas Hardy, Florence Hardy)
Today due to lockdown we were unable to provide the usual service and wreath-laying ceremony with poetry readings which mark the anniversary of Hardy's passing. Instead Sue Clarke, a member of the THS Council of Management, laid the traditional wreath on Hardy's grave at St. Michael's Church, Stinsford, and three further Committee members recorded poetry readings in their separate environs as an act of commemoration: Chairman Tony Fincham, Academic Director Faysal Mikdadi, and Secretary Tracy Hayes. We hope you enjoy our distanced, but no less heart-felt, celebration.