Author(s): Tait, Peter,
Date of Publication: 07/11/2011,
Pagination: 208 pages,
Series: 20th Century Architects,
Imprint: The Sundial Press,
Published By: The Sundial Press,
Book Classification: Literary studies: fiction novelists & prose writers, Dorset, Biography: literary
From the moment she first met Thomas Hardy in 1905, having written him an admiring letter, Florence Dugdale seemed destined for controversy. Her presence at Max Gate, both before and after the death of his first wife Emma, and her clandestine courtship with a man nearly forty years her senior sparked suspicion among the locals and scorn from the Gifford family.
She had wanted to be a writer herself, but was drawn into Hardy's life as his secretary and companion, and within a year of their own marriage was humiliated by his publication of poems commemorating the late Emma and his painful relationship with her.
Yet in the posthumous biography of her husband that bore her name she would tell the truth and at last achieve the acclaim she sought or so she had imagined, until that fiction too began to unravel.
After fourteen years of marriage, and despite her own gifts and her life thereafter, her fate was to be remembered by her obituary tag in a national newspaper helpmate to genius.
Her love life stunted, her literary ambitions thwarted, disowned by the Stoker family and satirised by Somerset Maugham, Florence's lot was an unenviable one. Why did she put up with it all?
In his compelling recreation of Florence's life, Peter Tait tells of a letter, one that Hardy had written to her on the eve of their wedding, which she kept until her death, when, under instructions, it was destroyed... And with it died part of the secret, the secret that helped explain Florence.
For, as Thomas found out to his cost, there was more to Florence than was evident from their first meeting. And so began their trail of deceptions, first of Emma, then of their friends and, finally, of us all.