Barbara Hardy, Dorothea’s Daughter and Other Nineteenth-Century Postscripts
Hardy, Barbara, Dorothea’s Daughter and Other Nineteenth-Century Postscripts, Brighton, Victorian Secrets, 2011, 148 p.
1Barbara Hardy, in her little gem of a book, Dorothea’s Daughter and Other Nineteenth-Century Postcripts, offers us delightful insights into how each of the novels could/would have unfolded after the final full stop—if there had been no such stop. She herself calls her stories ‘postscripts’, as her position is clearly that of an author, but an author who would like to delay the moment when ‘it is finished’, and who turns back to reflect upon her/his creation.
2By choosing this very difficult stance, Barbara Hardy has to combine the talent of a writer, which she undeniably possesses, with her flair for close analysis, the result of a lifetime’s study. In nine short pieces, each of which answers an issue raised by a famous nineteenth-century novel (Mansfield Park, Emma, Jane Eyre . . .), Barbara Hardy puts a fresh emphasis on the psychological workings of the characters. Thus she illuminates themes which even a good reader could fail to grasp, and creates these short extensions to each of the diegeses in order to explore and explain some underlying aspects of these novels.
3For instance in the postscript entitled ‘Adèle Varens’, Barbara Hardy shows her insightful observation on life by laying bare a question not immediately apparent to a romantic reading of the plot: what can the position of little Adèle be after the marriage of her former governess and her foster-father? As the second epigraph to the story underlines, in the original novel, Jane Eyre, concerned by Adèle’s well-being after her marrying Rochester, ‘sought out a school conducted on a more indulgent system; and near enough to permit of [my] visiting her often, and bringing her home sometimes’ (43). But the novel remains silent on the actual relationships between the three characters, whereas the tensions between parents and children in reconstituted families are known to be, more often than not, problematic . . .
4Thus Barbara Hardy skillfully captures the tones of Jane’s voice in a triptych whose central part, the visit of young Adèle, is elided. The first section, ‘Before the Visit’, gives us to hear the tensions at work between Jane and Rochester about Rochester’s little protégée; in the second part, ‘After the Visit’, Rochester’s misgivings and fears are given a severe pounding by Jane’s generous attitude: ‘She is a child like my old self, and a child like my own child’ (55). The elision of the visit itself is brilliant: it opens a space of non-dit in the midst of what amounts to a domestic row which gives even more depth to the psychological portraits of the two characters.
5Barbara Hardy’s skill is to make these extensions of the novels quite convincing. There is an exquisite accuracy and truthfulness to her prose which makes it one of the most charming reads of the year. To be warmly recommended to all those who love nineteenth-century novels.
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Françoise Martin-McInnes, « Barbara Hardy, Dorothea’s Daughter and Other Nineteenth-Century Postscripts », Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 77 Printemps | 2013, mis en ligne le 03 décembre 2013, consulté le 25 avril 2017. URL : http://cve.revues.org/392Haut de page
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