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With Thomas Hardy in Dorchester: from the archive, 14 January 1928


A fortunate journalist recalls a guided tour given to him by the Dorset town’s renowned author

A correspondent writes:- “I was once lucky enough to be taken round Dorchester with two friends by Thomas Hardy. He led us down the old High Street and into the warehouse at the back of one of the shops where he believed he had discovered an Elizabethan theatre, and after that to the tiny thatched cottage on the river bank, once the hangman’s house, where, he told us, he used to go after dark with the other boys of the town in order to climb on the window-sill and peep through the blind - not out of idle curiosity, he explained, but because they all felt less terrified of the hangman as a bogy if they saw him going to bed like any other ordinary mortal.

“Mr. Hardy also pointed out the spot, I think outside the Black Bear Hotel, where he remembered the public hangings taking place. He had never forgotten that the hour for the executions was fixed at ten minutes past twelve, in case the midday coach should bring a reprieve. To hear him speak of these early reminiscences was to gain some insight into the sensitive spirit that suffered so acutely all through life at any manifestation of human suffering or human cruelty.

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