Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy

Every so often we hear in the news of the discovery of a hitherto unknown masterpiece – or I should more properly say a hitherto unknown work of a master. Whether it be art, music, or literature, there is a certain magical feeling accompanying the revelation. “What? A never before released track by John Lennon? Wow. I can’t wait to hear that!” It may turn out to be unknown for a reason, but the anticipation of something “new” and wonderful from a favorite artist is always intoxicating. The thing is, for me at least, with artists who are deceased, there is naturally a finite number of their works to discover and enjoy. In the case of Thomas Hardy for example, it’s not as though we’re sitting around waiting for his next novel to be published, like we are able to do for contemporary writers.

I remember having a similar experience when I “discovered” Humphrey Bogart movies years ago and realized I was a fan. I began to devour them as soon as I could find them, but later, in a moment of panic, realized I would soon exhaust the supply – as there certainly weren’t going to be any new ones coming out. I began to ration them, saving them so that I would not “run out,” etc. What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time was that I would discover other chunks of art that I would feel the same way about, and would never, truly have a shortage of not yet seen/read works overall.

Now, of course, in the case of this Thomas Hardy novel, it’s not like it really was unknown. It was just unknown to me. I’d read the “major” Hardy novels (Return of the Native, Jude the Obscure, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge) years ago and gained an appreciation of him. But I’m no scholar, and lazily did no research into his other work. These were probably just the books that were readily available in bookstores and were most often talked about, and I in my naïveté kind of assumed “that was it.” Then a few months ago, thanks to my lurking around book blogs, I heard of this “minor” Hardy work, on Chris’s blog, ProSe. (Very good and worth checking out, by the way).

Two on a Tower is another tragic love story from the author. It’s the story of a married but lonely noblewoman, Lady Constantine (whose husband is absent) discovering that a local young man, Swithin St. Cleeve, has surreptitiously been using an old “tower” on her property (Hardy is said to have based the setting for the novel on the actual Carborough House & Tower in Wessex, pictured above and below) as a makeshift observatory, as he plans to one day become a famous astronomer. she is smitten, but he is “an innocent” and inexperienced (a 19th century “nerd” – I was hooked already!). The reader knows immediately that the two will end up together, but in typical Hardy-esque fashion, there are many obstacles to overcome, including her being already married, and their being of different classes in a class conscious society.

I really enjoyed the book, which is one of my favorites I’ve read this year, but at the same time, I can see why it was considered one of Hardy’s “minor” works. The characters feel a little thin to me. I never really got in Lady Constantine’s corner, although I sympathized with her situation. The book feels a little like Hardy had this great plot (and the plot, with its twists and turns really is magnificent) but didn’t quite find great characters to equal it.

This is beginning to sound like a negative “review,” though, and I don’t really mean it to be that way. I recommend the book, especially if you are a fan of Hardy’s writing style and of his other works. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.


  1. November 13, 2010 at 9:13 am

    […] Two &#959n a Tower b&#1091 Thomas Hardy « Bibliophilopolis Tags: discovery, novel […]


  2. JaneGS said,

    November 14, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I haven’t heard of this Hardy either–I’m not a huge fan, but like to read him every five years or so.

    I love the photos, though. I can see how that tower would inspire a story, and a tragic one to boot.


  3. stentorpub said,

    November 15, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Thanks for the comment, Jane. I was a little surprised by the tower picture, as it was much less “rickety” than I had imagined it in my mind’s eye. The estate looks beautiful. Someday I will visit England and see all the countryside I’ve read about in the books of Hardy and other writers…


  4. November 17, 2010 at 1:13 am

    […] Now, of course, in the case of this Thomas Hardy novel, it's not like it really was unknown. It was just unknown to me. I'd read the “major” Hardy novels (Return of the Native, Jude the Obscure, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, More… […]


  5. September 13, 2011 at 5:28 am

    […] by one of my favorite authors with a predictably intricate plot.  Great 19th century literature!  My original post about this book was written back in November […]


  6. michela said,

    January 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    hi!!! My name is Michela and I’m an italian girl!!
    could you say to me what happens after the notice of Sir Blount death ’till the end???
    Please I’ll wait for your answer!!
    thank u!!


    • Jay said,

      January 23, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Hi Michaela,
      Sorry, it’s been so long since I read this I don’t think I can remember that many details without re-reading,


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