Tuesday, December 17, 2013
A Voice Almost Lost
She didn’t get to make a mark on literary history the same way that Jane Austen and Mary Anne Evans did. In fact unless, you were/are a series student of literature at the graduate level you have probably never heard of her. She is a voice lost to time, but one I spent my final year in grad school trying resurrect.
Emma Hardy is the perfect example of what should have been.
Who is she? In her own right, she is the author of beautiful poetry and provocative essays that rivaled her peers, but history only sees her as a wife and barely acknowledges her contribution to her famous husband’s career..
Emma Hardy recounts in her journals, that she knew she would marry an author the moment she cracked an egg into a bucket and watched it formed into an inkwell. So when Thomas Hardy stepped off a train and into her life, she must have felt a prophecy had been fulfilled. Too bad the prophecy hadn’t told her, that by giving him her hand, she would be giving up her dreams to be a writer. See that same man who promised to cherish and love her, did everything he could to make sure, his wife’s work remained hidden and unable to compete with his own. So the next time, you see Tess of the D'Urbervilles on a bookshelf, remember it came at the cost of A Maid on the Shore.
Thomas Hardy saw her as a threat, and apparently overlooked the fact that it was her who encouraged him not to give up his dreams of being a novelist. It was her who helped create beautiful scenes in his novels, such Tess wearing Angel’s pearls the night he betrayed her. A betrayal that would ultimately lead to her death.
Though Emma serves as a lesson to girls, about being careful about who you give your heart to, she also teaches us an important lesson.
See there is something else about Emma that never gets mention in literary history. Her strength. Strength to endure her oppressive and wayward husband. But as she pinned in her diary, her strength didn’t come from her intellect or her writing it came from a higher power.
She writes in her diary Some Recollections:
As one watches happenings (and even if should occur unhappy happenings) outward circumstances are of less importance if Christ is our highest ideal. A strange unearthly brilliance shines around our path, penetrating and dispersing difficulties with its warmth and glow.
See Emma was also what scholars have pinned as an early evangelical feminist. She believed firmly in women’s rights, but also put her full faith in the Lord.Many of her essays argue that the Bible liberated women and didn’t teach their suppression in an age, (the Victorian period,) when to do so was heresy. So perhaps Thomas Hardy accomplished what he wanted on Earth and kept her works from seeing the light of day. But I have a feeling Emma is at the feet of Jesus, spending eternity writing poetry for the One who has promised to be the most Ardent lover for us all.
Let me encourage all who want to write Christian Fiction to search out her writings and read her poems. They will remind you of our savior's love. Finding them, can be tricky. They are only found in academic library archives buried in with her husband’s writing. But it’s worth it, to get know one of the early sisters of Christian Fiction writing.
Josette Downey is the christian romance author of A Time to Say Goodbye and Bonds of Tradition. She has master’s degree in English from East Carolina University, and currently works for a premier test scoring company. She is the mother of a precocious six-year-old girl, who enjoys bugs, snakes and superman. She enjoys southern cooking, reading and exploring emerging technology, but is best defined by her devotion to her faith and the empowerment of women in the modern world.
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