A Digital and Naturalistic Landscape of Thomas Hardy's Wessex: Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Relevant Letters: The Creation of Wessex

The following transcribed letters were taken from The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy vols. I and II.  The first letter by Thomas Hardy reflects his intention to advertise his novels as "The Wessex novels." The second letter provides a "rudimentary list" by Hardy of the real names of the locations in his novels:

To Edward Marston suggesting the words “Wessex novels” to be used when advertising his novels:

Dear Mr Marston,

Could you, whenever advertising my books, use the words "Wessex novels" at the head of the list? I mean, instead of "By T.H.", "T.H's Wessex novels", or something of the sort? I find that the name Wessex, wh. I was the first to use in fiction, is getting to be taken up everywhere: & it would be a pity for us to lose the right to it for want of asserting it. It might also be used on the paper covers of the novels.

Yours very truly
T. Hardy

Source: Hardy, Thomas. The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol 1. Edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978. 171.
To Bertram Windle identifying the real places for Wessex settings:

Dear Sir:

Owing to my absence from England your letter has only now reached me. I will with pleasure give you any information that you may require as to the real names of the places described in my Wessex novels. Such information in the Handbook will perhaps relieve me of the many letters I receive on the subject, & perhaps serve to correct the erroneous identifications of places by journalists & others. I shall be in England again (Max Gate, Dorchester) some time in October, & will then answer any questions.

Yours faithfully
Thomas Hardy.

On second thoughts I send a few rudimentary notes, that you may not be put to unnecessary trouble before my return. T.H.

(For private reference only=not to be printed in this form.)
(The Wessex Novels.)
Dorset = "South Wessex":
Somerset = "Outer", or "Nether Wessex":
Devon = "Lower Wessex":
Wilts = "Mid-Wessex":
Berks = "North Wessex:"

"Casterbridge" scene of "Mayor of C.", and of chapters in nearly all the novels.
"Durnover moor" and "fields" are the Fordington moor & fields round D. Wolverton House, near Dorchester is the scene of the traditional story of "The Lady Penelope" in "a Group of Noble Dames".

"Budmouth Regis" = scene of "Trumpet Major" & portions of other novels;
"Overcombe" being the village of Sutton Poyntz (near W.)
Bincombe Down (near W.) is the scene of the military execution in "A Melancholy Hussar" a true story, the names of the deserters from the German Legion, shot in 1801, being still to be read in the register of the parish. They were shot where the roads cross.

is "Weatherbury" = the scene of "Far from the Madding Crowd", "Greenhill Fair" being "Woodbury Hill Fair", a noted annual gathering, a few miles off, near Bere Regis.

Puddlehinton, & P.trenthide.
The "Longpuddle" of "A Few Crusted Characters"

The "Sandbourne" of "Hand of Ethelberta," "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," etc.

The "Knollsea" of "H. of Ethelberta"

The "Corvsgate-Castle" of ditto (new edn)

Puddletown Heath
{Moreton Heath
{Tincleton Heath
{Bere-Heath — etc, etc.

are "Egdon Heath" — The heaths reaching, under the above, & other names, from near
Dorchester, to Bournemouth: (Scene of "Return of the Native", etc.)

"Port Bredy" in "Mayor of C." & "Fellow Townsmen" (Wessex Tales)

Weyhill, Hants.
The "Weydon Priors" of "Mayor of C."

"Little Hintock" is a hamlet near (in "The Woodlanders")

The "Sherton-Abbas" of "The Woodlanders", "Tess", & other stories. "Lady Baxby" in "A Group of Noble Dames" a traditional tale, mostly fact, has Sherborne Castle for its scene.

Melchester — scene of "On the Western Circuit" in "Life's Little Ironies"; & of incidents in several other novels: e.g. the marriage of Sue in "Jude the Obscure".

Scene of Tess's midnight rest when flying from "Sandbourne" & of her apprehension.

Lulworth Cove.} Dorset
& the village of Ower Moigne.
"Lulstead Cove" & "Nether Moynton" — scenes of the smuggling story in "Wessex Tales," founded on facts still traditional in the neighbourhood.

"Havenpool" — scene of "To please his Wife", in "Life's Little Ironies".

Melbury House, (nr Evershott)
"Great Hintock Court" — scene of "The First Countess of Wessex", in "A Group of Noble Dames."

The "Shaston" of "Tess of the D."

Marnhull (V. of Blackmoor.)
The "Marlott" of "Tess of the D."

Cranbourne Chase
"The Chase" — scene of Tess's seduction.

River Frome. (Valley of the)
Scene of "Talbothays dairy" in "Tess".

Bere Regis
The "King's-Bere" of "Tess". The monuments described in the novel being those of the Durberville family, the place being their ancient seat as in "Tess of the D." (vide Hutchins's Dorset.)

Woolbridge old Manor House
close to Wool station.
Another scene of the Durberville's, and the scene of Tess's confession in "Tess of the D."

Bindon Abbey (close by)
The spot to which Clare carried Tess.

"Wintoncester" — spot of Tess's execution.

The "Warborne" of "Two on a Tower".

Charborough House
The "Welland House" of "T. on a T."

Dunster Castle. Somerset
The "Castle De Stancy" of "A Laodicean".

Shaftesbury (vide ante)
The "Shaston" in which Phillotson renounces Sue in "Jude the Obscure".

Portland (Dorset.)
The scene of "The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved"

Wantage (Berks.)
The "Alfredston", of Jude the Obscure.

Fawley (Berks.)
The "Marygreen" of Jude the Obscure.

Source: Hardy, Thomas. The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol 2. Edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1980.


This page has paths: