Frontispiece: Knapwater House
12.4 x 8.5 cm
Facing title-page in Hardy's Desperate Remedies.
Volume 10 of the First Uniform Edition of the Wessex Novels, with illustrations by Henry Macbeth-Raeburn. London: Osgood-McIlvaine, 1896.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Caption for the Illustration
"Though an unconnected course of adventure is what most frequently occurs in nature, yet the province of the romance- writer being artificial, there is more required from him than a mere compliance with the simplicity of reality." Sir W. Scott.
They were now on rising ground, and had just emerged from a clump of trees. Still a little higher than where they stood was situated the mansion, called Knapwater House, the offices gradually losing themselves among the trees behind. — "1. August the Eighth. Morning & Afternoon," in Part V, "The Events of the Day," p. 72.
The house was regularly and substantially built of clean grey freestone throughout, in that plainer fashion of Greek classicism which prevailed at the latter end of the last century, when the copyists called designers had grown weary of fantastic variations in the Roman orders. The main block approximated to a square on the ground plan, having a projection in the centre of each side, surmounted by a pediment. From each angle of the inferior side ran a line of buildings lower than the rest, turning inwards again at their further end, and forming within them a spacious open court, within which resounded an echo of astonishing clearness. These erections were in their turn backed by ivy-covered ice-houses, laundries, and stables, the whole mass of subsidiary buildings being half buried beneath close-set shrubs and trees.
There was opening sufficient through the foliage on the right hand to enable her on nearer approach to form an idea of the arrangement of the remoter or lawn front also. The natural features and contour of this quarter of the site had evidently dictated the position of the house primarily, and were of the ordinary, and upon the whole, most satisfactory kind, namely, a broad, graceful slope running from the terrace beneath the walls to the margin of a placid lake lying below, upon the surface of which a dozen swans and a green punt floated at leisure. An irregular wooded island stood in the midst of the lake; beyond this and the further margin of the water were plantations and greensward of varied outlines, the trees heightening, by half veiling, the softness of the exquisite landscape stretching behind.
The glimpses she had obtained of this portion were now checked by the angle of the building. In a minute or two they reached the side door, at which Cytherea alighted. She was welcomed by an elderly woman of lengthy smiles and general pleasantness, who announced herself to be Mrs. Morris, the housekeeper. — "2. Evening," in Part V, "The Events of the Day," p. 72-73.
In his brief preface for the twelfth volume in the Uniform Wessex edition, written in February 1896, Hardy notes that he has adjusted the names in this first published novel to conform to his naming practices in later novels:
To the foregoing I have only to add that, in the present edition of 'Desperate Remedies,' some Wessex towns and other places that are common to the scenes of several of these stories have been called for the first time by the names under which they appear elsewhere, for the satisfaction of any reader who may care for consistency in such matters.
This is the only material change; for, as it happened that certain characteristics which provoked most discussion in my latest story were present in this my first— published in 1871, when there was no French name for them—it has seemed best to let them stand unaltered. T.H. February 1896. [v-vi.]
The actual name of "Knapwater House" is Kingston Maurward House, built around 1790, as the text of Desperate Remedies suggests. Here during Hardy's boyhood, lived Julia Augusta Martin, wife of Francis Pitney Brouncker Martin and founder of the first school Hardy attended, Bockhampton School. Having purchased the great house in 1844, she and her husband had no children of their own, and took a great deal of interest in young Thomas. The beautiful Regency house, faced with light grey Portland stone, was the home of the Pitt family; it appears as "Knapwater House" here and in the short stories, and as "Enckworth House" in another early novel, The Hand of Ethelberta. Martin Seymour-Smith in Hardy (1994) mentions that the author modelled Miss Aldclyffe's palatial home on Kingston Maurward House (p. 129), which lies not far from Hardy's boyhood home at Bockhampton and the Stinsford churchyard where he and his two wives lie buried. According to Denys Kay-Robinson in The Landscape of Thomas Hardy (1984), "the tall trees inside Kingston Maurward grounds catch the winds blowing across the Frome valley" (33). After occupation by the military during World War Two, the last private owners, the Hanburys, in 1948 sold the lands and mansion to the Dorset County Council, who transformed the property into the Dorset Farm Institute. Presently it serves as the Dorset College of Agriculture, but is externally little changed since Hardy's descriptions of it in Desperate Remedies and the March 1876 instalment of The Hand of Ethelberta in the Cornhill Magazine.
Hardy wrote the journeyman Sensation novel in 1869, when he was staying in nearby Weymouth (the "Budmouth" of Hardy's Wessex) while working for architect George Rackstrow Crickmay. In the later editions of the novel he reinforced the connection between the Palladian mansion and Miss Aldclyffe's residence by using an engraved illustration of Kingston Maurward House as the frontispiece in the 1896 edition, and a black-and-white photograph as the frontispiece in the 1912 Macmillan edition of the Wessex Novels.
We can now perhaps better appreciate Hermann Lea's apparently tentative approach to the problem generally [of readers' desiring to identify specific buildings mentioned in Hardy's works]. He writes of Knapwater House that this 'was probably suggested by Kingston Maurward House' [Thomas Hardy's Wessex (1913), p. 234]. It is significant that the name Carriford [the village nearby in the novel] was not changed later to conform to Wessex nomenclature and that it occurs nowhere else in Hardy's work. — C. J. P. Beatty, "Introduction," p. 31.
Beatty notes that the "Great House," the Old House" [i. e., the Old Manor House, residence of the estate manager, Aeneas Manston], the Three Tranters' Inn, and the church (introduced in that order) are the novel's four principal buildings, all to be found in Hardy's boyhood haunts just a few miles from Dorchester.
Other Views of Kingston Maurward
Beatty, C. J. P. "Introduction" to Thomas Hardy's Desperate Remedies: A Novel. London: Macmillan, 1975. Pp. 11-33.
Gatrell, Simon. Hardy the Creator: A Textual Biography. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.
Hardy, Thomas. Desperate Remedies. Illustrated by Henry Macbeth-Raeburn. Volume Ten in the Complete Uniform Edition of the Wessex Novels. London: Osgood, McIlvaine; New York: Harper & Bros., 1896.
Kay-Robinson, Denys. The Landscape of Thomas Hardy.Exeter: Webb & Bower, 1984.
Lea, Herman. Thomas Hardy's Wessex — Illustrated from Photographs by the Author. London: Macmillan, 1913.
Millgate, Michael. Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 2004.
Pinion, F. B. A Hardy Companion. Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Macmillan, 1968.
Purdy, Richard L. Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study. Oxford: Clarendon, 1954, rpt. 1978.
Ray, Martin. Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories. London: Ashgate, 1988.
Seymour-Smith, Martin. Hardy. London: Bloomsbury, 1994.
Turner, Paul. The Life of Thomas Hardy. A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
Wright, Sarah Bird. Thomas Hardy A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts on File, 2002.
Last modified 26 January 2017