Letters to the Editor
THOMAS HARDY'S REALISM
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] Sin, —Whilst reading the many tributes in the papers to Thomas Hardy, I have been reminded of a strange incident in connexion with one of his famous novels, which occurred whilst I was serving on the Prison Board of the Female Convict Prison, formerly at Aylesbury, now removed to Liverpool.
In my capacity of Lady Visitor to the prison, appointed in conjunction with (the late) Adeline Duchess of Bedford, I frequently talked with many of the convicts, for they were allowed to ask for an interview with us on our visiting days. On one such occasion I was told that a young prisoner was anxious to see me. I knew that she was serving a life sentence for the crime of murder. She was brought to the visitors' 'room and forthwith laid her complaint before me : it was that a certain book in the prison library, which she had just read, was to her mind utterly unfit for prisoners ; it was too real and harrowing and had kept her feverishly awake for several nights. I asked the title of the book and was told Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I instantly realized the terrible impression such a story would produce on one who had gone through the horrors of a trial and condemnation to death, although in her case followed by a reprieve.
On inquiry I discovered that the book, which belonged to the officers' quarters; had by accident found its way to the convicts' library, from which it was speedily exiled.
Some time afterwards, when I had the opportunity of sending to the great novelist, through a friend, an account of this pathetic experience of mine, I could not refrain from