Male relations in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure.
In a classic study of the female novel, Nancy K. Miller has drawn attention to Sigmund Freud's assumption that, for women, ambitious wishes are subsumed in erotic ones. In his essay, "The Relation of the Poet to Daydreaming" (1908), Freud argues that novelistic fictions represent the fulfillment of their authors' "unsatisfied wishes": "The impelling wishes vary according to the sex, character and circumstances of the creator; they may easily be divided, however, into two principal groups. Either they are ambitious wishes, serving to exalt the person creating them, or they are erotic. In young women, erotic wishes dominate the phantasies almost exclusively, for their ambition is generally comprised in their erotic longings; in young men egoistic and ambitious wishes assert themselves plainly enough alongside their erotic desires." Freud asserts that the protagonists of the popular novel move confidently forward to the realization of their dreams; "this ... invulnerability very clearly betrays--His Majesty the Ego, the hero of all daydreams and all novels" (Miller 32; emphasis added).
While Miller's main interest is in whether Freud reserves "a place" (32) for the ambitious wishes of young women, I am interested in the connection between the "ambitious wishes" and the "erotic desires" of young men. When Freud speaks of these desires as occurring "alongside" (neben) ambitious wishes, he might consider the conjunction in his own life of his engagement with Martha Bernays in June 1882 with his discovery, in the same month, of the "key" to psychoanalytic theory (Koestenbaum 22, 27). Regarded in another light, however, Freud's erotic desires appear "alongside" his professional involvement in his mentor Josef Breuer's study of hysteria in a much more intimate way. Freud, in his own words, "first became aware of the power of the unconscious" when, at the end of her treatment, Anna O., a patient of Dr. Breuer, suddenly experienced the pains of a "hysterical childbirth" (Koestenbaum 26, 17). In the view of Wayne Koestenbaum, Freud fantasized his collaboration with Breuer as a sexual union in which Freud became mother of the text of psychoanalytic theory while simultaneously supplanting Breuer as father because Breuer refused to acknowledge the processes of transference and countertransference that accounted for Anna O's delusion.
This account suggests that the relation between erotic and ambitious wishes in young men may be far from "plain enough." And while Victorian novelists who consider the possible confusions tend to focus, as does Freud in the 1908 essay, on the choice of a suitable partner in marriage, the example of Freud and Breuer suggests another set of relations in which the mingling of wishes is liable to be especially occluded, namely the connection between mentor and protege. In recent years Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has emphasized that, in order to "get on," men in late Victorian England needed mentors and friends in all-male institutions like the public schools, the older universities, or the professions. Such relations existed in a double bind in which "the most intimate male bonding" was prescribed at the same time that "the remarkably cognate" homosexuality was proscribed ("Beast" 152). Whether institutionalized in public schools in friendships between older and younger boys or in relationships between teacher and student, pedagogic eros helped motivate educational reform and was a major aspect of the ethos of school during the century (Crompton 74ff., Chandos ch. 14). Such friendships could likewise be idealized by men like Thomas Hardy who lacked similar advantages.
A venerable literary tradition authorized intimacy between tutor and pupil. And although the emotional power of these relationships in literature was usually baffled in the sentimental language of schoolboy friendship and swathed in a Platonizing rhetoric, Greek pederastic tradition made writers aware of the sexual undertones (Crompton 267-68; Hekma 435-40). These relations were also capable of taking perverse shape as represented in masked form in Victorian writing in which women whip men, a kind of pornography that Steven Marcus has associated with fantasies of public school life and that he describes as "a kind of last-ditch compromise with and defense against homosexuality" (260). In A.G. Swinburne's extensive writing about boy-spanking, both participants are male. Edmund Gosse reports that Swinburne
said that the taste for this punishment had come to him at Eton, and he wrote in 1863, "Once, before giving me a swishing that I had the marks of for more than a month, [the tutor] let me saturate my face with eau-de-cologne.... He meant to stimulate and excite the senses by that preliminary pleasure so as to inflict the more acute pain afterwards on their awakened and intensified susceptibility.. .. He was a stunning tutor; his one other pet subject was metre, and I fairly believe that my ear for verses made me rather a favorite. I can boast that of all the swishings I ever had up to seventeen and over, I never had one for a false quantity; I made it up in arithmetic." (6: 244)
For young Swinburne, physical chastisement makes a sort of corporeal rhythm whose melody is male-male desire.
This synesthetic investment in tutor and rod depends, however, on the sense of security afforded by an aristocratic background as well as on an indulged sense of perverse play inimical to the characters, narrator, and author of Jude the Obscure. (1) In Victorian fiction, the teacher-student relation between males is more likely to be governed by tropes of a sadism that exhausts itself in cruelty and debasement. One thinks, for instance, of the advertisement in Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby for "Mr. Wackford Squeers's Academy, Dotheboys Hall," which includes in its syllabus "single stick (if required)" (26). Dickens's allegation in the Preface that his account is based on "trials at law ... involving such offensive and foul details of neglect, cruelty, and disease, as no writer of fiction would have the boldness to imagine" (xl) implies possible sexual abuse as does the very name of the school ("Do-the-boys") and the cognomen of its proprietor ("'s-queer"). Moreover, although Squeers's is a middle-class boarding school, sadomasochism is the note of Dickens's representation of Bradley Headstone, the former "pauper lad" (267) turned school teacher of working-class children in Our Mutual Friend. (2) Significantly, Headstone too is musical in a fashion: he "plays the great church organ" (266)--badly.
Mr. Phillotson's marital rape of Sue late in Jude the Obscure makes him a sadist too. As well, by the logic of Shelleyan twinning that merges the ego boundaries of Jude and Sue (239, 95, 301), Phillotson's violence against Sue is visited, metaphorically but vividly, upon Jude's racked body. (3) My main point in the present context is, however, the unsuitabilityfor reasons of class of Phillotson as a vehicle of Jude's ambitions. Even in cruelty, the humble teacher is especially associated with vulnerability--as in an article in the Spectator in 1845 which reports that a charity school teacher, "Mr. Michael Donovan, a schoolmaster in St. Aloysius Catholic School at Somers Town, has been committed for trial from Clerkenwell Police-office, on a charge of cruelly beating James Cavanagh, a little boy nine years of age." While condemning the use of flogging in schools, the article points out the hypocrisy of focusing prosecution upon teachers of "the smaller and more helpless class." (4)
II. SAME-SEX FRIENDSHIPS
At the start of Jude the Obscure its male protagonist is much in need of a mentor. An orphan in the charge of his spinster great-aunt, he knows chastisement early--at the end of chapter 2 he is soundly spanked by Farmer Troutham, for whom "he's a-scaring of birds" (17). Like other sensitive young men in Hardy, Jude as he grows older tries to improve himself by way of the distinctly Oxonian medium of culture--though despite the attraction to Oxford Jude's ambitions are translated into the modest goals of becoming a teacher or clergyman. In order to raise himself above the decayed village culture in which he finds himself, Jude Fawley needs connections across lines of class to his betters. His approaches, however, are coolly turned back. For instance, when he writes for advice to the Master of Biblioll College, he receives the following word:
Sir,--I have read your letter with interest; and, judging from your description of yourself as a working-man, I venture to think that you will have a much better chance of success in life by remaining in your own sphere and sticking to your trade than by adopting any other course. That, therefore, is what I advise you to do. Yours faithfully,
T. Tetuphenay. (125)
Later, after Sue Bridehead leaves Melchester to teach under Phillotson at Shaston, Jude, once more alone and aware of the strength of his "passion" for Sue, seeks solace by searching out the author of a new hymn, "a strangely emotional composition," entitled "The Foot of the Cross" (202). Jude hopes for understanding, for guidance, and for friendship: "'He of all men would understand my difficulties,' said the impulsive Jude. If there were any person in the world to choose as a confidant, this composer would be the one, for he must have suffered, and throbbed, and yearned" (203). After reaching "the quaint old borough" (203) in which the composer lives, Jude makes an initially favorable impression: "Being respectably dressed, good-looking, and frank in manner, Jude obtained a favorable reception" (204). The musician, however, opens the conversation by talking about money, then gives Jude a circular and confides that he is about to go into "the wine business" (204). When he learns that Jude is an unlikely customer, his attitude changes: "When the musician found that Jude was a poor man his manner changed from what it had been while Jude's appearance and address deceived him as to his position and pursuits" (204). The musician approaches the meeting as one of potential practical benefit; as Hardy precisely notes, Jude's approach is based on unexamined impulse. He too seeks benefit, namely help in his struggle for education; but he also seeks emotional communion with a sharer of "yearning." Jude represents this aim to himself by way of absorption in the composer's music, a form of art closely associated with sexual passion in the nineteenth century--as it is in Swinburne's memory of his "stunning" tutor. Jude, however, is excluded from the possibility of intimacy with the musician because he has no quid pro quo to offer. Even the musician's "business" comments ironically on the erotic aspect of the situation. In some Oxford writing, what Walter Pater refers to in an essay of 1876 as "the bitterness of wine, 'of things too sweet,'" signifies a sexually self-conscious desire for other men. (5) On this occasion, however, passion is to be exchanged only for a cash equivalent.
If Hardy is sardonic about the limits and exclusions of friendship across lines of class, he is mordant about Jude's working class connections.Jude's acquaintances among upwardly mobile members of the working class regard his sexual nonconformity as a slur on their respectability--though the form that difference takes for Jude, namely common-law marriage with Sue, was scarcely unconventional among workers. (6) Jeffrey Weeks has stressed that conservative values of family among skilled workers should be read as evidence both of "a growing sense of class identity" at the end of the century and of "a claim to full citizenship" (74). In this context Jude's relationship with Sue may be construed as a lapse of class discipline--hence his exclusion from the Artizans' Mutual Improvement Society at Aldbrickham. To fellow artisans Jude's marriage is a symptom of the social disorganization that they associate with members of the lower working class. The "young men" fail to grasp the fact thatJude's situation depends rather on his and Sue's efforts to live by a higher, disinterested standard that, insofar as it does have a class location, emanates from bohemian revolt among the professional classes. Such a distinction is incomprehensible to the members of the Society, who associate culture with "Improvement," not with domestic patterns that mimic those of workers lower in the social scale.
Jude's involvement with the Society marks the high point of the "success" that is open to him if he remains, as Tetuphenay has advised, within his own class. As a member of the Society, Jude speaks in the voice that a contemporary reviewer heard Hardy himself speak in the novel: "the voice of the educated proletarian, speaking more distinctly than it has ever spoken before in English Literature" (Jacobus 327, n. 5). Hardy writes:
Fawley had still a pretty zeal in the cause of education, and, as was natural with his experiences, he was active in furthering 'equality of opportunity' by any humble means open to him. He had joined an Artizans' Mutual Improvement Society established in the town about the time of his arrival there; its members being young men of all creeds and denominations, including Churchmen, Congregationalists, Baptists, Unitarians, Positivists, and others--Agnostics had scarcely been heard of at this time--their one common wish to enlarge their minds forming a sufficiently close bond of union. The subscription was small, and the room homely; andJude's activity, uncustomary acquirements, and above all, singular intuition on what to read and how to set about it--begotten of his years of struggle against malignant stars--had led to his being placed on the committee. (314-15)
In this context the "malignant stars" are all too evidently the exclusions that are the opposite face of the coin of class privilege. In resistance, however, Jude for a moment comes into his own as a working-class intellectual able to integrate his "experiences" with his reading in ways that help others and gain respect for himself. But this moment of eclaircissement is immediately eclipsed. In the succeeding paragraph comes the news that the committee forces him to resign because of the common-law status of his marriage.
If fellow artisans see Jude as falling below them because of an erotic idealism more appropriate to Pre-Raphaelites than to workers, his friends among casual laborers see his educational attainments as an act of class betrayal. Although Raymond Williams has remarked on Hardy's ability to communicate a sense of solidarity between working people Jude's relations with members of the lower working class are destructive (116). The appearances of Tinker Taylor, "a decayed church-ironmonger" (127), and his mates are bitter moments for Jude. Early in the novel, egged on by fellow workers and by two Oxford undergraduates, he disgraces himself by reciting the Nicene Creed in Latin for a crowd in a pub. When he returns to Christminster as a defeated man late in the novel, one of his former fellow masons, Jack Stagg, mocks him as "Tutor of St. Slums" (335), and Tinker Taylor reminds Jude of "the night of the challenge in the public-house" (336). Further on, when Arabella stages a party in order to keep Jude drunk for a few days, "in a saturnine humor" (393) he suggests inviting Stagg and another mason, Uncle Joe. Taylor, passing by, also joins the festivities. At the end of the novel Arabella leaves Jude on his deathbed to watch the boat races with "Stagg and one or two other of Jude's fellow stone-workers" (419).
Tinker Taylor's jeering reference to Jude's knowledge of Latin is apt. From early childhoodJude is obsessed with learning the classical languages, a prime badge of membership among the professional classes forming in the mid-nineteenth century. Early on, he secures orders for the itinerant "Physician" Vilbert in exchange for schoolbooks, schoolbooks that Vilbert forgets to bring. Earliest and most important is Mr. Phillotson, Jude's "much-admired friend" (34), who at the beginning of the novel leaves the school at Marygreen in order to seek admission to the university at Christminster, Hardy's fictional term for Oxford. The Latin grammar that Phillotson sends Jude is one of the few tokens of friendship that Jude receives.
The boy's struggles with the textbook provide an especially poignant instance both of his thirst for improvement and of the obstacles that stand in his way:
Ever since his first ecstasy or vision of Christminster and its possibilities, Jude had meditated much and curiously on the probable sort of process that was involved in turning the expressions of one language into those of another. He concluded that a grammar of the required tongue would contain, primarily, a rule, prescription, or clue of the nature of a secret cipher, which, once known, would enable him, by merely applying it, to change at will all words of his own speech into those of the foreign one.... He assumed that the words of the required language were always to be found somewhere latent in the words of the given language by those who had the art to uncover them, such art being furnished by the books aforesaid. (35)
When Jude eagerly opens the schoolbook, he has an unpleasant surprise: "He learnt for the first time that there was no law of transmutation, as in his innocence he had supposed (there was, in some degree, but the grammarian did not recognize it), but that every word in both Latin and Greek was to be individually committed to memory at the cost of years of plodding" (35).
In the passage, Latin is a metonymy for the perquisites that accompany an elite education. The "transmutation" that Jude seeks is transmutation from one class to another. His frustration indicates just how unlikely he is--by either "cipher" or "plodding"--to learn the "art" of the "foreign" language of the upper middle classes--much less to find his language translated without change of meaning into theirs. The passage reveals how far he is from realizing that his cultural ambitions are mixed with ambitions of class, status, and money. Even if traversed, his chosen paths of advancement will at best still not raise him beyond the limits of a laborious lower-middle-class existence. Indeed, one could argue that even if he were to succeed in these ways, his function, like that of Phillotson's, would be one of preparing young males for service on the lower rungs of business, industry, and public service. Accordingly, to achieve culture would mean to repeat in himself and others the construction of a newly fashioned corporate subject.
Unable either to merge with his class or to enter the paths of entitling friendship, Jude is peculiarly isolated. Sue's similar isolation is, if anything, yet more pronounced. In contrast to Tess of the d'Urbervilles, in which Tess bonds strongly with her female fellow workers at Talbothays Dairy, Sue is left high and dry. Hardy goes out of his way to deprive her of the sustaining relationships with other women that were one of the most positive aspects of Victorian middle-class life. (7) She is first observed working in a religious arts shop run by the spinster daughter of a deceased "clergyman in reduced circumstances" (101); Miss Fontover runs a sisterhood for profit. Michael Millgate notes that Sue has no friends at Melchester Training School for teachers even though Hardy was familiar with such relations as a result of his sisters' experiences in a similar school and even though after "visiting two London training colleges for women in 1891" he "had been moved by the thought of such friendships" (352). Later the "neighbouring artizans' wives" (308) of Aldbrickham drive Sue and her family out of town.
The careful hedging of Sue from intimacy with other women has a valence within the male homosocial economy of the book since Hardy was aware that her wish to retain control of her own body was liable to be construed in contemporary sexology as a sign of sexual inversion. (8) His concern accounts for an imbalance in the sympathy with feminism that one finds in the book. On the one hand, the focus on issues of sexual choice and control over reproduction are consonant with concerns among contemporary feminists such as Elizabeth Wolstoneholme Elmy (Jeffreys ch. 2). Hardy's refusal to endorse motherhood as a defining female virtue and the absence of female friendship, however, are distinctly at odds with late Victorian feminism. This absence, especially in light of ways in which Hardy associates Sue with difference, (9) serves to dampen erotic connotations in male relations in the novel, especially in that of Jude and Phillotson. Obliquely, however, Hardy signals this element by his account of Sue's life, "like two men almost," with a young graduate of Christminster. Sue shares a sitting room with the young man in London for fifteen months yet resolutely rebuffs his advances: "he wanted me to be his mistress, in fact, but I wasn't in love with him" (155). Her desire for security in a platonic relationship based on shared intellectual interests is modeled not on a "curious unconsciousness of gender" (156) as Jude surmises but on the manipulation of conventional ignorance, including her own, concerning the erotic investments involved in male friendships. While Jude's skepticism (not to mention Hardy's) refers in the first instance to the prospect of an intimacy between men and women that is not sexual, it also refers to the norm of male-male bonding on which Sue bases her compact with the young man.
III. ENTER PHILLOTSON
In the first manuscript version of the novel Jude's erotic and ambitious aims were to focus on the figure of a young woman, Sue, who at this earlier stage was to be the adopted child of the head of a Christminster college. Her live artisan father and the relationship with the undergraduate were later changes. In the manuscript, Hardy describes young Jude's vision of Christminster as follows:
He set himself to wonder on/wondering/the exact point in the glow where his cousin might be; she who never communicated with his branch of the family/anyone at Fawn (Mary) Green now/who was as if dead to them here. In the glow he seemed to see her soul standing at ease like one of the forms in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace.
He had heard that breezes travelled at the rate of ten miles an hour and the fact now came into his mind. He parted his lips as he faced the northeast, & drew in the wind as if it were a sweet liquor.
"You," he said, addressing the breeze caressingly "were in Christminster city between one & two hours ago: floating along the streets, pulling round the weather-cocks, touching Sue's face, being breathed in by her; & now you be here, breathed in by me; you, the very same." (Qtd. in Ingham 166)
Only afterwards did Hardy add Phillotson and make him the focus of Jude's ambitious wishes.
Patricia Ingham thinks that the element of desire involved in Jude's preoccupation with Christminster is "oddly inappropriate in connection with a middle-aged schoolmaster" (166). Hardy writes: "The city acquired a tangibility, a permanence, a hold on ... [Jude's] life, mainly from the one nucleus of fact that the man for whose knowledge and purposes he had so much reverence was actually living there" (27). Phillotson, however, is a more plausible motive of Jude's ambition than Sue, since the route to education and Oxford usually lay through male connections; and Ingham forgets that at the opening of the novel Phillotson is a young man. In a slightly roundabout way, Hardy adverts to the shy romance of the scene: Jude "was not among the regular day scholars, who came unromantically close to the schoolmaster's life, but one who had attended the night school only during the present teacher's term of office" (14). The locution leaves open the possibility of sentiment on both sides of the relationship--although it is significant that Phillotson does not know how to play the piano that he leaves behind for a time in Old Miss Fawley's fuel house. Afterwards he confesses that he has forgotten that he had confided his dream to the boy: "You know what a university is, and a university degree? It is the necessary hallmark of a man who wants to do anything in teaching. My scheme, or dream, is to be a university graduate, and then to be ordained" (14). (10)
At the opening of part 2, three years afterJude's unsuccessful marriage to Arabella, he finally leaves for Oxford/Christminster. He does so, however, on an impulse that though directed toward a woman nonetheless includes Phillotson at the edge:
The ultimate impulse to come had had a curious origin--one more nearly related to the emotional side of him than to the intellectual, as is often the case with young men. One day while in lodgings at Alfredston he had gone to Marygreen to see his old aunt, and had observed between the brass candlesticks on her mantelpiece the photograph of a pretty girlish face, in a broad hat with radiating folds under the brim like the rays of a halo. He had asked who she was. His grand-aunt had gruffly replied that she was his cousin Sue Bridehead, of the inimical branch of the family; and on further questioning the old woman had replied that the girl lived in Christminster though she did not know where, or what she was doing.
His aunt would not give him the photograph. But it haunted him; and ultimately formed a quickening ingredient in his latent intent of following his friend the schoolmaster thither. (84)
The passage is replete with erotic cross directions. The invocation of Sue as an Angel in the House, with her haloed image flanked by candlesticks, her "girlish" attractiveness, her cognomen, are contradicted by Jude's evident fascination. At the same time, the aunt's reminder of domestic misfortune warns against sexual involvement and sounds the motif of the marriage theme, what Hardy in the Preface to the first edition refers to as the "disaster that may press in the wake of the strongest passion known to humanity" (v). Similarly, Jude's "latent intent of following his friend the schoolmaster" is both invoked and sidelined as an exclusively "intellectual" interest. In contrast to the rejected passage cited earlier, this one is normalizing in character: deleting the references to inspirer and hearer characteristic of Greek pederastic tradition, to the "sweet liquor" of the breeze "pulling round the weather-cocks," and to the male "forms in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace."
Curiously, once Jude does find Sue, he immediately introduces her to his former patron. After the cousins meet the man, reduced by years of work as a village schoolteacher, Jude persuades Sue to let him offer her to Phillotson as an assistant. Although this offer is rationalized as arising from Jude's reluctance to let Sue, who has just lost her employment, leave the vicinity, he places her in the role of protege to Phillotson that he has occupied in fantasy since childhood. It is odd that Jude should be oblivious of the possibility of a marriage proposal emanating from such a working relationship, (11) even odder that he should cede to an unattractive older man the proximity of a woman with whom Jude is already falling in love. Jude thereby initiates a triangle familiar in male homosocial culture and strongly marked by homophobia though one might also consider the relations in terms of mentor and protege. Sue becomes mentor to Jude while becoming protege to Phillotson in a pattern: Jude : Sue :: Sue : Phillotson. Thereby Sue substitutes for Jude in his idealized relation to Phillotson. Given "the extraordinary sympathy, or similarity, between the pair" (239) that Phillotson notes, Sue may function similarly in Phillotson's imaginary although, as mentioned above, what Hardy emphasizes is Phillotson's amnesia about his former pupil.
Likewise, Sue's former relation with the graduate of Christminster/Oxford may be triangulated withJude though again the pattern of mentor-protege is equally or even more revealing: in this case, Jude : Sue :: Sue : the young graduate of Christminster. Sue's connection equips her to become Jude's entry to advanced thinking of the 1860s (Gittings 139-41); the doubling, however, indicates obliquely the sort of friendship upon which Jude's hopes depend. In this respect, Sue's life with a university man, in part because of its erotic ambiguity, is a more suitable model for Jude than his projection of friendship with Phillotson.
Mary Jacobus is correct in arguing that the "sense of life which in Hardy's earlier novels sprang from rural activity or landscape derives in Jude from conversation. Sue's attempts to articulate her changing consciousness ... make her a vital counterpart to Jude" (307). Hardy makes evident his commitment to an ideal of affective and intellectual equality between men and women. Nonetheless, Sue's role as mentor signifies in part Jude's lack of connection with a university man. Yet even if an appropriate male mentor were to appear, the relation would remain sexually anxious since intellectual friendship between a young man of rural background and an upper-class male was fraught, in the middle-class imagination, with anxieties about the effeminizing effect of such a dependency, in particular the negative effect on "an enterprising mind, an inquisitive spirit, a liberal ambition" (255). (12)
In the late 1850s and early 1860s, Hardy became the friend of Horace Moule, a brilliant young man eight years Hardy's senior and son of a distinguished clergyman, the Rev. Henry Moule, the vicar of Fordington St. George. In the words of Hardy's biographer, "Moule's impact upon Hardy was immense. He was handsome, charming, cultivated, scholarly, thoroughly at home in the glamorous worlds of the ancient universities and of literary London. Although only eight years Hardy's senior, he was already an accomplished musician, a publishing poet and critic, and an independent thinker. He not only helped Hardy with his Greek but introduced him to new books and ideas" (Millgate 67-68). Moule inducted Hardy, who yearned for a university degree and harbored a wish to become a clergyman, into contemporary liberal thought, including the polemic against Evangelical Christianity of Essays and Reviews (1860) that Sue draws on in the course of the novel. (13)
The attention was flattering in the extreme--since Moule enjoyed advantages of personal charm, education, class, money, and status relative to Hardy, son of a West Country builder. Millgate observes that Moule and his brother "exacerbated" Hardy's "sense of inferiority and incited his ambition for selfimprovement" (68). Moule, however, was a checkered figure, unable to complete his university degree at either Oxford or Cambridge, troubled by alcoholism and possibly opium addiction, and the subject of gossip concerning sexual misadventures. At the time of his death in 1873 he held the post of assistant Poor Law inspector for East Anglia.
During the 1860s Moule wrote educational manuals and tutored students for examinations. Millgate comments upon Moule's "ambiguous sexuality which seems to have constituted the obverse, so to speak, of his gifts as a teacher and his devotion to the boys and young men who were his pupils" (70). When Hardy began publishing novels at a quick clip in the early 1870s, the balance of the relationship shifted. Moule responded with both enthusiasm and condescension, pointing out "slips of taste" in A Pair of Blue Eyes in a letter of May 1873. Millgate believes that on the evening of Hardy's last conversation with Moule at Queens' College, Cambridge, in the following month, the older man made an explicit approach to Hardy--an approach to which he responded with anger (150-51,155-56). Three months afterwards to the day, Moule committed suicide at Cambridge. Hardy was devastated, and from this time onward in his fiction "never portrayed a man who was not, in some way, maimed by fate" (264).
While the circumstances of the final meeting will never be known, Moule's appeal likely made utterly clear to Hardy the fact that this particular relation included a sexual motive, a discovery yet more disturbing in that Hardy was socially subordinate. One hears his outrage still echoing in Jude the Obscure. The worst betrayal in male friendship was sexual.
Hardy's poetry, however, indicates a more self-aware response to the incident. He memorializes his connection with Moule in a poem entitled "Experience," which is addressed to "My friend," a phrase "which Hardy always reserved, in other poems, for Moule" (CP 65). In the poem Hardy characterizes the relation with the same imagery of afflatus, drawn from pederastic tradition, that in the manuscript passage quoted earlier he associates with Jude's attraction to Sue:
But there was a new afflation-An aura zephyring round That care infected not: It came as a salutation, And, in my sweet astound, I scarcely witted what Might pend, I scarcely witted what. (CP 615-16)
Another poem, which is based on an incident that occurred during Hardy's final visit to Moule's room, addresses the issue of how aware Hardy had been of sexual undertones in the friendship (Millgate 153-54). In the poem, the speaker touches the drippings from a candlestick that have taken the form of a shroud. According to folk tradition, the act indicates that he will soon die. Although critics usually read the poem, "Standing by the Mantlepiece," subtitled "H.M.M. 1873," as a dramatic monologue addressed to a woman who has rejected the speaker, Millgate suggests that it makes more sense to read the poem as addressed by Moule to Hardy. If so, then the speaker's reproach is directed toward Hardy himself:
Let me make clear, before one of us dies, My mind to yours, just now embittered so. Since you agreed, unurged and full-advised, And let warmth grow without discouragement, Why do you bear you now as if surprised, When what has come was clearly consequent? (CP 887)
The question, touching precisely on the point of sexual complicity in male friendship, implicitly acknowledges Hardy's shared responsibility for the failure of sympathy that had occurred.
In her more recent writing, Sedgwick has argued that "there exists ... a plethora of ignorances, and we may begin to ask questions about the labor, erotics, and economics of their human production and distribution" ("Privilege" 104). In Jude the Obscure Hardy pluralizes sexual ignorance. For Jude desire for a woman is itself a form of unknowing. Because of the occlusion of desire in male relations and the pervasive inequality of men and women, Jude and Sue both tend to bifurcate the many pleasures of friendship from those of "the strongest passion known to humanity" (v). For them sexual desire for a member of the opposite sex is "gross" (275). Jude's wife, Arabella, first attracts his attention by hitting him in the face with a pig's "pizzle" (F. Hardy 41), which Hardy in the novel euphemistically calls "the characteristic part of a barrow-pig" (43). The incident implies her function as a substitute for an achieved masculinity, confused in the minds of both young people with the membrum virile. She is also a figure of castration since, in order to become a man, Jude needs to possess Arabella or someone like her; but with Arabella the act reduces him to a mechanical function and hence blocks the achievement of selfhood. Hardy further suggests Arabella's disabling power by alluding to the picture of Samson and Delilah that hangs on the wall of the inn where the couple stop during their first Sunday outing. To say that Arabella castrates Jude is, however, misleading. The castrating woman is a figure of a male fantasmatic. Rather, Jude is unmanned, at the very moment of sexual initiation, by an unconscious ideology that identifies manliness with a body part--and that part in relation to the vagina. In this respect, Arabella too is an ideological construct, a female orifice designed to receive the phallus. WhatJude near death refers to as "my weakness for womankind" (366) is more nearly the gnostic view that he takes of himself as an intellectual and emotional "spirit" in conflict with a debased "flesh" (202). But again this erotophobic attitude, though characterized psychologically, is institutional in character.
The most evidently destructive ignorance in the novel is ignorance about birth control, which Arabella uses to trick Jude into marrying her at the start of the novel. Later, in the three-year period following the fair at Stoke-Barehills, Sue gives birth to two babies and is expecting a third. Jacobus attributes these continual pregnancies, which sap Sue's resilience, to "the absence of contraception" (318). But as Penny Boumelha has pointed out, the "female pills" that Hardy mentions early on are abortifacients (152). They provide evidence of the effort made by country folk to control the rate of reproduction. With her independent views, one might expect Sue to take measures to protect herselffrom unwanted pregnancies--though one should also bear in mind that while a Victorian feminist like Annie Besant in the 1870s promoted sexual activity and the use of the vaginal sponge, "the majority of the women's movement were in strong opposition" to artificial contraception (Jeffreys 44). Given these contradictions within feminist sexual politics, my surmise is that Sue and Jude may practice coitus interruptus, a practice liable to failure that would also have adverse psychological effects. At any rate, whether or not the couple are imagined as using this or any other method of contraception, the emotional, physical, and economic strains brought on by the repeated onset of pregnancy for Sue underscore ways in which bodily processes undermine her well-being. Her inability to control the most intimate bodily functions provides ample impetus for the body hatred that she exhibits late in the novel. Moreover, her cruel predicament makes male desire yet more problematic since it becomes synonymous for her with the experience of powerlessness. One may assume further guilt, as well, on the part of Jude, whose intimacy with Sue poses Malthusian consequences.
Little Father Time's role in the tragic denouement of the novel brings the circle round again to the experience of desire between men. In what Florence Hardy referred to as "the tragedy" of Moule's life, "Moule had had, or had been persuaded he had, a bastard child by a low girl in his father's parish at Fordington." Purportedly, the child was raised in Australia and later hanged (Gittings 257, 262). (Father Time, also the result of a dubious pregnancy, is raised in Australia, and later hangs himself along with Jude and Sue's two children.) Given the fact that Father Time shows symptoms of congenital syphilis (Showalter 108), an infection associated with sexual delinquencies both between men and across genders, the boy's place in the novel suggests the decadent effects of phallic touch whether between males or between men and women.
The unhappy end of Sue and Jude follows from a society incapable of tolerating difference. Conscious desire tends to be forced into the mold of marriage, a relationship that deter mines all others. To their own cost but predictably so, Sue and Jude introject this intolerance. Given the biographical association of Father Time with Horace Moule's illegitimate son, the boy's diseased condition further suggests Hardy's subliminal inability to deal with the wandering desires of a man like Moule. At this point, the novel (and Hardy) seem to reach endgame since Hardy regards the conserving defense against difference in marriage as a solution destructive of both men and women. As well, conventional marriage provides a means whereby the poor are influenced to control and damage one another while at the same time remaining vulnerable to the injustices of class. Father Time is, however, even more a figure of the consequences of social intolerance than he is of the effects of desire (348). Hardy perceives that a life of "Greek joyousness" (307) cannot be sustained in face of what he takes to be the laws of nature and society. But he also sees that increased knowledge of "the nature of things" might contribute to making it easier for individuals to live with themselves and others. Then too desire and the body might become less problematic.
In 1911 Hardy presented the holograph manuscript of the novel to the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. The manuscript contains an unusual passage, extremely critical of Victorian conventions, which appears in no published version of the novel. The quotation provides another instance of the censored and at times self-censored speech of men in nineteenth-century England who realized the need to attend to questions of masculine desire. Hardy included the passage in the hope that one day there would be those who would speak and listen. In the manuscript Jude speaks the words to a female friend, the Widow Edlin:
When men of a later age look back upon the barbarism, cruelty & superstition of the times in which we have the unhappiness to live, it will appear more clearly to them than it does to us that the irksomeness of life is less owing to its natural conditions, though they are bad enough, than to those artificial conditions arranged for our well being, which have no root in the nature of things! (Qtd. in Ingham 37)
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(1) As Swinburne's disturbed response to early reviews of Poems and Ballads, First Series (1866) indicates, security is a relative phenomenon; nonetheless, I believe it to be crucial to the insouciance of his recollection of his "stunning tutor."
(2) See Sedgwick, Between Men ch. 9; Whalley.
(3) For the Shelleyan resonances see Hassett.
(4) "Flogging in Small Schools" 109. I am grateful to Anita Wilson for providing me with a copy.
(5) Greek Studies 42. Hardy relied on Pater's essays about the myth of Demeter and Persephone in the same volume in devising the action and thematics of Tess of the d'Urberuvilles. See Wickens.
(6) Weeks 60-61. Although common-law marriages could be both scandalous and violent, Judith Walkowitz's discussions indicate the customary and durable character of such relationships. See "Jack the Ripper" and other writings.
(7) For the extensive literature dealing with this phenomenon, see among others Cott; Faderman; Smith-Rosenberg; Vicinus.
(8) I discuss the situation in chapter 10 of Masculine Desire.
(9) I refer to her crossdressing, to Hardy's use of an epigraph from Sappho at the head of part 3, to her sympathy with Swinburne, etc.
(10) Sedgwick, in "Beast," has drawn attention to the significance for male self-knowledge of the confidences that a protagonist forgets that he has made to a sympathetic listener.
(11) At the time of her engagement Sue tells Jude:
"I have promised--I have promised--that I will marry him when I come out of the Training-School two years hence, and have got my Certificate; his plan being that he shall then take a large double school in a great town--he the boys' and I the girls'--as married school-teachers often do, and make a good income between us."
"O, Sue! ... But of course it is right--you couldn't have done better!" (140)
(12) The words of Caleb Williams, from William Godwin's novel, Caleb Williams. I am indebted for the general point to Corber.
(13) Gittings believes that the incident recalls the influence upon Hardy's religious beliefs of a young, unidentified woman, probably a schoolteacher of extremely modest background, to whom he was close in the mid-1860s (134-41).
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|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2014|
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