At Castle Boterel by Thomas Hardy

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At Castle Boterel by Thomas Hardy

The poem was written in March 1913 when Hardy visited Cornwall after the death of his wife Emma Lavinia Gifford. The fictional name of the poem came from Boscastle, a mile from where Emma lived when she first met Hardy. It recalls a small incident during a journey he had together with Emma on a road near Boscastle forty years earlier.

The fact that the poem is set in Cornwall means that it immediately stands out from the bulk of Hardy’s work which was set in the medieval Anglo-Saxon county of Wessex. This is an unusual breaking of the geographical ‘unity’ of his novels , placing the novel outside of this imaginative world he describes as ‘partly real, partly dream country’ and into one based on his reality. However, Hardy still changes the name in the title to disguise the location and protect the secrecy and purity of this moment with Emma. Even by creating a name that is very similar to the original, Hardy, unlike writers such as Dickens or Emily Bronte, is breaking with the wider theme in his literature that location is superfluous to the life given to it by his poetry and prose . For other Victorian writers, setting was integral and a sense of location essential, obvious examples being ‘the Yorkshire moors’ with Emily Bronte or the ‘work house’ with Charles Dickens. For Hardy these associations are not necessary, in his story Enter a Dragoon the narrator describes a cottage as it is about to be pulled down. Emotive description of the ‘ancient and bleached green that could be rubbed off with a finger’ and the ‘small, long features brass knocker covered with verdigris in its crevices’ renders location superfluous to description. While in Castle Boterel it is unusually significant in both name and location because of the powerful and emotive nature that this event has on Hardy. 

Hardy uses a range of language, metaphors and images to stress the ‘quality’ of this moment in time as more important to this place than all...
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