Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Hardy's Pilgrimage Poems of 1887 and the Anxiety of Influence

Document Type


Publication Date



On 27 April 1887, Thomas and Emma Hardy returned to England after spending several weeks in Italy. During this trip, both Thomas and Emma recorded their impressions of the journey in their notebooks, Hardy's notes later serving as the basis for a chapter in his autobiography - perhaps one indication of the trip's significance to him. However, another record of the Italian visit exists, for during this long-anticipated tour Hardy outlined or drafted several poems that he later included in his second volume of poetry, Poems of the Past and Present (1901). Of the eleven poems that make up "Poems of Pilgrimage," Hardy annotated eight with specific dates and settings in Italy. Though, as Hardy explains in his autobiography, most of the "Poems of Pilgrimage" took their final shape at some later point,1 these eight poems still accurately record the events of the trip and Hardy's reaction to various sights in Italy. This trip proved highly important to Hardy in discovering his role as an artist, and the eight poems provide a revealing account of both his anxieties and his growing confidence in the year of Victoria's Golden Jubilee. My essay examines those eight poems with an 1887 date and at- tempts a reading of them that illuminates both the poems themselves and a crucial time in Hardy's life. This group of poems represents, I believe, a record of Hardy's confrontation with history and his literary tradition