[an early literary letter] One leaf folded, with Hardy's own address in his hand "Trinity Road, Upper Tooting S.W." Two pages of text, addressed to "My dear Sir," signed "Yours very truly Thomas Hardy," and dated "Sept. 2" [no year but 1880].
The purpose of this early Hardy letter is accomplished in his first sentence: "You have my full permission to make what extracts you please." But the value of this letter is accomplished in the rest of Hardy's letter, in which he is open, personal and generous to another writer like himself -- who was self-educated, who shared the assiduous nature required to rise in the literary world from lowly beginnings, and who offered critical social commentary on Victorian England.
George Manville Fenn (1831-1909) would write some 160 novels (mostly historical tales of adventure for boys), beginning in 1864 when a tale of his caught the attention of one Charles Dickens. But he was also an editor (of Cassell's Magazine since the 1870s) -- and it was in this capacity that he had asked Hardy (on 31 August 1880) for permission to cite extracts from one or two of Hardy's works. But after giving his permission here, Hardy goes on to write:
I question if any one of them [Hardy's own passages to be cited] will affect your readers as I was affected by a fugitive piece of yours in The Graphic a short time ago -- on nightingales. I read it in the train on my way to the Continent -- and thought as I read how much I would like to know the writer -- till at the end I came by your name. I am so glad of this opportunity of expressing to you my sense of the intense pathos of that apparently simple article. The subject lingered with me all day.
The piece Hardy had read on board the train (the Hardys were en route to Normandy) was Fenn's "Nightingale Notes" in The Graphic's issue of 24 July. As implied by Hardy's words, this appears to be the first time Fenn and Hardy were in touch with each other.
The letter is in fine condition except for traces of prior mounting on the (blank) reverse side. Purdy & Millgate TH Collected Letters Vol. I, p. 79 (where much of the above background information on this letter is provided). Item #13000