Some excerpts from:
THE LATER YEARS OF THOMAS HARDY. 1892-1928
BY FLORENCE EMILY HARDY
Hardy, however, was not a controversialist in religion or anything else, and it should be added here that he sometimes took a more nebulous view, that may be called transmutative, as in a passage that he wrote some time later:
"Christianity nowadays as expounded by Christian apologists has an entirely different meaning from that which it bore when I was a boy. If I understand, it now limits itself to the religion of emotional morality and altruism that was taught by Jesus Christ, or nearly so limits itself. But this teaching does not appertain especially to Christianity : other moral religions within whose sphere the name of Christ has never been heard, teach the same thing! Perhaps this is a mere question of terminology, and does not much matter. That the dogmatic superstitions read every Sunday are merely a commemorative recitation of old articles of faith held by our grandfathers, may not much matter either, as long as this is well understood. Still, it would be more honest to make these points clearer, by recasting the liturgy, for their real meaning is often misapprehended. But there seems to be no sign of such a clearing up, and I fear that, since the 'Apology' [in Late Lyrics], in which I expressed as much some years ago, no advance whatever has been shown; rather, indeed, a childish back-current towards a belief in magic rites."
The first month of 1922 found him writing an energetic preface to a volume of poems entitled Late Lyrics and Earlier, the MS. of which he forwarded to the publishers on January 23. Some of his friends regretted this preface, thinking that it betrayed an over sensitiveness to criticism which it were better the world should not know. But sensitiveness was one of Hardy's chief characteristics, and without it his poems would never have been written, nor indeed, the greatest of his novels. He used to say that it was not so much the force of the blow that counted, as the nature of the material that received the blow.
An interesting point in this preface was his attitude towards religion. Through the years 1920 to 1925 Hardy was interested in conjectures on rationalising the English Church. There had been rumours for some years of a revised Liturgy, and his hopes were accordingly raised by the thought of making the Established Church comprehensive enough to include the majority of thinkers of the previous hundred years who had lost all belief in the supernatural.
When the new Prayer Book appeared, however, his hopes were doomed to disappointment, and he found that the revision had not been in a rationalistic direction, and from that time he lost all expectation of seeing the Church representative of modern thinking minds.
Some information Hardy made notes about while writing a book.
'Religious, Religion is to be used in the article in its modem
sense entirely, as being expressive of nobler feelings towards
humanity and emotional goodness and greatness, the old meaning of
the word ceremony, or ritual having perished, or
'We enter church, and we have to say, "We have erred and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep", when what we want to say is, "Why are we made to err and stray like lost sheep?" Then we have to sing, "My soul doth magnify the Lord", when what we want to sing is, "0 that my soul could find some Lord that it could magnify! Till it can, let us magnify good works, and develop all means of easing mortals' progress through a worid not worthy of them."
'Still, being present, we say the established words full of the historic sentiment only, mentally adding, "How happy our ancestors were in repeating in all sincerity these articles of faith I" But we perceive that none of the congregation recognizes that we repeat the words from an antiquarian interest in then), and in a historic sense, and solely in order to keep a church of some sort afoot a thing indispensable; so that we are pretending what is not true: that weare believers. This must not be; we must leave. And if we do, we reluctantly go to the door, and creep out as it creaks complainingly behind us.'
In connection with this subject it may be here recalled, in answer to writers who now and later were fond of charging Hardy with postulating a malignant and fiendish God, that he never held any views of the sort, merely surmising an indifferent and unconscious force at the back of things 'that neither good nor evil knows'. His view is shown, in fact, to approximate to Spinoza'sand later Einstein's that neither Chance nor Purpose governs the universe, but Necessity.