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Comment: Penguin Classics; 1997; 7.64 X 5.12 X 1.18 inches; Paperback; Very Good; Light reading wear, minor rubbing to corners and edges.; 480 Pages; 0140435069; Bxpbs
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A Laodicean: Or the Castle of the De Stancys (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 31 Jul 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (31 July 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140435069
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140435061
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Thomas Hardy was born in a cottage in Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, on 2 June 1840. He was educated locally and at sixteen was articled to a Dorchester architect, John Hicks. In 1862 he moved to London and found employment with another architect, Arthur Blomfield. He now began to write poetry and published an essay. By 1867 he had returned to Dorset to work as Hicks's assistant and began his first (unpublished) novel, The Poor Man and the Lady.

On an architectural visit to St Juliot in Cornwall in 1870 he met his first wife, Emma Gifford. Before their marriage in 1874 he had published four novels and was earning his living as a writer. More novels followed and in 1878 the Hardys moved from Dorset to the London literary scene. But in 1885, after building his house at Max Gate near Dorchester, Hardy again returned to Dorset. He then produced most of his major novels: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891), The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved (1892) and Jude the Obscure (1895). Amidst the controversy caused by Jude the Obscure, he turned to the poetry he had been writing all his life. In the next thirty years he published over nine hundred poems and his epic drama in verse, The Dynasts.

After a long and bitter estrangement, Emma Hardy died at Max Gate in 1912. Paradoxically, the event triggered some of Hardy's finest love poetry. In 1914, however, he married Florence Dugdale, a close friend for several years. In 1910 he had been awarded the Order of Merit and was recognized, even revered, as the major literary figure of the time. He died on 11 January 1928. His ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey and his heart at Stinsford in Dorset.

Product Description

About the Author

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) English poet and regional novelist, whose works depict the imaginary county "Wessex" (=Dorset).

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The sun blazed down and down, till it was within half an hour of its setting: but the sketcher still lingered at his occupation of measuring and copying the chevroned doorway - a bold and quaint example of a transitional style of architecture. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gregory S. Buzwell VINE VOICE on 19 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Laodicean is often regarded as the poor relation in the run of Thomas Hardy's novels. It sits on the shelf, the runt of the litter, all dusty and neglected while academia and the general public rave about Tess and Jude and The Mayor of Casterbridge. This is actually rather unfair because while it doesn't quite scale the heights of Hardy's greatest work it is, all things considered, actually a compelling and fascinating novel.

Paula Power, intelligent, beautiful and strong-willed enough to follow her own mind even if what she believes one day isn't always quite the same as what she believes the next inherits a large fortune and a crumbling castle from her father, a railway magnate and a man who very much made his money in the modern world. To do up the castle Paula employs a young architect, George Somerset who, as is the way of these things, falls in love with the delicious heiress. At this point a rival enters the scene in the form of Captain De Stancy, a descendent of the castle's original owners and a rather dashing and likeable figure in his own right. Add to the mix a young man by the name of Dare who is not averse to waving a gun at people and Uncle Abner, Paula's long lost shifty and very sinister uncle and the plot is ripe for mischief, devious and downright shabby behaviour, misunderstood motives and misinterpreted conversations. The course of true love never did run smooth, least of all in a Thomas Hardy novel and you can sense the great author rather enjoying himself by placing one duff piece of luck after another in the path of the rival lovers.

There are many good points about A Laodicean and one slightly bad one. To start with the good Paula is one of Hardy's most interesting characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. B. Stapleton on 24 Sept. 2011
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I studied this book for my MA... and it is certainly worth a read. Quite obviously not Hardy's most well known novel, but still packed with grand prose, sweeping European narrative and the odd chapter of 'raunchiness'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ROBIN EDWARDS on 28 Nov. 2012
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Romance, exctiement and compelling narrative. About love affairs of the 19th century. Set in rural background, with extensive description of the countryside.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James on 22 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A previous owner had scribbled all over this book. It was just readable, but was in a state that made it more suitable for recycling as pulp.

A rip off.

I will think carefully before buying for US companies again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Not Very Subtle, But Often Surprising 8 Jan. 2001
By mp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Thomas Hardy's 1881 novel, "A Laodicean" is often overlooked among his more noted works, like "Tess" or "Jude". While "A Laodicean" is not the most subtly developing Victorian novel in terms of romance, it is sophisticated and worth reading in other aspects. Subtitled "A Story of To-day," Hardy's novel effectively explores the relationship between the coming age of technology and the death of the aristocracy in pre-20th century Britain.
The novel begins with George Somerset, a flighty and intelligent young man who has tinkered with several pursuits, but is finally settling into architecture. Wandering about the vicinity of Markton village, he comes upon a rustic baptism. Paula Power, a young heiress whose late father was a railroad tycoon, refuses to be baptized, raising Pastor Woodwell's charge against her that she is a "Laodicean," a lukewarm believer. George is engaged to work on the restoration of Paula's new residence, Castle De Stancy. Somerset's fascination with Power is born and the action of the novel begins in earnest.
Some of the themes of interest include technological advance - the telegraph's intrusion into the most ancient spaces - the gothic castle and photography. With the image of the crumbling gothic Castle De Stancy, Hardy questions the relevance of hereditary aristocracy and religious fervor to the cosmopolitan modern age. With Paula, Hardy's lifelong interest in the independent heroine is complicated and subtly nuanced. With the fascinating Mr. Dare, Hardy plays with his gothic and colonial subtexts, prefiguring Bram Stoker's late 1890's "Dracula."
"A Laodicean" is worth reading because it is itself lukewarm - unsure whether progress is always positive and uncomfortable with the flippancy of both the aristocracy and new wealth. It is a book whose very instabilities and insecurities make it engaging.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Not one of Hardy's best, but an interesting read. 24 April 2000
By Wayne Symes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
One of the interesting aspects of writing a thesis on imagery in Hardy's novels was getting to read some of the lesser known of his writings, this one included. While there is good reason for many of them to be little considered, "A Laodicean" is still worth a read if you are a Hardy fan. It was largely written while he was bedridden after a mystery illness in 1880-1881. In the novel. Hardy tries to capture the changing world in the England of his day. Aristocracy and family names had dominated, but new wealth in the form of industry and technology were beginning to assert themselves. Thus, his heroine Paula Powers can't make up her mind which of her two suitors, an aristocrat and an architect, she really wants. Even when she makes her choice, there is still doubt in her mind right to the end of the novel, hence the description of her as a `Laodicean', (from Revelation 3:14-22) someone who is neither hot nor cold. Many of the images and themes which we associate with Hardy's better known novels are here, but it never quite hits the heights. Still, it is interesting to see this take on the changes on England's society near the end of the 19th century.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Laodiceans All! 2 Mar. 2009
By Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Webster's Dictionary defines a "Laodicean" as a `lukewarm, unenthusiastic Christian." By extension, people have used the term to mean anyone who is hestitant to make significant commitments. It was probably a more familiar adjective to the still Latin-conscious reading public of Victorian England than it is to anyone today except the most "enthusiastic" millennarian Christians who comb the Book of Revelations for news. That's where the pejorative sense of "Laodicean" comes from. In the 3rd chapter of Revelations, in red letters, a rebuke is addressed to the congregation of the Phrygian city of Laodicea: "I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art luewarm...I will spue thee out of my mouth..."

Mr. Woodwell, an enthusiatic `dissenting' minister, rebukes the heroine of this fascinating novel, Paula Power, with precisely that passage of scripture. The occasion is the young woman's refusal to undergo baptism by immersion, even though her father's dying wish was that she should. Most of the commentaries on the novel have assumed that Ms. Power is the "Laodicean" of the title, and focused on her ambiguous attitude toward `love and marriage' and her reluctance to be wooed. I think this is a seriously short-sighted interpretation of author Thomas Hardy's intentions. Except Mr. Woodwell, all the principal characters of the novel are Laodiceans to some degree, unsettled in their religious commitments, fond of the old trappings and the old moralities but unenthusiastic about doctrines. The very church buildings - and there are lovely descriptions of many - are Laodicean, once again with the exception of the ugly squat brick chapel of Mr. Woodwell's Baptist sect. The glories of Gothic architecture are appreciated, but on aesthetic rather than spiritual principles. These churches are halfway to becoming museums for tourists rather than centers of living worship.

On the whole, except for her hesitance about romantic involvement, Ms. Power is less obviously `lukewarm' and uncommitted than her male co-star, George Somerset, a young man threatened with the cutting of support from his father because of his inability to settle into a career. Somerset, to put it bluntly, is a dilettante, once a poet, once a theologian, now proposing to launch an architectural practice `next year.' He is "so totally" a revelation from Hardy: a perfect prophetic depiction of the twenty-something college grad of 2009, jobless and taking up residence in the family garage! His future as a dilettante, never fear, is quite rosy once the novel concludes; he will never need to be entirely serious about any one thing except Love.

Metaphorically, the book itself is a "Laodicean," structurally a novel-of-marriage-and-manners, with significant complications of social class, in the tradition of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, but affectively a post-Victorian novel of `ideas,' an existential novel of psychological insecurity. On one hand, it has all the improbable coincidences and chance meetings of the former, even including a shady vampire-like Gothic villain named Will Dare. Notice also the Dickensesque `appropriateness' of each charcater's name: Power, Woodwell, Dare, etc. On the other, it's permeated with modernity; the plot depends on the presence of the telegraph intruding into bucolic, archaic settings. The story proceeds at two paces, the antique pace of a walker or a horse-drawn carriage, and the modernist pace of railroad travel. The timeless beauties of the old life - the castle, the florid stonework of the churches, the stable social forms - are clearly being ousted by the freedoms and convenience of the modern, but the emotional tension of the story centers on the "Laodicean" attitudes of the characters toward modernization.

Possibly the biggest Laodicean of all was Thomas Hardy himself, a reluctant prophet of a future he couldn't love half as much as he loved the dying past. This novel is said to be his most autobiographical, especially the portions concerning architecture since Hardy was trained as an architect. (By the way, the many allusions to architectural matters in the book might possibly be "off-putting" for some readers. Don't let that happen! Don't bother with the footnotes! You don't need to understand columns and pediments any more than you understand the chatter about ship rigging in a Patrick O'Brian novel.) My guess is that Hardy consciously intended the stylistic double-nature of this book. He meant the reader to be comfortably swept along by the familiar convetions of the Victorian novel, and then to be jarred by the highly unconventional implications of the events. It is not accidental that the book ends `happily' yet with a scene of awful destruction. I don't want to spoil the suspense, but I'll tell you that the very last sentence of the book is the most Laodicean sentiment of all.

I picked this novel up expecting it to be `interesting' to someone like me, with a bent for social history. I'm pleased to say that it is better than merely interesting. It's fun! It has humor, suspense, picturesque descriptions, a heroine worth peeking at through the peephole of her exercise studio. It's masterfully constructed, once you get the drift of Hardy's purpose. It's a book you can read heedlessly for diversion, but once you finish it, you'll want to stop and discover just what a complex and foresightful vision of modern life it offers.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Mine of Cultural Exploration 19 Dec. 2007
By Anthony M Ludovici - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have read all of Hardy many times over. But this book has a special magic to it--the declining aristocracy, the emerging middle class, and religious dissenters. The formulas are all here. The plot is ludicrous towards the end; but the start, the germ, is fascinating.

For me, what this novel leaves out as it were is more important than what's here. By this I mean, I'd love for Hardy to have explored a theme that, apparently, hasn't really gotten explored and this novel would have been be a perfect opportunity for elaboration: that is, the persistence of reactionary Gothic in the midst of Victorian progress. Hardy does explore the nostalgia after a fashion: Paula Power in the end wishes she were an aristocrat and her castle intact. Well taken.

But what Hardy could have explored and didn't (he's hardly to blame) is the more global persistence of the gothic as a thoroughly middle-class hallmark of respectability, and even sensibility, given the fact that the gothic began life as a thoroughly ant-modern phenomenon. We think of all the grizzly "shilling shockers" of earlier decades. How is it psychologically, psychiatrically, that Victorians clung so to the past--a past with deep and obvious ant-progressive, anti-technological, commitments; even as they saw themselves as forging a new world? There a great Freudian "backward glance" here. Nostalgia, religious piety in the midst of the "ache of modernism", obsessions with death? Is this all there is to it? It sounds as if it's rich material for a soul doctor.

Read the novel. It's good.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Tom Hardy's most autobiographical novel and one of his earliest. 13 Sept. 2008
By Bruce Oksol - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of Tom Hardy's early novels. I think one would do well to read a biography of Tom Hardy before reading this novel; Hardy, himself, said this novel is the most autobiographical of his novels. It is an easy-to-read Victorian novel, and perhaps a good start to Tom Hardy before moving to his better-known novels ("Madding Crowd" and "Tess").

Hardy was extremely ill during much of the year when he wrote the installments and he dictated most of it to his wife Emma. It is interesting: I did get a feeling for a difference between the middle section (probably the largest section dictated to Emma) and the beginning (before he was ill) and the ending chapters when he was probably convalescing.

It is a fairly straightforward romance novel, and early on, most readers will feel intimately associated with the protagonist, George Somerset. It's a great weekend read, but it is nowhere near the quality of great literature, such as Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" or Eliot's "Middlemarch." But then again, it was one of his early novels, and perhaps should not be compared to the great books of literature.

If you have read a biography of Tom Hardy, you might agree that this novel rates five stars. Otherwise you might be a bit disappointed. Knowing Hardy's life is critical to fully enjoying "A Laodicean."

(I would recommend Seymour-Smith's biography of Hardy. I am curious if other reviewers suggest a different biography; it appears the Millgate biography is the "gold standard.")
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