In this letter to William Archer, dated 24 November 1898, Thomas Hardy makes remarks about the chances of him writing another novel: 'As to a novel from me, I don’t incline to one’, especially since ‘the little sound of just opinion… is swamped by the flood of ignorant and venal opinion’. He concludes on a note of quiet satisfaction by announcing the imminent publication of ‘my volume of verses’.
While Hardy was preparing Wessex Poems (1898) for publication he seems to have experienced a sense of relief and liberation, partly due to his decision to abandon fiction for poetry. There was much adverse criticism of Hardy’s final novel Jude the Obscure. The Guardian’s reviewer compared it to ‘a shameful nightmare, which one only wishes to forget as quickly and as completely as possible’, while Jeanette Gilder writing in World asked ‘What has twisted this brilliant mind? What caused those clear eyes to see so darkly?’.
This criticism and the desire to explore poetry and dramatisations of the novels were contributory factors in Hardy abandoning fiction.
& just opinion we get is swamped by the flood of ignorant & venal opinion, & is as if it were not uttered at all. And zest is quenched by the knowledge that by printing a novel which attempts to deal honestly & artistically with the facts of life one stands up to be abused by any scamp who thinks he can advance the sale of his paper by lying about one.
At the beginning of Dec. I am going to send & ask you to accept a copy of my volume of verses, which will come out about then. I have been going to publish it for years. But please don't expect to find much in them.
yes : The Well Beloved was published many years earlier as a serial & reprinted.