Sunday, 11 April 2010

Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens nearly said ,"Hello."

Charles Dickens argued with the waiter over his bill.
Thomas Hardy hesitated when approaching Dickens and the moment passed.

Claire Tomalin recounts a story about Thomas Hardy in her excellent biography,"A Time Torn Man."

Hardy was a young man. He was living in Surbiton, one of the London suburbs near Kingston upon Thames at the time. He had just married Emma Gifford and they moved into a house called St Davids Villa in Hook Road.He was working as an architect for a firm in London and hadn't become famous as a writer.

Hardy was in the Strand and popped into a coffee shop for a cup of tea and a bite to eat. Charles Dickens was sitting there. He was immediately recognisable to Thomas Hardy as he would have been to anybody. Hardy was about to go over and introduce himself and say hello but Dickens called over a waiter and began arguing about his bill. Dickens was ever concerned about the money.Hardy hesitated and the moment passed. The two greatest novelists of the Victorian period nearly met.


  1. I'm sure Dickens would have come up with a funny name for Hardy.

  2. Difficult to give credence to CD 'arguing vehemently' with a mere waiter. Wouldn't an error simply have been pointed out and subsequently corrected? The poor waiter would have been no match for the celebrated Dickens! An unfair contest and Dickens was not known for a bullying temperament, though he often had money worries and would not be taken advantage of.

  3. Clive, thank you for your comment. I have looked back at my source. It might have been from , Young Thomas Hardy by Robert Gittings, rather than Claire Tomlin.
    The use of the word, vehement, might be mine rather than Gittings. I might have exaggerated for effect!! I haven't got my copy of Gittings with me at the moment but I do remember the story about their near meeting did give the impression that Dickens was quite loud in his demand for a fair price. That is what put Hardy off from approaching him. I think Hardy worked for an London architects firm at the time and was making early forays into story writing.


    It's possible that Hardy saw Dickens in the Strand area but it was definitely not in a Lyons Corner House as CD was dead long before LCH was thought of!

    You might be interested in the above website which shows Trotsky, Stalin and Hitler were all in Vienna in 1913.

  5. Clive, you are a hard task master!!!!Ha! ha!

    I have now found the quotation. OK I used a little creative licence in my description above. It wasn't a Lyons Coffee house but a ,"coffee shop."

    This is the quotation from Peter Ackroyd's, Dickens.

    Hardy was then studying architecture in London and on this auspicious day he entered a coffee shop near Charing Cross when he saw Dickens,
    "I went up and stood at the vacant place beside the stool on which Dickens was sitting.I had eaten my lunch, but I was quite prepared to eat another if the occasion would make Dickens speak to me. I hoped he would look up,glance at this strange young man beside him and make a remark- if it was only about the weather.But he did nothing of the kind. He was fussing about his bill.So I never spoke to him."

  6. Thanks very much for this Tony. I must reread the Ackroyd - one of he best biogs of CD I think.
    Also, thanks for the interesting blog.
    All best,