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The more or less directly antireligious or straightforwardly critical comments of Hardy's earlier, more markedly agnostic years become, in this period, very rare; the main stress falls on various issues relating to the border area between philosophy and theology that Hardy's Religious Biography 45 Hardy was at the time investigating in connection with his work on The Dynasts. Arguably, the readings of the works of earlier philosophers such as Spinoza, Schopenhauer, or von Hartmann, as well as of such contemporary thinkers as John McTaggart, R.

Strikingly different from most of his brief and matter-of-fact notes, 32 Thomas Hardy and the Church the passage is, indeed, an impressive if over-grandiloquent poem in prose, conveying in very emotional terms Hardy's awareness of the fundamental discrepancy between the contents of the Church's teaching and liturgy on the one hand and the real concerns and needs of its members on the other: The red plumes and ribbon in two stylish girls' hats in the foreground match the red robes of the persons round Christ on the Cross in the east window.

H. Smith's important circulating library and ascertained that any further books of Hardy's to be acquired by it were to be carefully examined before being allowed into circulation. Hardy's reaction was, as usual, far from clear and direct - on the one hand, he attempted to minimise the significance of the event ('yes: it was amazing - or amusing - the Bishop's burning of my book, and his theatrical pose in writing, to announce it (Two on a Tower I believe was the volume). 76 But theology and burning (spiritual and temporal) have been associated for so many centuries that I suppose they will continue allies to the end'); 77 on the other, he tried to defend himself, somewhat as he had in the case of some of his earlier novels ('as to the "marriage question" I wonder they do not see that my own opinions are nowhere given: indeed, I felt that by the heroine's recantation of all her views, at the end of the story, and becoming a penance-seeking Christian, I was almost too High-Churchy').

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