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A Group of Noble Dames by Thomas Hardy

A GROUP OF NOBLE DAMES

THAT IS TO SAY

THE FIRST COUNTESS OF WESSEX BARBARA OF THE HOSE OF GREBE THE MARCHIONESS OF STONEHENGE, LADY MOTTIFONT SQUIRE PETRICK'S LADY THE LADY ICENWAY ANNA, LADY BAXBY THE LADY PENELOPE THE DUCHESS OF HAMPTONSHIRE; AND THE HONOURABLE LAURA

BY THOMAS HARDY

'. . . Store of Ladies, whose bright eyes Rain influence.'--L'ALLEGRO.

WITH A MAP OF WESSEX

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON 1920

COPYRIGHT

_First Collected Edition_ 1891 _New Edition and reprints_ 1896-1900 _First published by Macmillan & Co._, _Crown_ 8vo, 1903 _Pocket Edition_ 1907 _Reprinted_ 1911, 1914, 1917, 1919, 1920

Contents:

Preface Part I--Before Dinner The First Countess of Wessex Barbara of the House of Grebe The Marchioness of Stonehenge Lady Mottisfont Part II--After Dinner The Lady Icenway Squire Petrick's Lady Anna, Lady Baxby The Lady Penelope The Duchess Of Hamptonshire The Honourable Laura

PREFACE

The pedigrees of our county families, arranged in diagrams on the pages of county histories, mostly appear at first sight to be as barren of any touch of nature as a table of logarithms. But given a clue--the faintest tradition of what went on behind the scenes, and this dryness as of dust may be transformed into a palpitating drama. More, the careful comparison of dates alone--that of birth with marriage, of marriage with death, of one marriage, birth, or death with a kindred marriage, birth, or death--will often effect the same transformation, and anybody practised in raising images from such genealogies finds himself unconsciously filling into the framework the motives, passions, and personal qualities which would appear to be the single explanation possible of some extraordinary conjunction in times, events, and personages that occasionally marks these reticent family records.

Out of such pedigrees and supplementary material most of the following stories have arisen and taken shape.

I would make this preface an opportunity of expressing my sense of the courtesy and kindness of several bright-eyed Noble Dames yet in the flesh, who, since the first publication of these tales in periodicals, six or seven years ago, have given me interesting comments and conjectures on such of the narratives as they have recognized to be connected with their own families, residences, or traditions; in which they have shown a truly philosophic absence of prejudice in their regard of those incidents whose relation has tended more distinctly to dramatize than to eulogize their ancestors. The outlines they have also given of other singular events in their family histories for use in a second "Group of Noble Dames," will, I fear, never reach the printing-press through me; but I shall store them up in memory of my informants' good nature.

T. H.


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