Two on a Tower

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Two on a Tower
File:Two on a Tower.jpg
First edition title page
Author Thomas Hardy
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Novel
Publication date
Media type Print

Two on a Tower (1882) is a novel by English author Thomas Hardy,[1] classified by him as a romance and fantasy and now regarded as one of his minor works. The book is one of Hardy's Wessex novels, set in a parallel version of late Victorian Dorset.


Hardy placed an epigraph at the beginning of this book. The epigraph is from a Richard Crashaw poem, Love's Horoscope. It reads:

"Ah, my heart her eyes and she
Have taught thee new astrology.
Howe'er Love's native hours were set,
Whatever starry synod met,
'Tis in the mercy of her eye,
If poor Love shall live or die."


Two On A Tower is a tale of star-crossed love in which Hardy sets the emotional lives of his two lovers against the background of the stellar universe. The unhappily married Lady Constantine breaks all the rules of social decorum when she falls in love with Swithin St. Cleeve, an astronomer who is ten years her junior. Her husband's death leaves the lovers free to marry, but the discovery of a legacy forces them apart. This is Hardy's most complete treatment of the theme of love across the class and age divide and the fullest expression of his fascination with science and astronomy.


In the 1895 preface Hardy wrote, "The scene of the action was suggested by two real spots in the part of the country specified, each of which has a column standing upon it. Certain surrounding peculiarities have been imported into the narrative from both sites." Wimborne was the location of the village of "Warborne", and Charborough House was the location of the "Welland House" in Two on a Tower.[2]

Hardy's intention, in his own words, was to "set the emotional history of two infinitesimal lives against the stupendous background of the stellar universe".[3]


Because the book defied the social norms of the day, upon release the book was called shocking, repulsive, and one critic called it Hardy's "worst yet."[4] Hardy's biographer, Claire Tomalin, says Hardy was "writing for serialization, which drove him to pack in far too much plot," and he wrote too fast "without time to think or reconsider."[5]

Hardy wrote in a letter to Edmund Gosse on 10 Dec 1882, “I get most extraordinary criticisms of T. on a T. Eminent critics write & tell me in private that it is the most original thing I have done...while other eminent critics (I wonder if they are the same) print the most cutting rebukes you can conceive—show me (to my amazement) that I am quite an immoral person...”[6]

See also


  1. John Sutherland (1990) [1989]. "Two on a Tower". The Stanford Companion to Victorian Literature. p. 643.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Letter from Hardy to Bertram Windle, transcribed by Birgit Plietzsch, from CL, vol 2, pp 131–133
  3. [From Hardy's 1895 preface to the book]
  4. Tomalin, Claire. "Thomas Hardy." New York: Penguin, 2007.
  5. Tomalin, Claire. "Thomas Hardy." New York: Penguin, 2007.
  6. Thomas Hardy's 'poetical matter' notebook<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links