“A Stream of Indecency” – A link between a Thomas Hardy Novel and Bombed Out!
Above Photo – The 18th Century Radcliffe Camera, Oxford; part of the Bodleian Library.
When I was back in the UK recently I was told something that links Thomas Hardy’s novel, Jude the Obscure, to proceedings which took over 90 years later and which are graphically recounted in my ‘70s-‘80s memoir, Bombed Out!
Hardy’s gritty novel in part dealt with a self-taught, working class guy impossibly dreaming of getting into Oxford University (called Christminster in the book) and it was published in 1895 to almost universal condemnation and criticism, being labelled obscene and blasphemous, amongst other things.
One critic said it was ‘steeped in sex,’ ‘dabbling in beastliness and putrefaction’ and was nothing but ‘a stream of indecency.’ Which probably says more about the critics and the puritanical times Hardy was writing in, rather than the book – to a modern-day reader’s eyes at any rate.
Although these criticisms might also also be levelled at the content of Bombed Out!, that’s not what the link is.
Readers of my book will know that the city of Oxford and Oxford University also feature in its pages in ways I won’t explain here, in case it spoils the plot for new readers, but Hardy’s Jude The Obscure also gets a mention in it too.
So imagine my surprise when I was recently told that I had many times been in the rooms in Oxford where Hardy had apparently lodged when he was researching and writing part of Jude The Obscure.
Friends of mine had lived in a flat on the second floor of the green building shown above (the second set of three bay windows) in a house in Oriel Square, Oxford, where I had been to visit them (and get pissed up) on many occasions in the 1980s.
The view from the flat was outstanding, and I can imagine Hardy at night, sitting in the bay window by gaslight, writing his notes and looking out onto the cobblestones of a quiet Oriel Square, as bells chimed out from nearby churches.
You will have to read Bombed Out! for yourselves to discover the relevance of Hardy’s novel to my Punk Memoir.
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