I just returned from a nearly week-long business trip to Arizona. I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with my elderly parents at their house, some twenty-five miles south of Tucson, Arizona. We had some wonderful late-summer monsoon storm events with loads of thunder, lightning, and rain; and it reminded me of this wonderful short poem written by Thomas Hardy.
One of Thomas Hardy's best female friends was Mrs. Florence Henniker. Mrs. Henniker (1855-1923) was married to the Honorable Arthur Henry Henniker, who rose to the rank of General in the British Army and fought in the Boer War. It is abundantly clear that Hardy fell in love with her, but it was not returned. They did collaborate on a short story together, and remained great friends for thirty years until her death in 1923 of heart failure, five years before Hardy's own death.
This short, two-stanza, poem seems to sum up Hardy's unrequited love for this beautiful and intellectually intriguing woman--
A Thunderstorm in Town
(A Reminiscence: 1893)
She wore a new 'terra-cotta' dress,
And we stayed, because of the pelting storm,
Within the hansom's dry recess,
Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless
We sat on, snug and warm.
Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain,
And the glass that had screened our forms before
Flew up, and out she sprang to her door:
I should have kissed her if the rain
Had lasted a minute more.
I was immediately struck with what an interesting memory this is of one little fleeting emotional event that occurred within the first year of their meeting one another. Also, it seems that Mrs. Henniker never knew of Hardy's initial romantic passion for her. Apparently, he never pressed the issue further. It is thought that his poem A Broken Appointment also dealt with his feelings for Florence Henniker (i.e., No. 99, in Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems, edited by James Gibson, Palgrave, 2001). 'Click' on her photograph for a slightly larger view.