English Literature
LP Hartley

LP Hartley

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L.P. Hartley: The Lesser-Known but Celebrated British Author

Although L.P. Hartley may not have the same level of recognition as other literary giants, his works are highly esteemed and deserve to be explored. Born as Leslie Poles Hartley on December 30, 1895 in Cambridgeshire, Hartley made a name for himself as a gifted novelist and short story writer. While he is well-known for his exploration of childhood and coming-of-age, his gothic and supernatural tales are also highly acclaimed.

The Life of L.P. Hartley

Hartley grew up in a comfortable life, thanks to his father's successful career as a solicitor and brickworks owner. After spending his early years in Peterborough, he moved to Oxford to further his education. He attended Harrow School from 1910 to 1915 and then pursued modern history at Oxford. However, his studies were interrupted by the First World War, and he was only able to complete his degree in 1921 due to health issues.

In the 1920s, Hartley began to focus on writing fiction. His work was featured in various literary magazines, and he also worked as a book reviewer, but his true passion was for writing stories. In 1924, he published his first collection of short tales, followed by a novella in 1925. However, these works did not receive much commercial success.

In the 1940s, Hartley gained recognition with his Eustace and Hilda Trilogy, which delved into the themes of childhood and identity. He was also part of influential literary and intellectual circles, which greatly influenced his writing. One of his most notable works, The Go-Between, was published in 1953 and achieved widespread acclaim.

The Go-Between: A Reflection of Victorian Childhood

In The Go-Between, Hartley tells the story of Leo Colston, a man in his sixties who looks back on his childhood memories. As he reads through his old diary, he is forced to confront suppressed memories from his past. Set in the late Victorian era, the novel also presents a contrast to the 1950s, when it was written.

Despite his success, Hartley continued to publish prolifically, including works such as The Brickfield (1964) and My Sister's Keeper (1970). However, his later works did not receive the same level of recognition as his earlier ones, which was a source of disappointment for him.

Personal Life and Influence on His Writing

Hartley was well-traveled, spending a significant amount of time in Italy and developing a love for Venice. He also resided in London, where he indulged in his passion for rowing. Throughout his life, he had close friendships but chose not to marry.

In his later years, it was revealed that Hartley was likely homosexual, but he kept this aspect of his life private due to the intolerant society he lived in. However, he did explore a homosexual relationship in his 1971 novel, The Harness Room, which caused him anxiety regarding potential public reaction.

L.P. Hartley passed away on December 13, 1972, at the age of 76. While he may not have achieved the same level of fame as some of his contemporaries, his literary contributions are highly esteemed and continue to be cherished by readers today.

The Go-Between: A Summer to Remember

Leo Colston, a lower-class boy, was delighted to spend a summer at his wealthy friend Marcus Maudsley's grand estate. He quickly adapted to the upper-class lifestyle and even believed he possessed magical abilities. Leo formed a close bond with Marcus's sister, Marian, and developed a crush on her. However, while Marcus was quarantined due to illness, Leo was introduced to Ted Burgess, a stern local farmer.

As Ted and Marian began a secret affair, they enlisted Leo to deliver messages between them. Believing it to be business-related, Leo willingly complied. However, upon opening one of the letters, he discovered the true nature of their correspondence. Despite his naivety, Leo felt uneasy about this role, especially when he learned that Marian was promised to marry Lord Trimingham, a wealthy landowner. Despite the engagement, Marian and Ted continued to exchange messages, and Leo was unable to escape his role as their messenger.

Suspicion grew within Mrs. Maudsley, Marcus and Marian's mother, as her daughter frequently disappeared without explanation.

The Impact of L.P. Hartley on Twentieth Century Literature

Edwardian England was a time of strict societal norms and rigid class structures. L.P. Hartley, a renowned British writer, explored these themes and more through his novels and short stories. His works often delved into the complexities of human emotions and the stifling effects of societal expectations. In this article, we will dive into the beliefs and themes reflected in Hartley's writing and their lasting impact on literature.

A Haunting Encounter in "Night Fears"

Hartley's short story "Night Fears" (1924) centers around a night watchman who struggles with his own fears and anxieties. His job fuels his paranoia, leading him to constantly worry about his wife's infidelity and his children's indifference towards him. One night, he encounters a mysterious stranger who forces him to confront his fears, ultimately resulting in his own supposed murder. Through this eerie encounter, Hartley explores themes of fear, danger, control, and the supernatural, adding a haunting atmosphere to his work.

Beliefs and Themes in Hartley's Writing

Hartley's writing often reflects his criticisms of society and its direction in the twentieth century. He was known to be uncomfortable with the increasing vulgarity and loss of moral values in society. In his novel, "The Go-Between," he critiques the societal norms of the Victorian era and how they were changing in the mid-twentieth century. Hartley's hopes for a brighter future were shattered by the devastation of two world wars, and this is evident in his works.

Morality is another recurring theme in Hartley's writing. He believed that individuals should take personal responsibility for their own morals rather than relying on societal standards. This concept is explored in his works, with characters often facing moral dilemmas and questioning the true meaning of right and wrong. Hartley believed that true happiness could only be achieved when individuals followed their own moral compass.

L.P. Hartley's writing is filled with themes of societal class and its impact on individuals. One of his most well-known works, 'The Go-Between,' tells the tragic love story of a woman from the upper class and a man from the lower class, highlighting the strict boundaries of Victorian society. However, despite their separation, their love is portrayed as pure and beautiful, adding to Hartley's criticism of class divisions during that time.

Insights and Memorable Quotes

  • "I'm not hungry, Ted. I want you to speak to me." - L.P. Hartley, 'The Go-Between'
  • "We must all follow our own conscience." - L.P. Hartley, 'Eustace and Hilda'
  • "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." - L.P. Hartley, 'The Go-Between'

Hartley's quotes give us a glimpse into his beliefs and the recurring themes in his writing. He often explores the consequences of not listening to one's conscience and the idea that the past can feel like a distant and unfamiliar place.

Impact and Influence

Hartley's writing continues to leave a lasting impression on the literary world. 'The Go-Between' remains a classic, shedding light on the loss of innocence during childhood and the rigid societal structures of the late Victorian era. His collection of gothic and supernatural short stories, including 'Night Fears,' remain popular among readers. Hartley's works offer a unique perspective on the society and beliefs of his time.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, L.P. Hartley's writing is a testament to his incredible talent. Through his fiction, he delves into topics of morality, fear, control, and the division of class. If you haven't had the chance to read any of Hartley's works yet, we highly recommend immersing yourself in his captivating storytelling and experiencing his remarkable contributions to literature.

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