Sunday 17 May 2015

Max Gate

If I had to list the most depressing moments of my life, the time I spent reading Jude the Obscure would be right up there, along with most mornings after general elections and the League One play-off final of 2002. 

And the horror has stayed with me: I haven't read it in over 20 years and yet when a colleague recently told me her new baby's name was Jude, all I could think of was the little boy killing his siblings and then hanging himself "because we are too menny". At least you got a few happy endings with Charles Dickens.

Anyway. Hardy wrote Jude the Obscure at Max Gate, the house in Dorchester that he built in 1885. It's lovely - it certainly didn't inspire me to any thoughts of infanticide.

Max Gate

Hardy was already a successful author when he built Max Gate, having published Far From The Madding Crowd and other notable works. He had been an architect before his writing career took off, and he designed Max Gate and had it built by the family firm.

Max Gate has a very comfortable feel to it. He lived here with his first wife, Emma, until she died. In 1914 he married his second wife, Florence, who was 39 years his junior. He also had a lot of illustrious visitors over the years, including WB Yeats, Rudyard Kipling and the Prince of Wales.

I loved the study at Max Gate. This was his third study, apparently, as the first one was turned into a bedroom and the second one was too small and uncomfortable, but this one was just right:

There are no scones at Max Gate, but I knew that in advance. Anyway, I had already troughed my way through scones at nearby Kingston Lacy and Hardy's Cottage and even I would baulk at three cream teas in one afternoon.

If you are heading to Max Gate, make sure you visit Hardy's Cottage, located around 3 miles away - it's where Hardy was born and grew up and I highly recommend you visit that as well.

Max Gate: 4 out of 5
Scones: 0 out of 5 - there weren't any but we knew that
Misery of house compared to subject matter of artistic output: 0 out of 5

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