Horace Moule (1832-1873)

Contents (click on items to move through page)

Robert Gittings
Michael Millgate
Martin Seymour-Smith

From Robert Gittings, Young Thomas Hardy. Boston: Little, Brown, 1975. 37-42.

“It is not quite clear how Hardy got to know the [Moule] family, nor which member he knew first. It was probably the last-named Henry Joseph….Yet though they remained friends for nearly fifty years, it was one of his younger brothers, met in 1857, who had the greatest influence on Hardy.

This was Horatio Mosley Moule, usually know as Horace. Regarded by his brothers as the most brilliant of the family, his career suggests tragic inner tension and intellectual contradiction. He had first gone to Trinity College, Oxford, as a scholar in 1851, but had left in 1854 without a degree. In that year he matriculated at Queens’ College, Cambridge, yet went down some years later with the Hulsean Prize (1858) but still no degree, and was not actually awarded his B.A. until 1867. According to what was virtually his obituary, he was, however a fine classical scholar. Whatever the reason for this curious record, it was a symptom of something deep-laid. many large nineteenth-century families produced one member in each generation who was impaired physically, mentally, or merely temperamentally; the history of the Giffords, the family of Hardy’s first wife, shows something of the same pattern. It is likely that there were some depressive elements in Horatio’s make-up, quite apart from the disappointments of his academic career and even more disastrous personal events. At some undefined time, he started talking of suicide in fits of depression; he also tried to ward off these fits by drinking. It became an open secret with his relatives that he sometimes slept with a razor under his pillow, to be removed by them secretly. He was the typical casualty of an outwardly successful and happy family.<br
 There is no doubt, though, that whatever his temperamental handicaps, Horace Moule was a brilliant and inspiring teacher. This was officially recognized during a short spell (1865-68) as assistant master at Marlborough but unofficial, personal tributes are even more explicit….This was the man who took virtual control of Thomas Hardy’s life in the year 1857, not only as a teacher but as a friend….

This fresh world of experience was given intellectual shape and backbone by an altogether new type of reading. There is no instance, until now, of Hardy reading any weekly periodical other than the highly provincial and parochial Dorset County Chronicle, with its recital of farmers’ meetings, rick fires and sale prices. In 1857, according to his own account, and certainly under Moule’s influence, he began to read regularly a leading London weekly. This was The Saturday Review, and it had a determining effect on many of his basic attitudes and beliefs; he was still reading it seventy years later. Much of Hardy’s peculiar mental approach can be found in its pages, and Horace Moule’s introduction to this paper was deeply significant for Hardy’s outlook on life. No dramatic fantasies are needed to explain Hardy’s scepticism and criticism of human affairs, if one studies the files of this magazine, to which he was introduced at such a susceptible time of adolescence, and by such a winning personality….

It is clear, too, that Hardy soon absorbed Horace Moule’s own habits of mind. One of the earliest prose studies by Moule appears in a little book of proceedings of a Dorchester intellectual society, which held its meetings at his father’s vicarage. An essay on Patriotism, just after the Crimean War, sets out to deflate the usual idea of patriotism as a military or militant virtue. There is a better way, not to die but to live for one’s country, and to follow ‘the highest and best fulfilment of my duty to God and my neighbour’. Hardy’s own poems, both in the Boer and the First World War, explore this idea; it is those at home who have to go on living, who show what may be called true patriotism. Yet how they are to go on, he does not suggest.

These, and other such attitudes of mind, the young Hardy learned from his unofficial tutor, eight years older than himself, whose sensitive, almost feminine face shows him to be as attractive physically as he was mentally.”

From Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1982. 66-70.

“By the late 1850s Hardy had become friendly not only with the eldest of the [Moule] brothers but also with the second, George…with the fifth, Charles…and with the youngest, Handley….Of far greater emotional and intellectual importance than these relationships–it seems safe to say, than any other male relationship throughout his life–was that with the fourth of the Moule brothers, Horatio Mosley, usually known as Horace. They were on close terms at least as early as 1857…and saw much of each other during the late 1850s and early 1860s when Horace was ‘much at home’, largely as a result of his failure to complete a degree either at Oxford, to which he had first gone in 1851, or at Cambridge, to which he had transferred in 1854.

The reasons for these difficulties are far from clear. Conceivably he ran into trouble, as many others had done, with the mathematical component of the Cambridge Tripos, but this possibility squares neither with his Oxford difficulties nor with his tutoring in mathematics at a later date. Handley Moule remembered him as a much-loved brother, an excellent classical scholar, and a gifted teacher: ‘Wonderful was his subtle faculty for imparting, along with all due care for grammatical precision, a living interest in the subject-matter, and for shedding an indefinable glamour of the ideal over all we read.’ Hardy always emphasized Horace Moule’s devotion to music and the promise he had shown of becoming ‘a distinguished English poet’. At home in Fordington, Moule helped with the teaching of the group of paying pupils which his father had for some years gathered at the vicarage. He was chosen as the president of the ‘Fordington Times Society’, composed of the Moule brothers, their friends, and their father’s pupils, which held weekly meetings on literary topics between April 1856 and December 1859: several of his pieces appear in Tempora Mutantur, a collection of prose and verse by members of the society which appeared in 1859. At the same time he was contributing reviews and occasional essays to national periodicals….

Horace Moule’s impact upon Hardy was immense. He was handsome, charming, cultivated, scholarly, thoroughly at home in the glamorous worlds of the ancient universities and of literary London. Although only eight years Hardy’s senior, he was already an accomplished musician, a publishing poet and critic, and an independent thinker. He had not only helped Hardy with his Greek but introduced him to new books and ideas– to Walter Bagehot’s Estimates of Some Englishmen and Scotchmen of 1858, for example, and the controversial Essays and Reviews of 1860. Although Moule seems never to have abandoned at least a formal allegiance to the Church, his attitude towards a work such as Essays and Reviews would certainly have been more open, more ‘liberal’, than that of his father and his clerical brothers–who were later to serve as models for Angel Clare’s father and brothers in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Moule’s Christian Orator carried an affectionate dedication to his father when it appeared in book form in 1859, but relations between them were sometimes strained. Indeed, the episode in Chapter 18 of Tess in which Angel Clare is rebuked by his horrified father for ordering a theologically offensive book from a local bookseller was based on just such a confrontation between Horace Moule and his father–the two volumes of the condemned work, Gideon Algernon Mantell’s The Wonders of Geology, being passed on from Moule to Hardy in April 1858.

In Horace Moule, Hardy recognized for the first time a model of what he himself most deeply wished to become, and his contact with the Moule brothers and with the life of Fordington vicarage both exacerbated his sense of inferiority and incited his ambition for self-improvement….

Unfortunately Hardy was to encounter all too soon the darker side of Moule’s personality. Early in 1860 Moule went to live in the Cathedral Close at Salisbury–in lodgings kept by a former dancing master and Master of Ceremonies at the Salisbury balls–with two pupils whom he had undertaken to coach in Greek, Latin, and mathematics preparatory to their sitting Oxford and Cambridge entrance examinations. One of these pupils, Wynne Albert Bankes…recorded in his diary that it quickly became apparent that Moule was ‘a Dypsomaniac–and that he was suffering from D. T.’, a condition which had its origin in his ‘taking opium when reviewing books for Macmillan of Cambridge at which he worked for 48 or 72 hours at a stretch’. Moule eventually recovered, and Bankes, whose previous naval experience had given him a good deal of worldly experience, agreed to continue with the otherwise satisfactory tutorial arrangement if Moule would neither have drink in the house nor go out of the house alone. The little group moved on 22 April to Lynton, in Devon, spent a few days in Oxford (where the second pupil took and failed his examination), and then proceeded to Saint-Germain-en-Laye for the summer. On Saturday, 28 July, Bankes went into Paris; Moule was to meet him there in time for church the following morning. On the Tuesday, when Moule still had not appeared, Bankes went back to Saint-Germain and discovered that he ‘had ordered a bottle of claret on Saturday, that he had cut his whiskers off & had disappeared’. Bankes made daily visits to the Paris morgue and Horace’s brothers Henry and Charles came to France to help in the search; on the following Sunday, 5 August, they heard by telegram that the truant had arrived safely back in England.

Hardy visited Salisbury in 1860, catching (like Jude Fawley) his first glimpse of the cathedral ‘through a driving mist that nearly hid the top of the spire’. If, as seems most likely, he was accompanying his sister Mary on her admission to the Salisbury Training College on 3 April 1860, he would have seen Moule in the course of recovery from the first of the two collapses recorded by Bankes. Hardy was certainly at Fordington Church for Evenson on 5 August, the day on which Moule resurfaced after the second episode….By 1860, therefore, Hardy was already thoroughly familiar with Moule’s alcoholism, and the survival of their friendship says much for that extraordinary charm which Moule in his happier moments seems to have exercised over all who encountered him.

In the aftermath of the French escapade, however, Moule seems to have made an extraordinary effort to restore stability to his life. In February 1861 he lectured on temperance at East Fordington, urging total abstinence upon those who lacked the self-discipline to drink in moderation; in January 1862 he gave the first performance on the new organ at West Fordington Church; two years later he went with his father to a missionary meeting at West Stafford. There was nothing hypocritical about Moule’s participation in such activities. His desperate search for approval from his austere father was at the heart of his difficulties, and his share in the moral earnestness characteristic of the Moule family served only to intensify the agonies of guilt and self-contempt which succeeded each episode of failure. What cannot be so precisely pinned down is the part played in his personal tragedy by that ambiguous sexuality which seems to have constituted the obverse, so to speak, of his gifts as a teacher and his devotion to the boys and young men who were his pupils.”

From Martin Seymour-Smith, Hardy. London: Bloomsbury, 1994. 46-51.

“One of Henry Moule’s sons, Henry Joseph….became Tom’s companion….Tom was also friendly with two more of the Rev. Moule’s sons, George and Charles, as well as with his sister Mary’s exact contemporary Handley….But it was the fourth son, Horatio (know as Horace) Mosley Moule, born in 1832, with whom Tom formed the closest relationship of all.

Although the outlines of his life and death are clear enough, there is much that is unknown about Horace Moule. His character and his fate certainly affected Hardy at a profound level, but there is no reason to suppose that the relationship ‘must have had’, as has been suggested, ‘a sexual component’. Tom knew him intimately from the time he began in Hicks’ office….It was in this period that the two young men saw the most of each other, for Horace was then living at home. He had gone up to Trinity College, Oxford, full of promise–to which many besides Hardy testified–in 1851, and was there until 1854. For some reason he had failed to obtain a degree, although he had been able in that year to transfer to Queen’s college, Cambridge. He did not immediately acquire a degree from there, either, partly perhaps because of difficulties with mathematics, which was a compulsory subject. On the other hand, he taught it to various of the many private pupils he took, although not perhaps to as high a level as Cambridge would have expected him to achieve. It is likely, however, that the drinking habits which increasingly bedevilled Horace had begun while he was at Oxford and were the reason for his failure, and that on account of his brilliance and abundant charm, he was given ‘another chance’ at Cambridge, where his father had powerful connections….

He may, potentially, have been the most gifted of all the Moules, and not least because he had a ‘dark side’ to his nature. Tom remained loyal to the notion that he might have become a major poet, although the few poems he left, while being well accomplished, are in no way outstandingly promising. And his criticism–of which more survives–is intelligent, but no more than that. He seems likely to have been a man whose genius was confined to his conversation….

By 1861 Horace was lecturing on temperance in his own district, but he could not conquer his predisposition. To what extent it went with opium taking, if at all, is not known. It has been suggested by Millgate that his drinking largely originated in his ambisexuality, and that his relationship with Tom ‘must have been homosexual’: that he eventually made a proposition to Tom, which was turned down. The first speculation, while there is no evidence for it whatsoever, is perfectly possible. On the other hand, it is equally possible that Horace was manic-depressive by temperament, or perhaps just depressive: that, suffering from bouts of suicidal depression, he had recourse to the only ‘medicine’ then available. But alcohol taken for this purpose, while it acts as a temporary relief, only makes the illness worse, since it is in itself a powerful depressant of the central nervous system.

Concerning Millgate’s further speculations of Horace’s homosexual relations, although the fact that a man has indulged in heterosexuality is no evidence against his having also indulged in homosexual activity, a story that Florence had from Tom about Horace does make it just that less likely. According to this story, Horace got a Fordington woman (and therefore one of his father’s parishioners) pregnant, and she was shipped of to Australia (where, doubtless vindicating Hardy’s view of the malign workings of fate, the son she bore was in due time hanged….

Horace’s family status, then, was that of Continually Forgiven Brilliant Black Sheep, and, as such, he would have appealed to the dramatic and the unconventional in Tom, for whom he must, if only initially, have been something of a role model….Horace was a published writer, a skilled classicist, poet, charmer, possible secret father of a bastard, successful teacher and lecturer, open-minded Christian, dark and troubled member of a forthright family earnestly devoted to good works–and, surely, very close confidant indeed….

He was a man whose dramatic nature appealed to Tom’s imagination. He was known to sleep with a razor beneath his pillow. Feeling himself also prone to such gestures, or at the least well able to empathize, Tom must always have felt Horace’s fate as an awful example, and himself ‘played safe’: relied on his sense of caution to keep himself out of similar troubles and shames.”