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Two on a Tower is Hardy's ninth novel and contains perhaps his most complete use of the theme of love across the class and age divide, to beautifully depict Hardy's reverence for science and astronomy.
The unhappily married Lady Constantine breaks all the rules of social etiquette when she falls in love with young Swithin St. Cleeve, an astronomer and her social inferior. Despite their differences that society deems unacceptable, together, from an astronomical observatory, the lovers 'sweep the heavens'. But work, ambition and the pressures of the outside world intrude upon the pair. Swithin is faced with a cruel choice. The death of Lady Constantine's husband leaves them free to marry but it's not that simple. He has the option of furthering his education with an inheritance that will propel his career into the highest levels of astronomical science. Does he choose love or ambition?
Within Two on a Tower, Hardy creates a wonderful and timeless contrast between the infinite reaches of the universe and the infinitesimal scale of human affairs. Hardy's intention, in his own words, was to 'set the emotional history of two infinitesimal lives against the stupendous background of the stellar universe'.
Hardy was a Victorian realist whose novels and poetry were greatly influenced by Romanticism, especially the poet William Wordsworth. His critical thoughts on Victorian society can be seen throughout much of his work.
"The foremost novelist of his time." (Geoffrey Harvey, The Complete Critical Guide to Thomas Hardy)
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