Two on a Tower (1882) is a novel by English author Thomas Hardy, classified by him as a romance and fantasy and now regarded as one of his minor works. The book is one of Hardy's Wessex novels, set in a parallel version of late Victorian Dorset.
The plot concerns two – literally starcrossed – lovers: Swithin St. Cleeve, a very young amateur astronomer, and Viviette Constantine, an unhappily married and abandoned woman 10 years his senior.
Each night Swithin climbs the old tower of the title, in the grounds of the Constantine estate. Lady Constantine, whose husband has been absent some years on an extended hunting and exploring journey to Africa, joins the young man in his stargazing, and supports his astronomical ambitions by buying him equipment, though his dreams of scientific renown are disappointed. Their relationship then deepens and takes several twists and turns.
This is Hardy's most complete treatment of the theme of love across the class and age divide and the fullest expression of his fascination with science and astronomy.
Because the book defied the social norms of the day, upon release the book was called shocking, repulsive, and one critic called it Hardy's ”worst yet.”
Hardy wrote in a letter to Edmund Gosse on 10 Dec 1882, “I get most extraordinary criticisms of T. on a T. Eminent critics write & tell me in private that it is the most original thing I have done...while other eminent critics (I wonder if they are the same) print the most cutting rebukes you can conceive—show me (to my amazement) that I am quite an immoral person...”
Total Running Time (TRT): 9h, 15 min.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist, in the tradition of George Eliot, he was also influenced both in his novels and poetry by Romanticism, especially by William Wordsworth.
Charles Dickens is another important influence on Thomas Hardy. Like Dickens, he was also highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society.
Initially he gained fame as the author of such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). However, since the 1950s Hardy has been recognized as a major poet, and had a significant influence on The Movement poets of the 1950s and 1960s, including Phillip Larkin.
The bulk of his fictional works, initially published as serials in magazines, were set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex and explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances. Hardy's Wessex is based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom and eventually came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire, and much of Berkshire, in south west England.