Monday, April 20, 2009

Hey Jude, meet Stephen Hui

One of my favourite books by Thomas Hardy is Jude The Obscure. This book was first published in 1895 and was Hardy’s last novel. It caused such an outrage at the time of publication that it was burned in the street by the Bishop of Wakefield only days after it came out. In Hardy’s own words in a postscript to the 1912 edition he says:

“So much for the unhappy beginning of Jude’s career as a book. After these verdicts from the press its next misfortune was to be burned by a bishop – probably in his despair at not being able to burn me.”

Hardy received much personal condemnation from several quarters following publication of Jude. Although Jude was a commercial success and very popular with the public, this outcry had such a profound effect on Hardy that he vowed never to write a novel again. He kept his word and produced only poetry and drama for the rest of his life.

Jude Fawley is a lower class stone mason who dreams of becoming an eminent scholar and of going to Christminster, (which is a city modelled on Oxford). He teaches himself Greek and Latin in order to be able to apply to the university. Through a series of misfortunes his life takes elaborate and unforeseen twists and turns and he struggles to realise his dream. Trickery, tragedy and traditional moral attitudes of the time rule his life and he is forced to travel down a different path from the one he had in mind.
I loved this book and wanted so much for Jude to succeed in fulfilling his dream. The pages flew by as I walked with him on his journey and comforted him through his disappointments. Everyone loves an underdog, I know, but, Jude is so naive that I felt like sitting him down and speaking sternly to him, on more than one occasion. "Wake up Jude, young man. Smell the roses!!"
The book also paints an excellent picture of life in England at the turn of the century and examines moral attitudes, education and class differences. It is a gem of a book and I often wonder what else Hardy would have written had he not been so disillusioned by the reception of Jude. I suppose we will never know but I am certain it would have been superb!
Speaking of educational institutions (sorry this link is so tenuous today, but, I thought the stone mason and university connection might just work!!), the Earth Science department at Hong Kong University recently opened the Stephen Hui Geological Museum which is the first and only geological museum in Hong Kong. It opened its doors to the public on January 16, 2009.
It is the most wonderful museum and one the university and Hong Kong should be proud of. One of our neighbours in the village is a lecturer there and played a significant role in preparing some of the museum displays. Of course, being a girl who loves shiny and sparkly things, I just had to go and visit to look at the collection which our neighbour had said was a stunning.
As well as the glittering displays, and informative , logical explanations, one of the things that really fascinated me about this museum was the story of man the museum was named after. Dr Stephen Hui was a philanthropist to many local organizations including the University of Hong Kong. Apart from constructing the Hui Oi Chow Science Building, which was named in honor of his father, Mr Hui Oi Chow, Dr Hui had also generously donated his extensive mineral collection, forming the core of the Geological Museum's permanent Earth Material display. After Dr Hui passed away in 1989, his wife Madam Anna Hui, and sons, Richard and William, have continued to support the advancement of Earth Sciences in Hong Kong, and have set up the Dr Stephen S F Hui Trust Fund and the establishment of the Stephen Hui Geological Museum.
When you see the collection of minerals on display you will understand why this little piece of information is so interesting - I have visited many similar museums around the world and have never seen such and extensive and unusual collection of minerals and gems - and to think, most of the exhibits came from one private collection, is truly amazing.
Anyway, the reason for me telling you about this is that I would urge you to go see it; take the kids, it is a very child friendly museum with dinosaur stories and exhibits too. Perhaps if you are visiting Hong Kong on holiday you might consider putting the museum on your itinerary - it is worth the trip. Here is some information which may help you:
Opening Hours: Mo-Fri 1-6pm (mornings are reserved for organized group visits).
Contacts: Curator: Dr. Petra Bach Museum Assistant: Ms. Angel Chan or visit
Have fun and let me know what you think if you do manage to get there.


  1. This is really interesting. I had no idea there was such a place here, I will be sure to check it out now.

  2. I really enjoyed your review, I haven't read any Thomas Hardy but your review has added another book to my library list!

  3. Steve, the museum is well worth a visit, hope you enjoy the display.
    Dot, I do hope you get to Thaomas Hardy, he is a great writer and Jude is one of his best, although a little dark in parts. Do let me know what you think of it when you get around to reading it.

  4. I love Thomas too! Thing is - his novels always seem to end in tragedy...


  5. I have yet to read any Hardu but I will, I will, I will. I have always been told this is the hardest, so might go for Tess first. Great blog and what a wonderful cover your copy has!

  6. Tim, I know, so tragic and somehow the stories make me feel glad that there are somewhat happier circumstances surrounding my own life.
    Simon, Tess is an easier read, without doubt and not as dark as Jude....doesn't really matter which book you try first as long as you do dance with Mr Hardy at some point, I can guarantee you will be enchanted!

  7. Download a Radio Play of the book Thomas Hardy - Jude The Obscure - HERE -