IN SEARCH OF A PROFESSION
On leaving school Hardy went into an architect’s drafting office. ‘He did not wish to go there, but it was the only feasible opening. Thence he went to London,’ as we shall see in the next chapter. More than sixty years later, Hardy recalled that he 'had sometimes wished to enter the Church’,1 and this statement has often led to a raising of eyebrows by those acquainted with Hardy’s later much-publicized agnostic views. But in 1856 the idea of his entering the Church was not as fantastic as it may seem to readers in 1965. As a boy Hardy had been a regular
attendant at the services in Stinsford Church. He knew all the responses by heart. He had learned to recite hymns with great fervency. When, as a little fellow, he had been allowed to stay at home on a rainy Sunday morning under the tolerant eye of his grandmother, he would wrap a tablecloth around his little body, to imitate the vicar’s surplice; and then, standing on a chair, he would ‘read’ the morning service and even ‘preach a sermon’ by repeating some of the well-known admonitions of the vicar. From one of Hardy’s sisters we learn that he had his favourite passages in the Bible; one o f them was: ‘and after the fire a still small voice’ . Tom’s teaching in the Stinsford Sunday School and his association there with the vicar’s two sons had likewise contributed to the thought that he might become a clergyman. But it was not to be.