Farfrae be not told of my death, or made to grieve on account of
& that I be not bury’d in
& that no
sexton be asked to toll the bell.
that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
that no murners walk behind me at my funeral.
that no flours be planted on my grave.
that no man remember me.
I put my name.
In his introduction to Modern
Critical Interpretations: Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, Harold
Bloom cites the above passage, taken from the novel’s final chapter,
as the most powerful and eloquent of all of Hardy’s writing. Indeed,
there is a remarkable power and beauty in the simplicity of these
lines. Henchard’s will is the tragic last statement of a tragic
man whose unremitting doubts regarding his life’s worth not only
lead to his death but also follow him there. From the moment Henchard
sells his wife at the Weydon fair, he feels a keen anxiety over
the value of his name. He pledges a twenty-one-year reprieve from
alcohol and sets himself on a course that delivers him to the most
honored business and social offices of a small country town. Unsatisfied
with this seeming reformation of himself, however, he continues
to let his guilt eat away at him and eventually relinquishes the
name and reputation he has built for himself. His last wish, to
be allowed to die anonymously and to go unremembered, is the ultimate
gesture of a man who craves good repute but doubts his own worth.