Weymouth is a site of worldly pleasure in Thomas Hardy’s writing and is more or less the antithesis to Egdon Heath and other desolate areas. The town’s importance stemmed from the patronage of King George III, who spent his summers here, in his later years. In the afterglow of this regal splendour, Weymouth became the choice holiday resort in the south.
Diggory Venn in The Return of the Native describes the excitement of the place where ‘out of every ten folk you meet nine of ’em in love’. In Hardy’s poem in praise of cider, ‘Great Things’ he writes of ‘spinning down to Weymouth town / By Ridgway thirstily’ and in The Dynasts (1908) it is ‘King George’s watering-place’.
Thomas Hardy lived and worked in Weymouth in 1869, enjoying a morning swim in Weymouth Bay and joined a quadrille class, which provided ‘a gay gathering for dances and love-making by adepts of both sexes’. He lived at 3 Wooperton Street. Here he wrote poetry and, when his work took him to St Juliot in Cornwall, he embarked on a significant love affair.
He stayed in Weymouth in 1871-2 lodging at 1 West Parade, now Park Street, returning to the Bockhampton cottage to complete Under the Greenwood Tree. Weymouth’s Esplanade, the Gloucester Lodge Hotel and Old Rooms are featured in The Trumpet-Major (1880), renamed Budmouth in the 1895 edition to bring the novel within fictional ‘Wessex’.