This two-part chapter initially places Hardy and Conrad within the context of later nineteenth-century scientific conceptions of ‘Nature’. Both writers are shown in their letters and essays as equivalently committed to facing indifferent nature in a manner similar to leading contemporary scientists and cultural thinkers. However, in their search for ‘underlying’ truths both authors exhibit a powerful strain of subjective idealism which is entwined with the materialist and objective writing largely claimed for them in this study. The second half of the chapter explores the similarities and equivalences in how, with a fidelity to mood and sensation, Hardy and Conrad ‘face nature’ in their richly descriptive writing. Their ‘peculiar relation to realism’ is seen to value a sentience that is more comprehensive in scope and less cerebral than the human consciousness depicted by other nineteenth-century realist writers.
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