Thomas Hardy and Horace Moule (Horatio Mosley Moule) (1832-1873)
Horace Moule is located fifth from the right
On a September Sunday in 1873, a tragedy occurred in Cambridgewhich was to have a significant impact on Dorset literature. Horace Moule, aged 41, was deeply depressed and affected by alcohol when he ended a three-hour conversation with his brother Charles and retired to bed. Minutes later Charles, writing in an adjoining room, heard what he described as a trickling sound and went to investigate. He found Horace covered in blood but conscious and able to utter his last words: Easy to die. Love to my mother. He had slashed his windpipe with the razor that he kept under his pillow for that very purpose.
Moule, academically and musically gifted yet possessing a depressive tendency which blighted his existence, had been Thomas Hardys best friend and mentor. Not one there is among us that understandeth any more, wrote the novelist, quoting the 74th Psalm, after learning of his suicide. Yet by his very death, Horace achieved a form of immortality, for Hardy wrote about him in poetry and prose, in particular in Jude the Obscure. As the biographer Robert Gittings observes, Hardys hero owes much to Moule, besides his academic failures, his drink and depression and virtual suicide. Such scenes as the drunken Jude reciting the Latin Creed to a scoffing pub audience are horribly reminiscent of what happened to Moule.
Henry Moule. He and his four sons
contributed to Dorchester's literary heritage
Like his father and three of his six brothers who survived childhood, Horace stakes his own claim as one of the minor literary figures from Dorchesters past. Although working as an inspector of workhouses in his later years, he was also a prolific reviewer of books (Far from the Madding Crowd was one of his last subjects) and a poet. His poetic legacy includes The Muffled Peal, a 56-line verse inspired by a New Years Eve walk to Greys Bridge, Dorchester. It begins:
Flow gently, sweet Frome, under Greys gleaming arches,
Where shines the white moon on thy cold sparkling wave;
Flow gently to-night, while time silently marches
Fast hastening to lay the Old Year in her grave.
From Robert Gittings, Young Thomas Hardy. Boston: Little, Brown, 1975. 37-42.
"It is not quite clear how Hardy got to know the [Moule] family, nor which member he knew first. It was probably the last-named Henry Joseph....Yet though they remained friends for nearly fifty years, it was one of his younger brothers, met in 1857, who had the greatest influence on Hardy.
This was Horatio Mosley Moule, usually know as Horace. Regarded by his brothers as the most brilliant of the family, his career suggests tragic inner tension and intellectual contradiction. He had first gone to Trinity College, Oxford, as a scholar in 1851, but had left in 1854 without a degree. In that year he matriculated at Queens' College, Cambridge, yet went down some years later with the Hulsean Prize (1858) but still no degree, and was not actually awarded his B.A. until 1867. According to what was virtually his obituary, he was, however a fine classical scholar. Whatever the reason for this curious record, it was a symptom of something deep-laid. many large nineteenth-century families produced one member in each generation who was impaired physically, mentally, or merely temperamentally; the history of the Giffords, the family of Hardy's first wife, shows something of the same pattern. It is likely that there were some depressive elements in Horatio's make-up, quite apart from the disappointments of his academic career and even more disastrous personal events. At some undefined time, he started talking of suicide in fits of depression; he also tried to ward off these fits by drinking. It became an open secret with his relatives that he sometimes slept with a razor under his pillow, to be removed by them secretly. He was the typical casualty of an outwardly successful and happy family. There is no doubt, though, that whatever his temperamental handicaps, Horace Moule was a brilliant and inspiring teacher. This was officially recognized during a short spell (1865-68) as assistant master at Marlborough but unofficial, personal tributes are even more explicit....This was the man who took virtual control of Thomas Hardy's life in the year 1857, not only as a teacher but as a friend....
This fresh world of experience was given intellectual shape and backbone by an altogether new type of reading. There is no instance, until now, of Hardy reading any weekly periodical other than the highly provincial and parochial Dorset County Chronicle, with its recital of farmers' meetings, rick fires and sale prices. In 1857, according to his own account, and certainly under Moule's influence, he began to read regularly a leading London weekly. This was The Saturday Review, and it had a determining effect on many of his basic attitudes and beliefs; he was still reading it seventy years later. Much of Hardy's peculiar mental approach can be found in its pages, and Horace Moule's introduction to this paper was deeply significant for Hardy's outlook on life. No dramatic fantasies are needed to explain Hardy's scepticism and criticism of human affairs, if one studies the files of this magazine, to which he was introduced at such a susceptible time of adolescence, and by such a winning personality....
It is clear, too, that Hardy soon absorbed Horace Moule's own habits of mind. One of the earliest prose studies by Moule appears in a little book of proceedings of a Dorchester intellectual society, which held its meetings at his father's vicarage. An essay on Patriotism, just after the Crimean War, sets out to deflate the usual idea of patriotism as a military or militant virtue. There is a better way, not to die but to live for one's country, and to follow 'the highest and best fulfilment of my duty to God and my neighbour'. Hardy's own poems, both in the Boer and the First World War, explore this idea; it is those at home who have to go on living, who show what may be called true patriotism. Yet how they are to go on, he does not suggest.
These, and other such attitudes of mind, the young Hardy learned from his unofficial tutor, eight years older than himself, whose sensitive, almost feminine face shows him to be as attractive physically as he was mentally."
From Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1982. 66-70.
"By the late 1850s Hardy had become friendly not only with the eldest of the [Moule] brothers but also with the second, George...with the fifth, Charles...and with the youngest, Handley....Of far greater emotional and intellectual importance than these relationships--it seems safe to say, than any other male relationship throughout his life--was that with the fourth of the Moule brothers, Horatio Mosley, usually known as Horace. They were on close terms at least as early as 1857...and saw much of each other during the late 1850s and early 1860s when Horace was 'much at home', largely as a result of his failure to complete a degree either at Oxford, to which he had first gone in 1851, or at Cambridge, to which he had transferred in 1854.
The reasons for these difficulties are far from clear. Conceivably he ran into trouble, as many others had done, with the mathematical component of the Cambridge Tripos, but this possibility squares neither with his Oxford difficulties nor with his tutoring in mathematics at a later date. Handley Moule remembered him as a much-loved brother, an excellent classical scholar, and a gifted teacher: 'Wonderful was his subtle faculty for imparting, along with all due care for grammatical precision, a living interest in the subject-matter, and for shedding an indefinable glamour of the ideal over all we read.' Hardy always emphasized Horace Moule's devotion to music and the promise he had shown of becoming 'a distinguished English poet'. At home in Fordington, Moule helped with the teaching of the group of paying pupils which his father had for some years gathered at the vicarage. He was chosen as the president of the 'Fordington Times Society', composed of the Moule brothers, their friends, and their father's pupils, which held weekly meetings on literary topics between April 1856 and December 1859: several of his pieces appear in Tempora Mutantur, a collection of prose and verse by members of the society which appeared in 1859. At the same time he was contributing reviews and occasional essays to national periodicals....
Horace Moule's impact upon Hardy was immense. He was handsome, charming, cultivated, scholarly, thoroughly at home in the glamorous worlds of the ancient universities and of literary London. Although only eight years Hardy's senior, he was already an accomplished musician, a publishing poet and critic, and an independent thinker. He had not only helped Hardy with his Greek but introduced him to new books and ideas-- to Walter Bagehot's Estimates of Some Englishmen and Scotchmen of 1858, for example, and the controversial Essays and Reviews of 1860. Although Moule seems never to have abandoned at least a formal allegiance to the Church, his attitude towards a work such as Essays and Reviews would certainly have been more open, more 'liberal', than that of his father and his clerical brothers--who were later to serve as models for Angel Clare's father and brothers in Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Moule's Christian Orator carried an affectionate dedication to his father when it appeared in book form in 1859, but relations between them were sometimes strained. Indeed, the episode in Chapter 18 of Tess in which Angel Clare is rebuked by his horrified father for ordering a theologically offensive book from a local bookseller was based on just such a confrontation between Horace Moule and his father--the two volumes of the condemned work, Gideon Algernon Mantell's The Wonders of Geology, being passed on from Moule to Hardy in April 1858.
In Horace Moule, Hardy recognized for the first time a model of what he himself most deeply wished to become, and his contact with the Moule brothers and with the life of Fordington vicarage both exacerbated his sense of inferiority and incited his ambition for self-improvement....
Unfortunately Hardy was to encounter all too soon the darker side of Moule's personality. Early in 1860 Moule went to live in the Cathedral Close at Salisbury--in lodgings kept by a former dancing master and Master of Ceremonies at the Salisbury balls--with two pupils whom he had undertaken to coach in Greek, Latin, and mathematics preparatory to their sitting Oxford and Cambridge entrance examinations. One of these pupils, Wynne Albert Bankes...recorded in his diary that it quickly became apparent that Moule was 'a Dypsomaniac--and that he was suffering from D. T.', a condition which had its origin in his 'taking opium when reviewing books for Macmillan of Cambridge at which he worked for 48 or 72 hours at a stretch'. Moule eventually recovered, and Bankes, whose previous naval experience had given him a good deal of worldly experience, agreed to continue with the otherwise satisfactory tutorial arrangement if Moule would neither have drink in the house nor go out of the house alone. The little group moved on 22 April to Lynton, in Devon, spent a few days in Oxford (where the second pupil took and failed his examination), and then proceeded to Saint-Germain-en-Laye for the summer. On Saturday, 28 July, Bankes went into Paris; Moule was to meet him there in time for church the following morning. On the Tuesday, when Moule still had not appeared, Bankes went back to Saint-Germain and discovered that he 'had ordered a bottle of claret on Saturday, that he had cut his whiskers off & had disappeared'. Bankes made daily visits to the Paris morgue and Horace's brothers Henry and Charles came to France to help in the search; on the following Sunday, 5 August, they heard by telegram that the truant had arrived safely back in England.
Hardy visited Salisbury in 1860, catching (like Jude Fawley) his first glimpse of the cathedral 'through a driving mist that nearly hid the top of the spire'. If, as seems most likely, he was accompanying his sister Mary on her admission to the Salisbury Training College on 3 April 1860, he would have seen Moule in the course of recovery from the first of the two collapses recorded by Bankes. Hardy was certainly at Fordington Church for Evenson on 5 August, the day on which Moule resurfaced after the second episode....By 1860, therefore, Hardy was already thoroughly familiar with Moule's alcoholism, and the survival of their friendship says much for that extraordinary charm which Moule in his happier moments seems to have exercised over all who encountered him.
In the aftermath of the French escapade, however, Moule seems to have made an extraordinary effort to restore stability to his life. In February 1861 he lectured on temperance at East Fordington, urging total abstinence upon those who lacked the self-discipline to drink in moderation; in January 1862 he gave the first performance on the new organ at West Fordington Church; two years later he went with his father to a missionary meeting at West Stafford. There was nothing hypocritical about Moule's participation in such activities. His desperate search for approval from his austere father was at the heart of his difficulties, and his share in the moral earnestness characteristic of the Moule family served only to intensify the agonies of guilt and self-contempt which succeeded each episode of failure. What cannot be so precisely pinned down is the part played in his personal tragedy by that ambiguous sexuality which seems to have constituted the obverse, so to speak, of his gifts as a teacher and his devotion to the boys and young men who were his pupils."
From Martin Seymour-Smith, Hardy. London: Bloomsbury, 1994. 46-51.
"One of Henry Moule's sons, Henry Joseph....became Tom's companion....Tom was also friendly with two more of the Rev. Moule's sons, George and Charles, as well as with his sister Mary's exact contemporary Handley....But it was the fourth son, Horatio (know as Horace) Mosley Moule, born in 1832, with whom Tom formed the closest relationship of all.
Although the outlines of his life and death are clear enough, there is much that is unknown about Horace Moule. His character and his fate certainly affected Hardy at a profound level, but there is no reason to suppose that the relationship 'must have had', as has been suggested, 'a sexual component'. Tom knew him intimately from the time he began in Hicks' office....It was in this period that the two young men saw the most of each other, for Horace was then living at home. He had gone up to Trinity College, Oxford, full of promise--to which many besides Hardy testified--in 1851, and was there until 1854. For some reason he had failed to obtain a degree, although he had been able in that year to transfer to Queen's college, Cambridge. He did not immediately acquire a degree from there, either, partly perhaps because of difficulties with mathematics, which was a compulsory subject. On the other hand, he taught it to various of the many private pupils he took, although not perhaps to as high a level as Cambridge would have expected him to achieve. It is likely, however, that the drinking habits which increasingly bedevilled Horace had begun while he was at Oxford and were the reason for his failure, and that on account of his brilliance and abundant charm, he was given 'another chance' at Cambridge, where his father had powerful connections....
He may, potentially, have been the most gifted of all the Moules, and not least because he had a 'dark side' to his nature. Tom remained loyal to the notion that he might have become a major poet, although the few poems he left, while being well accomplished, are in no way outstandingly promising. And his criticism--of which more survives--is intelligent, but no more than that. He seems likely to have been a man whose genius was confined to his conversation....
By 1861 Horace was lecturing on temperance in his own district, but he could not conquer his predisposition. To what extent it went with opium taking, if at all, is not known. It has been suggested by Millgate that his drinking largely originated in his ambisexuality, and that his relationship with Tom 'must have been homosexual': that he eventually made a proposition to Tom, which was turned down. The first speculation, while there is no evidence for it whatsoever, is perfectly possible. On the other hand, it is equally possible that Horace was manic-depressive by temperament, or perhaps just depressive: that, suffering from bouts of suicidal depression, he had recourse to the only 'medicine' then available. But alcohol taken for this purpose, while it acts as a temporary relief, only makes the illness worse, since it is in itself a powerful depressant of the central nervous system.
Concerning Millgate's further speculations of Horace's homosexual relations, although the fact that a man has indulged in heterosexuality is no evidence against his having also indulged in homosexual activity, a story that Florence had from Tom about Horace does make it just that less likely. According to this story, Horace got a Fordington woman (and therefore one of his father's parishioners) pregnant, and she was shipped of to Australia (where, doubtless vindicating Hardy's view of the malign workings of fate, the son she bore was in due time hanged....
Horace's family status, then, was that of Continually Forgiven Brilliant Black Sheep, and, as such, he would have appealed to the dramatic and the unconventional in Tom, for whom he must, if only initially, have been something of a role model....Horace was a published writer, a skilled classicist, poet, charmer, possible secret father of a bastard, successful teacher and lecturer, open-minded Christian, dark and troubled member of a forthright family earnestly devoted to good works--and, surely, very close confidant indeed....
He was a man whose dramatic nature appealed to Tom's imagination. He was known to sleep with a razor beneath his pillow. Feeling himself also prone to such gestures, or at the least well able to empathize, Tom must always have felt Horace's fate as an awful example, and himself 'played safe': relied on his sense of caution to keep himself out of similar troubles and shames."
From Robert Gittings, Young Thomas Hardy. Boston: Little, Brown, 1975. 179-182.
"Moule's words were the last message he was to direct towards Hardy. On Friday, 19 September, he came back from a summer holiday to his rooms in Queens'. Cambridge was empty, a fortnight before Michaelmas Term, and even his brother Charles was not yet in his rooms at Corpus. The onset of autumn is a melancholy time in Cambridge, with the mists rising from Coe Fen over the causeway, and the drenched Michaelmas daisies drooping their heads in the college gardens. A wave of melancholy and restless agony about life and work seized him in a way that at once alarmed his doctor. It was the worst bout he had seen, and he felt it urgent to provide a nurse, who came on the Saturday morning, and to send a telegram to Charles Moule that night. His brother arrived on the Sunday, and had a distressing and all-too-familiar talk with him. The drink he took to try and combat his depression seemed to him to threaten his work. The possibility of losing his position was very much on his mind, and he became at first excited and then deeply depressed. After a three-hour discussion, he said he felt so ill that he was going to bed. Charles remained writing in the other room. After a few minutes he heard a sound, which at first he could not place, a kind of trickling. He went into the bedroom, and found Horace Moule lying on the bed covered in blood. Thinking at first he had broken a blood vessel, Charles Moule ran to the Porter's Lodge, and sent a messenger for Dr. Hough. Hastening back, he found his brother lying there, bleeding but still just able to speak. He said, 'Easy to die' and 'Love to my mother'. Only then, perhaps, did Charles realize that Horace had done what he long ago threatened to do, and taken his own life. The surgeon, when he arrived, confirmed that he had cut his throat. The nurse, also summoned, found an open razor. Horace Moule never spoke again. At the inquest, held the next day, the jury returned a verdict of 'suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity'.
On the Sunday his friend died, Hardy had spent the day walking to and from the great autumn fair at Woodbury Hill, east of Bere Regis, which was to appear in Far From the Madding Crowd. On Wednesday, 24 September he heard the news. Next day, Horace Moule's body was brought to Fordington, for burial on the Friday in consecrated ground, which the form of words on the jury's verdict had allowed. On the previous evening, 25 September, Hardy, according to a later poem, went to Fordington churchyard, and contemplated the mound of chalk dug from the newly-prepared grave. It was this day, rather than the day of death, or that of the funeral, which he attended, that he always remembered....
With so little direct evidence, and in the absence of some vital dates in Moule's life, much must necessarily be speculation. There is, though, one hitherto unknown factor, which is perhaps the most important of all. It may even be that it was first revealed to hardy on that memorable last visit to Cambridge, for it remained vividly in his mind in his old age, when he confided it in detail to the second Mrs. Hardy. On that evening of 20 June, as the talked in Moule's rooms in Queens', the conversation between the two men went on deep into the summer night. Moule stood by the mantelpiece of his keeping-room, with the candles guttering behind him. As he spoke on and on excitedly, he seemed to Hardy to be pointing unconsciously at the long trailing overflow of wax that was gathering on the candle. This, in country-superstition terms, was known as the 'shroud', and it was held to foretell the death of the person to whom it applied. This is the factual basis for Hardy's later poem Standing by the Mantelpiece. There was another fact, though, far more significant than a mere legend, that must have entered into the long discussion. This was the fatal secret of Moule's personal life; whether it caused or followed the open secret of his drunken bouts, will probably never be known, though the fact itself, concealed by his own family, is fully attested. At some unspecified time, Moule had had, or had been persuaded he had, a bastard child by a low girl in his father's parish at Fordington. This was, according to Florence Hardy, the 'tragedy of his life'....
Members of the Moule family regretted for years afterwards that they had been able to do so little for him. The heaviest burden of regret and horror at the event naturally fell on Charles, who had been a few yards from the suicide. The anniversary, mourned by the whole family, was always a time of particularly deep personal trial to him....If Hardy...felt excluded from the grief of the Moule family, it was the exclusion of his own peculiar kind of grief. Modern thought is apt to deal heavy-handedly with the topic of Victorian male affection. Hardy was left the evidence we have seen that he felt for Moule in some way as Shakespeare did for his friend, and as Tennyson did for Hallam. There is no other point of definition."
From Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1982. 153-156.
"...on Sunday, 21 September 1873, [Hardy] walked over the heath to Woodbury Hill Fair, on which his fictional Greenhill Fair was to be based.
On the evening of that same day--though the news did not reach Bockhampton until two or three days later--Horace Moule committed suicide in his Cambridge rooms. Few details are available of Moule's career during the late 1860s and early 1870s. He seems to have lived mostly in London, supporting himself somewhat tenuously be examination coaching, journalism, and literary work of various kinds: an undated letter (ascribed by Hardy to 1870) speaks of his having two articles in the Echo (a London even newspaper) for that day, and signed articles by him appeared in Fraser's and Macmillan's magazines in the latter half of 1871. Economic pressures led to his acceptance, in July 1872, of a position under the Local Government Board (with which his father had some influence as the result of his work in the cause of better sanitation) as an assistant Poor Law inspector for the East Anglian district. He found it convenient to take rooms in his college to be closer to his work, and it was there that Hardy had visited him the previous June. They had parted 'cheerfully', and it was only in retrospect that Hardy read a superstitious significance into the fact that the previous evening, as Moule stood talking by the mantelpiece, he had pointed unconsiously at a candle whose wax was 'shaping to a shroud'.
The reasons for his cutting his throat in those same rooms three months later were explored in a Coroner's inquest, which heard evidence from Charles Moule, who had been caring for his brother at the time of his death, and from Horace's doctor. The picture that emerged was of a recurrent cycle of depression, recourse to 'stimulants', and resultant incapacity for work--followed by fear of losing employment and hence a return of depression. Moule had never succeeded in conquering the alcoholism his pupil Albert Bankes had observed thirteen years earlier. In the more recent past he had every now and then slipped off into the East Anglian countryside and stayed drunk for days at a time, until his brother Frederick, the vicar of Yaxley, near Peterborough, would find him and bring him back to the vicarage to recover. On at least one such occasion he had spoken of suicide and secreted a razor beneath his pillow. Since Charles Moule also declared himself to be familiar with such threats there is perhaps little point in speculating about the immediate 'causes' of Horace's death. He had been for many years an alcoholic, perhaps an opium addict, certainly a potential suicide. He had recently taken on a job which was both demanding and deeply depressing, involving as it did constant visits to workhouses, among whose unhappy occupants he must often have seen examples of what he himself dreaded to become. Coincidentally or otherwise, he had returned from a tour of workhouses just two days before his death....
Hardy's second wife believed, on the basis of what her husband had told her, that Horace Moule had had an affair with a 'Mixen Lane' girl of doubtful reputation who became pregnant and was shipped off to Australia, where her son--of whom Moule might or might not have been the father--was later hanged. True or false--and it must be at least partly true despite the suspiciously Hardyan conclusion--the lurid tale would appear to belong to the late 1850s or early 1860s when Moule was living at Fordington, although the 1873 date assigned to the apparently relevant poem 'She at His Funeral' leaves open the possibility that the girl, in her 'gown of garish dye', could have been present as a distant observer of the burial of her 'sweetheart'. More immediately connected with Moule's suicide is the story of his engagement to a governess, 'highly cultivated' and of 'sterling character', whom his sister-in-law, Frederick Moule's wife, though a 'splendid person', perhaps capable of solving Horaces' difficulties. But the governess broke off the engagement, probably because of Horace's drinking--the reason cited in another version of the same story, which speaks of the fiancée as a 'lady of title'.
Hardy was deeply shocked by the death of one who had, in many respects, been closer to him than anyone would ever be again. No other man, certainly, would ever subscribe a letter to him, 'Yrs ever and most affectionately'. The easy assurance of Moule's letters to Hardy reflected in part that position of patronage which flowed naturally enough from superior age, education, and class, and which (so A Pair of Blue Eyes would suggest) Hardy in 1873 was just beginning to resent. That there was real affection between them there can be no doubt....Almost fifty years later Hardy was to say of Moule that he 'had early showed every promise of becoming a distinguished English poet. But the fates said otherwise....
Such a lifelong devotion to Moule's memory seems explicable only in terms of a complet surrender to his personal charm. In most readings of Hardy's enigmatic poem "Standing by the Mantelpiece', subtitled 'H.M.M., 1873', Moule is imagined as addressing the woman who has broken off their engagement, and the lines can indeed be so construed. But the poem seems to make more sense, and to give more point to the candle-wax image, when read in homosexual terms, with Moule speaking directly to Hardy himself. Their relationship must, in any case, have had a sexual component, however unrealized on Hardy's part. For him it had no doubt seemed, and been, the kind of verbally expressive male friendship characteristic of the period, similar to, though more intense than, the one he had enjoyed with Bastow. Hardy, lacking Moule's educational advantages, probably knew little or nothing of homosexuality...and if Moule, in June 1873, did make a direct sexual approach it is no wonder that Hardy bore himself angrily and (as the poem puts it) 'as if surprised', that he subsequently responded so powerfully to Moule's death, or that he withheld 'Standing by the Mantelpiece' from publication until his last and, as it proved, posthumous volume."
From Martin Seymour-Smith, Hardy. London: Bloomsbury, 1994. 174-177.
"Moule had been pursuing his duties more or less successfully for just over a year. He had also continued to help young people in Cambridge, if not on a regular basis. His family's understanding of his predicament was enlightened: they regarded his alcoholism as an illness, not as the result of an infirmity of will. In modern terms, he was subject to bouts of psychotic, suicidal, depression, for which there were then no known remedies. He therefore took to alcohol, and, in all probability, regular doses of opium....
On 19 September, returning to Cambridge for a holiday after inspecting two institutions, Horace visited his doctor, James Hough, to report alarming symptoms. These suggested that he was suffering from an attack of what is now known as agitated depression, a dangerous state for anyone who has previously expressed a wish to kill himself. It is at just this point that a depressed person can overcome his langour and weakness enough to perform the act of self-destruction; he may even seem more energetic and cheerful.
Hough wired Charles [Moule], who was not in Cambridge, and engaged a nurse, who was in attendance from the morning of 20 September, a Saturday. Moule took the usual drink to combat his symptoms, but it did not help: alcohol is in itself a powerful depressant. He managed to struggle through that day. The next morning Charles arrived and the nurse was sent away. The two men had a long and tiring discussion, during which Horace 'explained his fears'. At some stage Horace became excited, but this state was followed by exhaustion. He went to bed, pulled the covers over himself, seized a razor he had secreted beneath his pillow, and cut his throat wide open.
After his brother had gone to bed, Charles, himself exhausted, tried to take his mind off the affair; it was to him a familiar enough situation. He got on with some writing he had to do. As he wrote, he heard a trickling sound. By the time he had traced it to its source it was too late: Horace had lost too much blood. The doctor and nurse were called. Horace was able to mutter, 'Love to my mother. Easy to die'; soon afterwards he did die.
It has been surmised that Horace killed himself because of a fiancée's rejection. This is possible. But there is no evidence of an affair, and Florence never made clear, in her conversations with R. L. Purdy, what Tom had told her about Moule, except that the story of the bastard by a Dorchester girl was true. However, that is likely to have happened much earlier. Horace's suicide was the result of clinical depression.
He had many times previously talked of suicide, but without attempting it. He had been 'perfectly sober' when he went to bed. The coroner's jury brought in a verdict of suicide while temporarily insane--this was usual for people of good family, and meant he could be buried in the Fordington churchyard. Tom went there on 25 September, the eve of the funeral, and drew a sketch of the mound by the side of the freshly dug grave; he would continue to visit Horace's grave for the rest of his life....
Tom also wrote, perhaps in the last years of his life, another, more enigmatic poem about Horace. Called 'Standing by the Mantelpiece', it bears the subtitle 'H.M.M. 1873'; the speaker is Moule himself. The candle motif is a piece of Dorset folklore: if a candle burns one-sidedly, leaving a 'little column of tallow', it is traditionally supposed to forecast a death. Here the speaker regards it as a prophecy of his own death....
The usual understanding of the poem is that Moule is addressing a woman who has renounced him for some reason, that reason not being made altogether clear....Millgate, however, reads it as an address to Hardy himself: Moule, he insists, made a homosexual proposal to him which he repudiated. Since the poem is cryptic, this is a possible reading. But there is nothing to support it: nothing to suggest, for example, that Moule was homosexual. Had he wanted to go to bed with Tom he would have made his wishes clear long before 1873....If Millgate is right, then the poem suggests that the speaker's death was connected with his interlocutor's refusal of his advances. Is it not more likely, though, that the background of the poem is that Moule got drunk at table, suggested to his fiancée that they go to bed, and that she repudiated him?
The meaning of the poem remains a puzzle, and readers who do not know who 'H.M.M.' is are confronted with an obscurity. All that can be said is that the notion of the speaker's addressing a fiancee who had once accepted him, but then gave him up, strains credulity less than Millgate's interpretation, and that, once assumed, it is straightforward enough."