In beginning of The Distracted Preacher a maid is introduced in Newberry estate. It seems that both names refer to the same person and different spelling deals with different pronunciation. Quote:

A little girl crept in at the summons, and made tea for him. Her name, she said, was Marther Sarer, and she lived out there, nodding toward the road and village generally.

Next Quote:

Stockdale remained in some doubt till Martha Sarah came to clear the table. “Whose house is this, my little woman?” said he.

Another quote:

The minister stood up in acknowledgment of the honor. “I am afraid little Marther might not make you understand. What will you have for supper? There's cold rabbit, and there's a ham uncut.”

  • 1
    Yes, the first and third quote are representing dialectic pronunciation phonetically. Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 19:12
  • 1
    Yes, they're the same. In some accents (particularly British and Aussie); the R's before consonants and silence are not pronounced. (See non-rhotic accents)
    – Void
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 19:12
  • @Void - Yes, but presumably Martha's accent is so rhotic that she adds unnecessary 'r's! Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 7:46

1 Answer 1


Hardy is phonetically representing the girl's rural Wessex dialect accent, which is different from the way that educated people (e.g. his readers) spoke at the time.

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