A RARE collection of first edition novels by author Thomas Hardy is set to go under the hammer next week

First editions including ‘The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall in Tintagel by Lyonnesse’ and ‘The Dynasts’ are up for sale at Duke’s Auctioneers on June 17th.

Letters penned by the literary legend were discovered among the collection: some revealing how he kept far from the madding crowd at King’s coronation in 1911.

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In one of the letters, sent to a friend staying at his home in Dorchester, Hardy gave strict instructions about locking the door of his beloved study where he wrote some of his most famous novels.

Hardy wrote: "I leave the key of the study for your personal use of the room (I shall like it much better when I think you have sat there) and if you and Mrs Moule should be leaving the house any day please lock the door of study till you return. You will readily understand this request."

Hardy also recommended his guests take a short walk from Max Gate to Stinsford, the tiny village where Hardy was born and where his heart is buried.

He wrote: "I sincerely hope you will profit by the air out here. One of the pleasantest short walks is across the wood to Stinsford to feed the swans there."

The first editions belong to a Dorset-based bibliophile who was inspired to collect Hardy’s work after attending the same village school in Dorchester as Hardy. The collector spent years seeking out first edition works that were inscribed by the great novelist.

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Garry Batt, of Duke's Auctioneers of Dorchester, said: "Hardy wasn't a big inscriber of his books so it is quite rare to come across personal notes and letters with these first editions.

"They show that Hardy was an incredibly generous friend to a lot of local people.

"These were people who had a connection with Hardy; friends, contemporaries and people who acted in his plays. They weren't random fans of his.

"The letter to his house guest is quite charming and shows Hardy went out of his way to ensure the visitor enjoyed his stay at Max Gate, even recommending a local walk.

The novels range in value and are expected to fetch between £3,000 and £10,000 each.