Thomas Hardy (1840-1928);
Thomas Hardy;10 Classic Thomas Hardy Poems Everyone Should Read; Th. Hardy;
Thomas Hardy was born on Egdon Heath, in Dorset, near Dorchester in 1840. His mother, provided for his education. After schooling in Dorchester, Hardy was apprenticed to an architect, specialized in restoration of churches. In 1874 Hardy married Emma Lavinia Gifford. At the age of 22 Hardy moved to London and started to write poems, which idealized the rural life. Five years later he returned to Dorset to work as an architect again and won prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectural Association. Hardy turned to fiction. His first novel, The Poor Man And The Lady (1867) was rejected by many publishers and he destroyed the manuscript. His first book that gained notice was Far From The Madding Crowd (1874). After its success Hardy devoted himself entirely to writing and produced a series of novels, among them The Return Of The Native (1878) and The Mayor Of Casterbridge (1886).
Tess Of The D’urbervilles(1891) and Jude The Obscure (1895) came into conflict with Victorian morality and aroused great debate as their stories are about the conflict between carnal and spiritual life. In 1896, disturbed by the public uproar over the unconventional subjects Hardy announced that he would never write fiction again.
During the remainder of his life, Hardy wrote several collections of poems. The Dynasts is a gigantic panorama of the Napoleonic Wars, composed between 1903 and 1908, mostly in blank verse. On the death of his friend George Meredith Hardy took to the presidency of the Society of Authors in 1909. King George V conferred on him the Order of Merit and he received in 1912 the gold medal of the Royal Society of Literature.
Emma Hardy died in 1912 and in 1914 Hardy married his secretary, Florence Emily Dugdale. From 1920 through 1927 Hardy worked on his autobiography, which was disguised as the work of Florence Hardy. It appeared in two volumes (1928 and 1930). Hardy’s last book published in his lifetime was Human Shows (1925).
Hardy died in Dorchester, Dorset, on January 11, 1928. His ashes were cremated in Dorchester and buried with impressive ceremonies in the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. Hardy’s Winter Words appeared posthumously in 1928.
Shortly after Hardy’s death, the executors of his estate burnt his letters and notebooks. Twelve records survived, one of them containing notes and extracts of newspaper stories from the 1820s. Research into these provided insight into how Hardy kept track of them and how he used them in his later work.
Despite this criticism, Hardy had become a celebrity in English literature by the 1900s. His work was admired by many authors, amongst them D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. The writer Robert Graves, in his autobiography Goodbye to All That, recalls meeting Hardy in Dorset in the early 1920s. Hardy received Graves and his newly married wife warmly, and was encouraging about the younger author’s work. In 1910, Hardy was awarded the Order of Merit.
The bulk of his work is set in the “partly-real, partly-dream” county of Wessex, which preserves the name of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom that existed in the area. The landscape was modelled on the real counties of Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Somerset and Wiltshire, with fictional places based on real locations. He captured the epoch just before the railways and the industrial revolution changed the English countryside. His works are pessimistic and bitterly ironic, and his writing is rough but capable of immense power.
Hardy’s religious life seems to have mixed agnosticism and spiritism. He frequently conceived of and wrote about supernatural forces that control the universe, more through indifference or caprice than any firm will. Also, Hardy showed in his writing some degree of fascination with ghosts and spirits. Despite these sentiments, Hardy retained a strong emotional attachment to the Christian liturgy and church rituals, particularly as manifested in rural communities, that had been such a formative influence in his early years. Some attributed the bleak outlook of many of his novels as reflecting his view of the absence of God.
Most of his poems deal with themes of disappointment in love and life, and mankind’s long struggle against indifference to human suffering.
Hardy also produced a number of minor tales and a collaborative novel, The Spectre of the Real (1894). An additional short-story collection, beyond the ones mentioned above, is A Changed Man and Other Tales (1913). His works have been collected as the 24-volume Wessex Edition (1912-1913) and the 37-volume Mellstock Edition (1919-1920). His largely self-written biography appears under his second wife’s name in two volumes from 1928-1930, as The Early Life of Thomas Hardy, 1840-1891 and The Later Years of Thomas Hardy, 1892-1928, now published in a critical one-volume edition as The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy, edited by Michael Millgate (1984).