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Thomas Hardy

(1840—1928) novelist and poet

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born at Upper Bockhampton, near Dorchester in Dorset, son of a stonemason. At the age of 16 he was articled to a local architect and when he was 22 he went to London to continue his architectural work, returning home in 1867. During this time he lost his religious faith. In 1874 he gave up architecture for writing, and married Emma Gifford. He and his wife travelled in Europe and Hardy spent several months of nearly every year in London. He greatly enjoyed the admiration of London's literary and aristocratic society, but resented the constant carping of reviewers on his ‘pessimism’ and ‘immorality’; the hostile reception of his last two major novels led him to abandon fiction and devote himself to poetry, always his first love. In 1912 Emma died and in 1914 Hardy married Florence Dugdale.

The underlying theme of many of Hardy's novels, the short poems, and the epic drama The Dynasts is the struggle of man against the indifferent force that rules the world and inflicts on him the sufferings and ironies of life and love. Hardy's sharp sense of the humorous and absurd finds expression largely in the affectionate presentation of the rustic characters in the novels. Most of the poems and novels reveal Hardy's love and observation of the natural world, often with strong symbolic effect.

Hardy's novels and short stories, according to his own classification, fall into three groups:

Novels of Character and Environment: Under the Greenwood Tree (1872); Far from the Madding Crowd (1874); The Return of the Native (1878); The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886); The Woodlanders (1887); Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891); Jude the Obscure (1896, in the edition of the Works that year).

Romances and Fantasies: A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873); The Trumpet Major (1880); Two on a Tower (1882); The Well‐Beloved (published serially 1892, revised and reissued 1897).

Novels of Ingenuity: Desperate Remedies (1891); The Hand of Ethelberta (1876); A Laodicean (1881).

Hardy published eight volumes of poetry: Wessex Poems (1898); Poems of the Past and Present (1902); Time's Laughingstocks (1909); Satires of Circumstance (1914); Moments of Vision (1917); Late Lyrics and Earlier (1922); Human Shows (1925); Winter Words (1928). The Collected Poems (1930), published posthumously, contain over 900 poems of great variety and individuality, yet consistent over more than 60 years in their attitudes to life and fate. Probably the most remarkable are in the group of poems written in recollection of his first wife (‘Poems of 1912–13’ in Satires of Circumstance). Hardy followed Wordsworth and R. Browning in his endeavour to write in a language close to that of speech. He experimented constantly with rhythms and stresses and verse forms, disliking and avoiding any facile flow.

He published over 40 short stories, most of which were collected in Wessex Tales (1888); A Group of Noble Dames (1891); Life's Little Ironies (1894); and A Changed Man (1913).

Hardy wrote two dramas: The Dynasts (3 vols, 1904–8) in blank verse and prose; and The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall (1923).


Subjects: Literature

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