|Born:||June 2, 1840|
|Birthplace:||Stinsford, Dorchester, Dorset, England|
|Died:||11 January 1928 (aged 87)|
|Occupation:||Novelist, Poet, and Short Story writer|
|Influences:||Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, John Milton|
|Influenced:||Philip Larkin, D. H. Lawrence, Stephen King|
|Spouse:||1) Emma Lavinia Gifford|
2) Florence Dugdale
Thomas Hardy, OM (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English author of the naturalist movement, though he regarded himself primarily as a poet and composed novels mainly for financial gain. The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-fictional land of Wessex, delineates characters struggling against their passions and circumstances. Hardy's poetry, first published in his 50s, has come to be as well regarded as his novels, especially after The Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.The term "cliffhanger" is considered to have originated with Thomas Hardy's serial novel A Pair of Blue Eyes in 1873. In the previously mentioned novel Hardy chose to leave one of his protagonists, Knight, literally hanging off a cliff staring into the stony eyes of a trilobite embedded in the rock that has been dead for millions of years. This became the archetypal — and literal — cliff-hanger of Victorian prose.
Thomas Hardy was born at Higher Bockhampton, a hamlet in the parish of Stinsford to the east of Dorchester in Dorset, England. His father worked as a stonemason and local builder. His mother was well-read and educated Thomas until he went to his first school at Bockhampton at age 8. His formal education ended at the age of 16 when he became apprenticed to John Hicks, a local architect. Hardy trained as an architect in Dorchester before moving to London in 1862; there he enrolled as a student at King's College, London. He won prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectural Association. Hardy never truly felt at home in London and when he returned five years later to Dorset he decided to dedicate himself to writing.
In 1870, while on an architectural mission to restore the parish church of St Juliot in Cornwall, Hardy met and fell in love with Emma Lavinia Gifford, whom he married in 1874. Although he later became estranged from his wife, who died in 1912, her death had a traumatic effect on him. After her death, Hardy made a trip to Cornwall to revisit places linked with their courtship, and his Poems 1912-13 reflect upon her passing. In 1914, Hardy married his secretary Florence Dugdale, who was 39 years his junior. However, he remained preoccupied with his first wife's death and tried to overcome his remorse by writing poetry.
Hardy became ill with pleurisy in December 1927 and died in January 1928, having dictated his final poem to his wife on his deathbed. His funeral was on 16 January at Westminster Abbey, and it proved a controversial occasion because Hardy and his family and friends had wished for his body to be interred at Stinsford in the same grave as his first wife, Emma. However, his executor, Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, insisted that he be placed in the abbey's famous Poets' Corner. A compromise was reached whereby his heart was buried at Stinsford with Emma, and his ashes in Poets' Corner.
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.
Hardy's work was admired by many authors including D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. 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 ("OM").
Hardy's early religious experience was with the Plymouth Brethren. He was often in the company of Henry R. Bastow, a fellow architect, when they studied the Greek New Testament together. Bastow went to Australia and maintained a long correspondence with Hardy, but eventually Hardy tired of these exchanges and the correspondence ceased. Hardy's links with the Brethren also concluded.
Hardy’s idea of fate in life gave way to his philosophical struggle with God. Although Hardy’s faith remained intact, the irony and struggles of life led him to question God and His traditional meaning in the Christian sense. Hardy's religious life seems to have mixed agnosticism and spiritism. Once, when asked in correspondence by a clergyman about the question of reconciling the horrors of pain with the goodness of a loving God, Hardy replied,
Nevertheless, Hardy 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. A sentence found in his Tess of the d'Urbervilles sums up Hardy's philosophical stance even though he doubted God's existence: In Far From the Madding Crowd, Oak’s entire flock, and livelihood, dies. For Oak, being a simple farmer with nothing to his name, to encounter such a loss is a tragedy wherein Hardy wants his readers to consider the role of God in this type of situation along with the universe’s cruelty. Biblical references can be found woven throughout many of Hardy’s novels as he became friends with a Dorchester minister, Hourace Moule. Moule also influenced Hardy’s point of view by introducing him to scientific studies and ideas that questioned the literal meaning of the Bible. These new ideas, along with Darwinism, and a series of unsettling events in Hardy’s life may be the reason for his pessimistic attitude that is perceived by many critics and readers alike.
Hardy's first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, finished by 1867, failed to find a publisher and Hardy destroyed the manuscript so only parts of the novel remain. He was encouraged to try again by his mentor and friend, Victorian poet and novelist George Meredith. Desperate Remedies (1871) and Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) were published anonymously. In 1873 A Pair of Blue Eyes, a story drawing on Hardy's courtship of his first wife, was published under his own name.
Hardy said that he first introduced Wessex in Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), his next novel. It was successful enough for Hardy to give up architectural work and pursue a literary career. Over the next twenty-five years Hardy produced ten more novels.
The Hardys moved from London to Yeovil and then to Sturminster Newton, where he wrote The Return of the Native (1878). In 1885, they moved for a last time, to Max Gate, a house outside Dorchester designed by Hardy and built by his brother. There he wrote The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887) and Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), the last of which attracted criticism for its sympathetic portrayal of a "fallen woman" and was initially refused publication. Its subtitle, A Pure Woman: Faithfully Presented, was intended to raise the eyebrows of the Victorian middle-classes.
Jude the Obscure, published in 1895, met with even stronger negative outcries from the Victorian public for its frank treatment of sex, and was often referred to as "Jude the Obscene". Heavily criticised for its apparent attack on the institution of marriage, the book caused further strain on Hardy's already difficult marriage because Emma Hardy was concerned that Jude the Obscure would be read as being autobiographical. Some booksellers sold the novel in brown paper bags, and the Bishop of Wakefield is reputed to have burnt a copy. In his postscript of 1912, Hardy humourously referred to this incident as part of the career of the book: "After these [hostile] verdicts from the press its next misfortune was to be burnt by a bishop - probably in his despair at not being able to burn me".
Despite this criticism, Hardy had become a celebrity in English literature by the 1900s, with several highly successful novels under his belt, yet he felt disgust at the public reception of two of his greatest works and gave up writing novels altogether. Several critics have commented , however, that there was very little left for Hardy to write about, having creatively exhausted the increasingly fatalistic tone of his novels.
Although he wrote a great deal of poetry, mostly unpublished until after 1898, Hardy is best remembered for the series of novels and short stories he wrote between 1871 and 1895. His novels are set in the imaginary world of Wessex, a large area of south and south-west England, using the name of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom that covered the area. Hardy was part of two worlds. He had a deep emotional bond with the rural way of life which he had known as a child, but he was also aware of the changes which were under way and the current social problems, from the innovations in agriculture—he captured the epoch just before the Industrial Revolution changed the English countryside—to the unfairness and hypocrisy of Victorian sexual behaviour.
Hardy critiques certain social constraints that hindered the lives of those living in the 19th century. Considered a Victorian Realist writer, Hardy examines the social constraints that are part of the Victorian status quo, suggesting these rules hinder the lives of all involved and ultimately lead to unhappiness. In Two on a Tower, Hardy seeks to take a stand against these rules and sets up a story against the backdrop of social structure by creating a story of love that crosses the boundaries of class. The reader is forced to consider disposing of the conventions set up for love. Nineteenth-century society enforces these conventions, and societal pressure ensures conformity. Swithin St Cleeve's idealism pits him against contemporary social constraints. He is a self-willed individual set up against the coercive strictures of social rules and mores.
Hardy’s stories take into consideration the events of life and their effects. Fate plays a significant role as the thematic basis for many of his novels. Characters are constantly encountering crossroads, which are symbolic of a point of opportunity and transition. Far From the Madding Crowd tells a tale of lives that are constructed by chance. “Had Bathsheba not sent the valentine, had Fanny not missed her wedding, for example, the story would have taken an entirely different path.” Once things have been put into motion, they will play out. Hardy's characters are in the grips of an overwhelming fate.
Hardy paints a vivid picture of rural life in the 19th century, with all its joys and suffering, as a fatalistic world full of superstition and injustice. His heroes and heroines are often alienated from society and are rarely readmitted. He tends to emphasise the impersonal and, generally, negative powers of fate over the mainly working class people he represents in his novels. Hardy exhibits in his books elemental passion, deep instinct, and the human will struggling against fatal and ill-comprehended laws, a victim also of unforeseeable change. Tess of the d'Urbervilles, for example, ends with:
In particular, Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure is full of the sense of crisis of the later Victorian period (as witnessed in Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach'). It describes the tragedy of two new social types, Jude Fawley, a working man who attempts to educate himself, and his lover and cousin, Sue Bridehead, who represents the 'new woman' of the 1890s.
His mastery, as both an author and poet, lies in the creation of natural surroundings making discoveries through close observation and acute sensitiveness. He notices the smallest and most delicate details, yet he can also paint vast landscapes of his own Wessex in melancholy or noble moods. (His eye for poignant detail - such as the spreading bloodstain on the ceiling at the end of Tess of the d'Urbervilles and little Jude's suicide note - often came from clippings from newspaper reports of real events).
For the full text of several poems, see the External links section
In 1898 Hardy published his first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems, a collection of poems written over 30 years. Hardy claimed poetry as his first love, and published collections until his death in 1928. Although not as well received by his contemporaries as his novels, Hardy's poetry has been applauded considerably in recent years, in part because of the influence on Philip Larkin. However, critically it is still not regarded as highly as his prose.
Most of his poems deal with themes of disappointment in love and life, and mankind's long struggle against indifference to human suffering. Some, like The Darkling Thrush and An August Midnight, appear as poems about writing poetry, because the nature mentioned in them gives Hardy the inspiration to write those. A vein of regret tinges his often seemingly banal themes. His compositions range in style from the three-volume epic closet drama The Dynasts to smaller, and often hopeful or even cheerful ballads of the moment such as the little-known The Children and Sir Nameless, a comic poem inspired by the tombs of the Martyns, builders of Athelhampton.
A few of Hardy's poems, such as "The Blinded Bird" (a melancholy polemic against the sport of vinkenzetting), display his love of the natural world and his firm stance against animal cruelty, exhibited in his antivivisectionist views and his membership in the RSPCA.
Composers who have set Hardy's text to music include Gerald Finzi, who produced six song-cycles for poems by Hardy, Benjamin Britten, who based his song-cycle Winter Words on Hardy's poetry, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst. Holst also based one of his last orchestral works, Egdon Heath, on Hardy's work. Composer Lee Hoiby's setting of "The Darkling Thrush" became the basis of the multimedia opera Darkling and Timothy Takach, a graduate of St. Olaf, has also put "The Darkling Thrush" into arrangement for a 4-part mixed choir.
Hardy divided his novels and collected short stories into three classes:
Novels of Character and Environment
Romances and Fantasies
Novels of Ingenuity
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).
Short stories (with date of first publication)
Poetry (not a comprehensive list)
Bere Regis is King's-Bere of Tess, Bincombe Down cross roads is the scene of the military execution in A Melancholy Hussar. It is a true story, the deserters from the German Legion were shot in 1801 and are recorded in the parish register. Bindon Abbey is where Clare carried her.Bournemouth is Sandbourne of Hand of Ethelberta and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Bridport is Port Bredy, Charborough House and its folly tower at is the model for Welland House in the novel Two on a Tower. Corfe Castle is the Corvsgate-Castle of Hand of Ethelberta. Cranborne Chase is The Chase scene of Tess's seduction. (Note - Bowerchalke on Cranborne Chase at was the film location for the great fire in John Schlesinger's 1967 film Far from the Madding Crowd.) Milborne St Andrew is "Millpond St Judes" in Far From the Madding Crowd. Weatherby Castle is the location for the "Tower" in "Two on a Tower" with Little England Cottage, Milborne St Andrew being the location of Swithin St Cleeves home and remains as described to this dayDorchester, Dorset is Casterbridge, the scene of Mayor of Casterbridge. Dunster Castle in Somerset is Castle De Stancy of A Laodicean. Fordington moor is Durnover moor and fields. Greenhill Fair near Bere Regis is Woodbury Hill Fair, Lulworth Cove is Lulstead Cove, Marnhull is Marlott of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Melbury House near Evershot is Great Hintock Court in A Group of Noble Dames. Minterne is Little Hintock,Owermoigne is Nether Moynton in Wessex Tales.
Piddlehinton and Piddle Trenthide are the Longpuddle of A Few Crusted Characters. Puddletown Heath, Moreton Heath, Tincleton Heath and Bere Heath are Egdon Heath. Poole is Havenpool in Life's Little Ironies. Portland is the scene of The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved. Puddletown is Weatherbury in Far from the Madding Crowd, River Frome valley is the scene of Talbothays dairy in Tess. Salisbury is Melchester in On the Western Circuit, Life's Little Ironies and Jude the Obscure etc. Shaftesbury is Shaston in Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Sherborne is Sherton-Abbas, Sherborne Castle is home of Lady Baxby in A Group of Noble Dames. Stonehenge is the scene of Tess's apprehension. Sutton Poyntz is Overcombe.Swanage is the Knollsea of Hand of Ethelberta. Taunton is known as Toneborough in both Hardy's novels and poems.Wantage is Alfredston, of Jude the Obscure. Fawley, Berkshire is Marygreen of Jude the Obscure.Weyhill is Weydon Priors,Weymouth is Budmouth Regis, the scene of Trumpet Major & portions of other novels; Winchester is Wintoncester where Tess was executed. Wimborne is Warborne of Two on a Tower.Wolfeton House, near Dorchester is the scene of The Lady Penelope in a Group of Noble Dames. Woolbridge old Manor House, close to Wool station, is the scene of Tess's confession and honeymoon.
Hardy provides the springboard for D. H. Lawrence's Study of Thomas Hardy (1936). Though this work became a platform for Lawrence's own developing philosophy rather than a more standard literary study, the influence of Hardy's treatment of character and Lawrence's own response to the central metaphysic behind many of Hardy's novels helped significantly in the development of The Rainbow (1915, suppressed) and Women in Love (1920, private publication). Hardy was clearly the starting point for the character of the novelist Edward Driffield in W Somerset Maugham's novel Cakes and Ale. Thomas Hardy's works feature prominently in the narrative in Christopher Durang's The Marriage of Bette and Boo, in which a graduate thesis analysing Tess of the d'Urbervilles is interspersed with analysis of Matt's family's neuroses.