Thomas Hardy Biography

Biography (History of the World: The 19th Century)

0111201610-Hardy.jpg(Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: One of the great English novelists and poets of the late nineteenth century, Hardy is representative of the Victorian trauma of the loss of God and the search for a new order.

Early Life

Thomas Hardy was born in the hamlet of Higher Bockhampton on June 2, 1840. His father was a master mason, satisfied with his low social status and his rural surroundings. His mother, however, whom Hardy once called “a born bookworm,” encouraged Hardy’s education and urged him to raise his social standing. John Hicks, a Dorchester architect, took the boy on as a pupil at the age of sixteen. While in Hicks’s office, Hardy met the well-known poet William Barnes, who became an important influence on his career. Another early influence was the classical scholar Horace Moule, an essayist and reviewer. Moule encouraged Hardy to read John Stuart Mill and the iconoclastic Essays and Reviews (1860) by Frederick Temple and others, both of which contributed to the undermining of Hardy’s simple religious faith.

At age twenty-two, Hardy went to London to pursue his architectural training; by this time, however, he had also begun to write poetry and to entertain hopes of a literary career. In 1866, after reading Algernon Charles Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads: First Series (1866), he began an intensive two-year period of writing poetry. He submitted many poems for publication during this time, but none was published, although many of these were published later, when he began writing poetry only.

After returning to Bockhampton in 1867, Hardy decided to try his hand at writing fiction. His first effort in this genre, “The Poor Man and the Lady,” based on his perception of the difference between city and country life, received some favorable attention from publishers. After a discussion with novelist George Meredith, however, Hardy decided not to publish the work but, on Meredith’s advice, to strike out in a new direction. In imitation of the detective fiction of Wilkie Collins, he thus wrote Desperate Remedies (1871). In spite of his success Hardy did not stay with the melodramatic novel but instead took the advice of a reader who liked the rural scenes in his first work and wrote a pastoral idyll entitled Under the Greenwood Tree (1872). Although the book was well received by critics, its sales were poor. Yet Hardy had found his true subject—the rural English life of an imaginary area he called Wessex—and he was on his way to becoming a full-time writer. He began writing serials for periodicals, abandoned architecture, and launched himself on a career that was to last well into the twentieth century.

Life’s Work

In 1874, Hardy married Emma Lavinia Gifford, a socially ambitious young woman who shared his interest in books. At about the same time, his first great novel, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), appeared and received many favorable reviews. As a result, editors began asking for the works of Thomas Hardy. While living with his wife at Sturminister Newton in a small cottage, Hardy composed his next great novel, The Return of the Native (1878), and enjoyed what he later called the happiest years of his life. After a brief social life in London, Hardy returned to Dorset, had his home “Max Gate” built, and published the third of his five masterpieces, The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886). For the next several years, Hardy continued his writing, traveled with his wife, and read German philosophy.

By this time, Hardy himself was being seen as a philosophical novelist. What has been called his “philosophy,” however, can be summed up in an early (1865) entry in his notebooks: “The world does not despise us; it only neglects us.” The difference between Hardy and many nineteenth century artists who experienced a similar loss of faith is that while others such as William Wordsworth and Thomas Carlyle were able to achieve some measure of religious affirmation, Hardy never embraced a transcendent belief. He did not try to escape the isolation that his loss of faith created, although in all of his major novels and in most of his poetry, he continued to try to find some value in a world of accident, chance, and indifference. Indeed, all of Hardy’s serious artistic work can be seen as variations on his one barren theme of the loss of God and the quest for a new value system.

Late in his life, Hardy said that he never really wanted to write novels and did so only out of economic necessity. Indeed, many of his minor works are imitations of popular forms of the time. While he did imitate the detective novel or social comedy, however, when he wished to write a novel that more clearly reflected his own vision of man’s situation in the world, he could find no adequate fictional model among the popular forms of the time. Thus, he returned to classical models such as the pastoral for Far from the Madding Crowd and The Woodlanders (1887), Greek tragedy for The Mayor of Casterbridge and The Return of the Native, and the epic for Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1896).

Since these early genres were based on some sense of there being a God-ordered world, Hardy could not imitate them exactly but rather had to transform them into his own grotesque versions of pastoral, tragedy, and epic. As a result, in his pastorals nature is neither benevolent nor divinely ordered; in his tragedies, his heroes are not heroic because they defy the gods but precisely because there is no God; and in his epic works, his epic figures—Tess and Jude—are not heroes who represent the order of their society but rather are outcasts because neither their society nor indeed their universe has inherent value.

Thus, if Hardy is a philosophical novelist, as is often claimed, his philosophy is a simple and straightforward one—the world is an indifferent place and the heavens are empty of meaning and value. Although Hardy did not have a unified philosophical system, he was more committed to metaphysical issues than he was to the various social issues that preoccupied many novelists of the late nineteenth century. This is true in spite of the fact that the surface plot of Tess of the D’Urbervilles deals with the so-called marriage question in England and Jude the Obscure ostensibly deals with the problem of equal education.

Hardy’s initial enthusiasm for his fourth important novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, was dampened when it was turned down by two editors before being accepted for serial publication by a third. The publication of this work brought hostile reaction and notoriety to Hardy—a notoriety that increased after the publication of his last great novel, Jude the Obscure. Hardy was both puzzled and cynical about these reactions to his last two novels for their iconoclastic views of sexuality, marriage, and class distinctions, but he was by then financially secure and decided to return to his first love, poetry.

In poetry, Hardy believed that his views could be presented in a less obvious and more distanced way. For the rest of his career, he wrote little else. His poems, of which he published well over a thousand, were very well received, and his experimental drama, The Dynasts: A Drama of the Napoleonic Wars (1903-1908), brought him even more respect, fame, and honor. The final years of Hardy’s life were spoiled only by the death of his wife in 1912. Within four years, he married his secretary, Florence Dugdale, who cared for him in his old age. Hardy continued to write poetry regularly for the rest of his life; his final volume, Winter Words (1928), was being prepared for publication when he died on January 11, 1928. His death was mourned by all of England, and his ashes were placed in Westminster Abbey.

Summary

Thomas Hardy is second only to Charles Dickens as the most read and most discussed writer of the Victorian era. New books and articles appear on his life and work each year with no signs of abating. In terms of volume and diversity of work, Hardy is a towering literary figure with two highly respected careers—one as a novelist and one as a poet.

Interest in Hardy’s work has followed two basic patterns. The first is philosophical, with many critics creating elaborate metaphysical structures which supposedly underlay his fiction. In the last two decades, however, interest has shifted to that aspect of Hardy’s work which was most scorned before—his technical expertise and his experiments with many different genres. Only in the last few years has what once was termed his fictional clumsiness been reevaluated as sophisticated poetic technique. Furthermore, Hardy’s career as a poet, which has always been under the shadow of his fiction, has been seen in a more positive light recently and has even been called by some critics the most significant and important part of his life’s work.

Hardy was a curious blend of the old-fashioned and the modern. With a career that began in the Victorian era and did not conclude until after World War I, Hardy was contemporary with both the representative Victorian writer Matthew Arnold and the most frequently cited representative of the modern, T. S. Eliot. Many critics suggest that Hardy, more than any other writer, bridges the gulf between the Victorian sensibility and the modern era.

Although not a systematic philosophical thinker, Hardy was a great existential humanist. His hope for humanity was that man would realize that creeds and conventions which presupposed a God-oriented center of value were baseless. He hoped that man would loosen himself from religious dogma and become aware of his freedom to create his own value system. If only man would realize that all people were equally alone and without divine help, Hardy believed, he would realize also that it was the height of absurdity for such lost and isolated creatures to fight among themselves. The breakout of World War I was thus a crushing blow to whatever optimism Hardy held for modern man.

In his relentless vision of a world stripped of transcendence, Hardy is a distinctly modern novelist. As one critic has said of him, he not only directs one’s attention back to the trauma of the loss of faith in the nineteenth century, he also leads one into the quest for renewed value that characterizes the modern era.

Bibliography

Beach, Joseph Warren. The Technique of Thomas Hardy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1922. A classic, pioneering study which focused on Hardy’s fictional technique rather than his philosophy.

Brady, Kristin. The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982. A helpful study of an often-neglected part of Hardy’s work, showing how his stories are a link between the old-fashioned tale and the modern short story.

Brooks, Jean R. Thomas Hardy: The Poetic Structure. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1971. An excellent modern study which focuses on readings of the major works from the standpoint of linguistic patterns and poetic structure.

Carpenter, Richard. Thomas Hardy. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1964. More than an introductory overview, this study reveals the mythic structures that underlie much of Hardy’s fiction.

Dean, Susan. Hardy’s Poetic Vision in “The Dynasts.” Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977. An interesting study of Hardy’s experimental epic drama which proposes that the work is an objectification of the human mind.

Guerard, Albert J., Jr. Thomas Hardy: The Novels and Stories. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1949. One of the most important studies to stimulate the modern reevaluation of Hardy’s work, this book did much to call attention to Hardy’s antirealism and thus his similarity to such writers as Joseph Conrad and André Gide.

Hynes, Samuel. The Pattern of Hardy’s Poetry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961. An important reevaluation of Hardy’s poetry which did much to create a new interest in this neglected body of Hardy’s work.

Miller, J. Hillis. Thomas Hardy: Distance and Desire. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970. A stimulating, if often overly complex, study of Hardy’s work from a contemporary phenomenological point of view.

Weber, Carl J. Hardy of Wessex: His Life and Literary Career. New York: Columbia University Press, 1940. A highly detailed biographical treatment of Hardy that is more valuable for the hard information it supplies about Hardy’s life than it is for the somewhat old-fashioned and unenlightening criticism.

Thomas Hardy Biography (Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in a thatched-roof cottage at Higher Bockhampton, a village near the small city of Dorchester in the southern shire of Dorset—an area that was known as Wessex in ancient times and that has many historical associations with the Druids, the Celts, and the Romans. Hardy’s father, a music-loving building contractor, was ambitious for young Thomas; thus, after he completed his education through grammar school, Hardy was apprenticed at age sixteen to an architect. Whatever of his education did not pertain to his vocation he had to pick up on his own, and it was in this fashion that he continued to study Latin and Greek. He also began writing poetry during his late teens, imitating the style and substance of the dialect verses of the Reverend William Barnes, a local curate and poetaster.

Hardy’s apprenticeship under the ecclesiastical architect John Hicks lasted until 1862, after which he went up to London at the age of twenty-one to study architecture further. Under the tutelage of John Blomfield, Hardy became proficient enough in his professional life to win a prize given by the Royal Institute of British Architects for an essay on the use of ancient building materials in modern architecture. Hardy’s expository talent was further demonstrated in a sketch, “How I Built Myself a House,” in Chamber’s Journal. During this period, Hardy’s life was somewhat inchoate. He began at this time, however, to become more deeply interested in literature, writing stories as well as poetry and availing himself of the cultural opportunities London provided. He used his free time to visit the British Museum and the art galleries and spent his evenings at King’s College, studying French. The routine of work and study and the rigors of urban life placed a strain on Hardy’s health, which had been delicate since his childhood, and after five years, he sought rustication, returning to Bockhampton to recover. While he was at home and employed only part-time with church restorations, he began to write his first novel, “The Poor Man and the Lady.” He sent the manuscript to a publisher, but it was rejected because the story lacked plot and suspense. Despite this disappointment, Hardy was encouraged by the editor’s praise, and he attempted a second novel, Desperate Remedies, which satisfied the requirement for plot ingenuity and was published anonymously in 1871. This book was quickly followed by Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) and A Pair of Blue Eyes (1872-1873); neither novel was a popular success, but both received positive notice from the reviewers.

At the time, Hardy was encouraged by the editor of Cornhill Magazine to write a serial novel. The result was Hardy’s first popular and financial success, the pastoral novel Far from the Madding Crowd (1874). Success with this book enabled Hardy to marry Emma Lavinia Gifford in the same year. He also gave up his practice as an architect, for he was assured of an income from his writing. After a honeymoon trip to France, Hardy settled down at Max Gate, his home near Dorchester, where he spent the next twenty-five years writing stories and novels. Although he wrote continuously and preferred a retired life, Hardy was by no means a recluse. He made many friends in literary circles and was active on the London social scene as his reputation as a major writer grew. During these decades, when Hardy’s creative productivity was at its peak, he published the five major novels that he came to call stories of “Character and Environment”: The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895).

Although Hardy’s career as a writer was flourishing throughout the 1870’s, the 1880’s, and the 1890’s, his marriage to Emma was not. The couple was childless, which put a strain on their relationship, and the evidence points to sexual difficulties between Hardy and his wife. Although Emma was a conventional helpmate as a wife, tending to Hardy’s business affairs and making fair copies of his manuscripts, she was not a mate to him in the full sense. As the years passed, each was embittered against the other, and the difficulties of their marriage increased. Emma Hardy’s death in 1912 was an occasion of mixed relief and bereavement for Hardy, but after two years of mourning he married, at age seventy-four, for a second time. His new wife was Florence Emily Dugdale, who was a longtime friend of the Hardys and had served as his secretary following Mrs. Hardy’s death.

During the later years of his writing career, after the hostile reception of Jude the Obscure in 1895, Hardy turned again to poetry and worked primarily in this medium for the rest of his life, producing two experiments in drama—the epic drama in verse, The Dynasts, and a second verse play, The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall.

Honors and recognition came to Hardy in abundance in his later years. He was awarded the Order of Merit by King Edward; his home of Max Gate was a shrine visited with veneration by the literati of the English-speaking world. Although Hardy had wished to be buried in his native Dorset, at his death in 1928, he was honored by the nation with a burial in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. His heart, however, was taken home, where it was interred in the village graveyard of his native heath.

Thomas Hardy Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Thomas Hardy was born and reared in the Dorsetshire countryside to which he was to return constantly for the settings of many of his novels, stories, and poems. His family encouraged his reading, and he was educated at local schools. He left formal schooling at sixteen to become an architect’s apprentice, although he continued to read and teach himself. In 1862, he went to London to work in an architect’s office but returned to Dorsetshire in 1867 to begin a career as a writer. Working part-time with a local architect, he produced his first novels, but he soon took up writing full-time. In 1874, he married Emma Lavinia Gifford. Although their marriage was not entirely happy, it lasted until Emma’s death in 1912. He was married again, to Florence Emily Dugdale, in 1914, a time during which Hardy was successful but controversial as a novelist. Following critical outcries over what some considered obscenity of both Tess of the D’Urbervilles and especially Jude the Obscure in 1895, he turned almost exclusively to poetry, an endeavor in which he was also successful. On his seventieth birthday, he received the Order of Merit. He died in Dorsetshire at the age of eighty-seven.

Thomas Hardy Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Thomas Hardy was born in the small hamlet of Higher Bockhampton in Stinsford parish on June 2, 1840. His father was a master mason, content with his low social status and at home in his rural surroundings. His mother, however, whom Hardy once called “a born bookworm,” made Hardy aware of his low social status and encouraged his education. John Hicks, a friend of Hardy’s father and a Dorchester architect, took the boy on as a pupil at the age of sixteen. The well-known poet William Barnes had a school next door to Hicks’s office, and Hardy developed an influential friendship with the older man that remained with him. Another early influence on the young Hardy was Horace Moule, a classical scholar with a Cambridge education who was an essayist and reviewer. Moule introduced Hardy to intellectual conversation about Greek literature as well as contemporary issues; it was at Moule’s suggestion that Hardy read John Stuart Mill as well as the infamous broad-church volume of essays on religion Essays and Reviews (1860), both of which contributed to the undermining of Hardy’s simple religious faith.

Hardy was twenty-two years old when he went to London to pursue his architectural training. By that time he also entertained literary ambitions and had begun writing poetry. The publication of Algernon Charles Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads in 1866 so influenced Hardy that he began a two-year period of intensive study and experimentation in writing poetry; none of the many poems he sent out was accepted, however, and he returned to Bockhampton in 1867. It was at this point that Hardy decided to turn to writing fiction. In his old age, he wrote in a letter that he never wanted to write novels at all, but that circumstances compelled him to turn them out.

Hardy’s first fictional effort, “The Poor Man and the Lady,” based on the contrast between London and rural life, received some favorable responses from publishers, but after a discussion with George Meredith, Hardy decided not to publish it and instead, on Meredith’s advice, wrote Desperate Remedies in imitation of the detective style of Wilkie Collins. Later, eager to publish works that would establish his career as a writer, Hardy took the advice of a reader who liked the rural scenes in his unpublished novel and wrote the pastoral idyll Under the Greenwood Tree. The book was well received by critics, but sales were poor. One editor advised Hardy to begin writing serials for periodical publication. With the beginning of A Pair of Blue Eyes, Hardy said good-bye to architecture as a profession and devoted the rest of his life to writing.

In 1874, Hardy married Emma Lavinia Gifford, a dynamic and socially ambitious young woman who shared his interest in books. In the meantime, Far from the Madding Crowd had appeared to many favorable reviews, and editors began asking for Hardy’s work. While living with his wife in a cottage at Sturminister Newton, Hardy composed The Return of the Native and enjoyed what he later called the happiest years of his life. Hardy and his wife began a social life in London until he became ill and they decided to return to Dorset, where, while writing The Mayor of Casterbridge, he had his home, Max Gate, built. For the next several years, Hardy continued his writing, traveled with his wife, and read German philosophy.

His enthusiasm for Tess of the D’Urbervilles was dampened when the work was turned down by two editors before being accepted for serial publication by a third. The publication of the work brought hostile reaction and notoriety—a notoriety that increased after the publication of Jude the Obscure. Hardy was both puzzled and cynical about these reactions, but he was by then financially secure and decided to return to his first love: After 1897 he wrote no more fiction, instead concentrating solely on poetry. His volumes of poetry were well received, and his experiment with metaphysics in the epic drama The Dynasts brought him even more respect, honor, and fame.

The final years of Hardy’s life appear to have been spoiled only by the death of his wife in 1912. Within four years following her death, however, he married Florence Dugdale, who had been a friend of the family and had done secretarial work for him. She cared for him for the remainder of his life. Hardy continued to write poetry regularly, and his final volume of poems, Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres, was ready to be published when he died on January 11, 1928. His cremated remains were placed in Westminster Abbey.

Thomas Hardy Biography (British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in a rambling, seven-room cottage in Higher Bockhampton, on the edge of Bockhampton Heath, near Dorchester. He was the eldest of four children, with a sister, Mary, born in 1841, a brother, Henry, in 1851, and a sister, Kate, in 1856. His father, also named Thomas, was a master builder and mason with a love of church music and violin playing, and his mother Jemima (née Hand) Hardy was a handsome, energetic woman of country stock who loved books and reading. At birth, their first child was so frail that he was supposed dead; but an attending nurse rescued the baby, and his mother and aunt nursed him back to health, although Thomas remained a small, delicate child, physically immature in appearance until well into adulthood. Despite his frail appearance, Thomas was a vigorous, active boy who relished village life and freely roamed the heath behind his home. As a child, he so enjoyed the country dance tunes and melodies his father played that he was given a toy accordion at the age of four and was taught to play the fiddle as soon as he could finger the strings. The Church of England service strongly moved him and sometimes on wet Sunday mornings he would enact the service at home, wrapping himself in a tablecloth and reading the morning prayer to his cousin and grandmother, who pretended to be the congregation.

At the age of eight, Hardy began his schooling at the local school in Bockhampton, recently established by the lady of the manor. The boy was a quick pupil, and after a year, he was transferred to Isaac Last’s Nonconformist Latin School near Bockhampton. There he continued until the age of sixteen, when he was apprenticed to the ecclesiastical architect John Hicks. During this time, he played at country dances with his father and uncle and taught Sunday school at the local parish. After his formal schooling ended, Hardy continued to study Latin and Greek with his fellow apprentices. Hardy also began writing verses about this time, being especially impressed with the regional dialect poetry of the Reverend William Barnes, a Dorset poet. After continuing his apprenticeship in church architecture for almost six years, Hardy finally left Bockhampton for London at the age of twenty-one.

In the spring of 1862, Hardy arrived in London with two letters of introduction in his pocket, having decided to continue his study of architecture there. Through good fortune, he found temporary work with a London friend of Hicks, who was able to recommend Hardy to the noted ecclesiastical architect John Blomfield, with whom Hardy began work as an assistant in the drawing-office. Hardy persevered in his architectural training, and within a year he won a prize offered by the Royal Institute of British Architects for his essay on the uses of glazed bricks and terra cotta in modern architecture. Blomfield’s office was within walking distance of the National Gallery, and Hardy soon began spending his lunch hours there, studying one painting carefully each day. He especially admired the landscapes of J. M. W. Turner and the Flemish masters.

Work was light under Blomfield, and young Hardy found time to write his first sketch, “How I Built Myself a House,” which he published in Chambers’s Journal in 1865. He also continued writing poetry during this time, although little of his juvenilia has survived. In the evenings, he continued his education at King’s College in London, studying French. For a brief time, he even considered applying to Cambridge to study for the ministry, but he gave up the idea as impractical.

The confinement of life in London gradually sapped Hardy’s health, and within five years, he was advised to return to Bockhampton to recuperate. There he assisted his former employer John Hicks with church restorations and soon regained his health. With time on his hands, Hardy turned to fiction and began working on his first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady. In 1870, he sent the manuscript to a London publisher, whose editor, George Meredith, praised the young writer but urged him to try something else with more plot ingenuity and suspense. This Hardy did, and ten months later finished his second novel, Desperate Remedies, which unfortunately was also initially rejected before it was published in 1871.

In the meantime, Hicks had sold his firm to another architect, G. R. Crickmay, who engaged Hardy to complete some church restorations in Cornwall. Hardy moved with the firm to Weymouth and, in March, 1870, set off to Cornwall to inspect a dilapidated gothic church at St. Juliot. There he met Emma Gifford, the young sister-in-law of the rector, who was eventually to become his first wife. At this time Hardy was already engaged to his cousin Tryphena Sparks, a young schoolteacher, but their engagement was broken after he met Gifford.

Although Hardy did complete his supervision of the church restoration at St. Juliot, his interest was gradually shifting from architecture to literature, and he began writing fiction in earnest. Under the Greenwood Tree was published in 1872, followed by A Pair of Blue Eyes (1872-1873) and Far From the Madding Crowd (1874). He was now sure enough of his future to marry Gifford in London on September 17, 1874, and after their honeymoon in France, he settled down to begin The Return of the Native (1878).

The next ten years saw the publication of five more novels and a number of short stories, strengthening his reputation as a major writer. He also continued to write poetry but withheld most of it from publication until after 1897. As their means grew, the Hardys moved back to Dorchester and built their permanent home, Max Gate. Hardy began making notes for an epic treatment of the Napoleonic Wars, eventually to become The Dynasts. Unfortunately, the Hardys had no children. This may have put a strain on their marriage, for although Emma Hardy continued to serve as her husband’s secretary, making fair copies of his manuscripts for publication, she gradually drew apart from him and became embittered, perhaps resenting his success. Their marriage became a cold formality of two people living in separate rooms and seeing each other only at meals. The difficulties of this first marriage may have been reflected in the bleakness of Hardy’s outlook.

After the Hardys moved into Max Gate in June, 1885, he embarked on his last decade of fiction writing. This period saw the publication of another five novels and approximately fifty short stories. The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) was followed by The Woodlanders (1886-1887), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), Jude the Obscure, and The Well-Beloved (1897). The multivolume edition of the Wessex novels also appeared in 1895-1896. During this time, Hardy was writing virtually a novel a year.

Hardy had ventured to treat new material in Jude the Obscure, and the uniformly hostile critical reception accorded the novel led him to put aside fiction after 1897 and embark on a second literary career as a poet. For the next thirty-one years, he would write only poetry. During that time, he published eight volumes of poetry, at least some of it early work, and the epic-drama The Dynasts. Hardy began to be recognized as a major English writer and received a number of awards, including honorary degrees from Aberdeen, Cambridge, and Oxford.

Emma Hardy died at Max Gate on November 27, 1912, and during his bereavement, Hardy visited the scenes of their courtship. Two years later, he married Florence Emily Dugdale, a young admirer who had served as his personal secretary after his wife’s death. By this time, he was universally recognized as the last great Victorian writer and the preeminent English man of letters, although his lack of reputation abroad prevented him from receiving a Nobel Prize. Despite personal misgivings, he spoke out patriotically for England during World War I. After the war, he lived quietly with his second wife at Max Gate during the last decade of his life. In 1923, he published a second verse play, The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall, based on the romance of Tristan and Iseult. After a brief illness, Hardy died on January 11, 1928. His heart was buried in the grave of his first wife in their parish churchyard in Stinsford, and his ashes were installed in the Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. After his death, Florence Hardy published a two-volume biography that her husband had dictated to her. She died on October 17, 1937.

Thomas Hardy Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201610-Hardy.jpgThomas Hardy Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Thomas Hardy was born in the small village of Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England, on June 2, 1840. Although his father, a mason, was satisfied with his rural life, his mother encouraged Hardy to get an education and raise his social status. Hardy’s first effort to do so was to become the student of Dorchester architect John Hicks. In a fateful accident, the kind of accident that Hardy would later make part of the cornerstone of his fiction, the well-known poet William Barnes had a school next door to Hicks’s office. The older poet and the young apprentice became friends, and Barnes became one of the strongest influences on Hardy. Another important influence on Hardy’s early life was his friendship with Horace Moule, a classical scholar, essayist, and reviewer. Particularly important was Moule’s introduction of Hardy to the works of philosopher John Stuart Mill and the Bible-challenging collection Essays and Reviews (1860), both of which served to make Hardy doubt his simple religious faith.

At age twenty-one, Hardy went to London to continue his study of architecture. Once there, however, the publication of Algernon Charles Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads in 1866 so influenced Hardy that he began writing poems and trying to get them published. After almost two years of being rebuffed by the London publishers, he returned to Bockhampton and decided to try his hand at writing fiction. His first effort, “The Poor Man and the Lady,” was based on a contrast between the rural life of his childhood and the urban life he had experienced in London. Although he did receive some favorable response from publishers, he decided not to publish the work. Instead, based on the advice of the novelist George Meredith, Hardy looked to a popular genre of the time, the detective story, and wrote Desperate Remedies (1871). Later, because of the favorable response that editors had made to the rural scenes in his unpublished novel “The Poor Man and the Lady,” Hardy wrote his pastoral idyll Under the Greenwood Tree (1872). Although the book did not sell well, critics liked it and Hardy was encouraged to continue. At the time, the most favorable publishing outlet for authors was serial publication in weekly and monthly periodicals. Hardy began writing such a serial, A Pair of Blue Eyes (1872-1873), on the advice of a periodical editor and thus launched his full-time career as an author, having given up architecture forever.

In 1874, Hardy married Emma Lavinia Gifford, who, like his mother, was socially ambitious. After A Pair of Blue Eyes, Hardy went back to the rural world for his inspiration and wrote Far from the Madding Crowd (1874). The book received many favorable reviews, and Hardy’s reputation started growing. Publishers and editors began to solicit work from him. Hardy’s next successful work, The Return of the Native (1878), was composed while he and his wife were living in a small cottage at Sturminister Newton, although shortly afterward the couple moved to London for the social life that his wife desired. When Hardy became ill, they moved back to Dorset, where he wrote The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) while he was having his home, Max Gate, built. For the next several years, Hardy continued his writing, traveled with his wife, and studied German philosophy.

Although Hardy was well established by the last decade of the nineteenth century, one of the best-known and most widely read authors in England, his last two novels were not well received. First, Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) was rejected by two publishers, who feared offending the public, before finally being accepted for serial publication. Indeed, many readers did respond with shock and hostility to the book, especially because of the sexuality suggested in the novel. The publication of Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure (1895) raised an even greater outcry, with a number of thinkers challenging the book on the grounds of its being a threat to public decency and morality. Hardy decided that he had had enough and would write no more novels, a popular literary form that left him open to public criticism.

He thus returned to his first love, poetry, reasoning that because of poetry’s subtle indirection and its limitation to a relatively small and select audience, he could say things that would not receive such a hostile response. Indeed, Hardy, who lived to an old age, still had time to create an enviable career as a poet, publishing more than one thousand poems in many volumes of verse. He also published an epic poem/drama titled The Dynasts: A Drama of the Napoleonic Wars (pb. 1903, 1906, 1908, 1910, pr. 1914 [abridged by Harley Granville-Barker]).

During Hardy’s final years of life, he enjoyed the respect of his colleagues and readers, receiving several honors and being hailed as one of the last great authors of Victorian letters. Hardy’s wife died in 1912, and four years later he married Florence Dugdale, who had worked for him as a secretary and who cared for him for the rest of his life. Hardy continued to write poetry regularly. His collection of poems Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres (1928) was ready to be published when he died on January 11, 1928, in Dorchester, Dorset, England. His ashes were placed in Westminster Abbey.

Thomas Hardy Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Thomas Hardy is something of an anomaly in nineteenth century literature. On one hand, there is something excessively old-fashioned and melodramatic about his fiction; on the other hand, there is also something powerfully symbolic about such characters as Eustacia, Tess, and Jude, who find themselves trapped in a hopeless world not of their own making, a world that seems to offer no meaning and value, and a world against which they quite rightfully rebel, even though such rebellion inevitably ends in defeat.

Hardy is one of the two most widely read and discussed English novelists of the nineteenth century, second only to Charles Dickens as the British writer most representative of the period and most controversial and worthy of study. Every year, new books are published on Hardy that attempt to lay bare the secret of his thought, his art, and, indeed, his continuing power. Hardy was a great existential humanist. His hope for the world was that it would realize that creeds and conventions that presuppose a God-centered origin of value were baseless. His hope was that men and women would loosen themselves from those foolish creeds and become aware of their freedom to create their own human value system. If people would only realize, Hardy reasoned, that all are equally alone and without hope for divine help, then perhaps they would also realize that it is the height of absurdity for such lost and isolated creatures to fight among themselves. At once old-fashioned and modern, Hardy is perhaps the single most important transitional figure between the old world of unity and faith and the new world of fragmentation and doubt.

Thomas Hardy Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

About three miles east of Dorchester, in Dorset, England, in a thatched-roof cottage that still stands at one end of the hamlet known as Higher Bockhampton, Thomas Hardy was born in 1840. The place of his birth is important, for it is the center of a region he learned to know and love—a region he called “Wessex” and about which he wrote in all his books.

The first of these books was published in 1871 when Hardy, nearly thirty-one years old, was still lacking in literary training and experience. His entire schooling had been confined to eight years between the ages of eight and sixteen. For five years he had worked as an apprentice in the drafting office of a Dorchester architect, John Hicks. When Hardy was twenty-one he went to London and found employment with Arthur Blomfield, a successful metropolitan architect, with whom he remained for five years. Gothic churches and old manor houses never succeeded in crowding books out of their central place in Hardy’s affections, however. During his years in London he tried his hand at composing verse; when he discovered that editors showed no readiness to publish his poems, he turned at the age of twenty-seven to novel-writing.

Hardy titled his first attempt at fiction The Poor Man and the Lady. He sent the manuscript to the London publisher Alexander Macmillan, who replied encouragingly but found too many faults in the work to be willing to print it. Hardy thereupon tried a second publisher, Chapman and Hall, where his manuscript was placed in the hands of their reader, the novelist George Meredith. In a meeting with Hardy, Meredith advised him to suppress The Poor Man and the Lady because of its vehement social satire and to write another novel “with more plot.” Hardy took Meredith’s advice and wrote Desperate Remedies, which was published anonymously and at his own expense in 1871. This was the beginning of a quarter-century’s activity as one of the most successful and influential novelists that England has produced.

Like Desperate Remedies, Hardy’s next novel, Under the Greenwood Tree, was published anonymously. In 1872 he was invited to contribute a story for serialization in Tinsleys’ Magazine; this novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, was the first to carry his name. When Far from the Madding Crowd was serialized in Cornhill Magazine in 1874, the acclaim from critics and from the general public was sufficient to encourage Hardy to stop publishing anonymously, to give up all further practice as an architect, and, in September, 1874, to marry.

In the twenty years that followed, Hardy turned out ten more full-length novels as well as many short stories and articles. When his fourteenth and last novel, Jude the Obscure, the story of a couple who live together without marriage, resulted in an outcry, Hardy shrank from any further attempt to find expression in fiction and returned to his first love, poetry. In 1898 he surprised the world by publishing Wessex Poems, and throughout the next thirty years he produced volume after volume of verse; by the time of his death he had composed nearly one thousand poems. In addition to this achievement in metrical composition, Hardy wrote a gigantic dramatic epic on the Napoleonic wars, which he called The Dynasts: A Drama of the Napoleonic Wars.

Hardy had met his wife, Emma L. Gifford, in 1870 in Cornwall, where he had gone to supervise the restoration of a dilapidated church (Hardy thereupon used the Cornish setting and the device of an architect surveying a church in A Pair of Blue Eyes). Ten years after marrying, Hardy built a house near Dorchester, and from 1885 on his address was “Max Gate.” He and his wife had no children. Emma Hardy died in 1912.

In 1914 Hardy married Florence Emily Dugdale, who had helped him with research on The Dynasts: A Drama of the Napoleonic Wars. Later, Florence Hardy was for a time credited with being the author of The Early Life of Hardy and The Later Years of Thomas Hardy, though they had been largely written by Hardy himself. When Hardy died in 1928, it was suggested that he be buried in the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. There were many, however, who believed that an author whose heart had always been in the Dorset region, with Wessex folk among Wessex scenes, ought not to have that heart taken away to alien soil. Hardy’s heart was accordingly buried in the grave of his first wife at Stinsford, and his ashes were deposited next to those of Charles Dickens in Westminster Abbey.

In the three decades immediately following Hardy’s death, critics came to agree that his literary output was of uneven quality. Some of his novels are excellent, others are mediocre, and many of his poems have seemed harsh and unmusical, even to ears attuned to the discordant. Yet a careful reading of Hardy’s best novels and poems shows the same gifted author at work in both genres. There is the same attentive eye for nature in all seasons and guises, the same tender, sympathetic heart, and the same sorrowing mind. It would, however, be a mistake to think that the novels were all written from a single, unchanging point of view. Hardy grew and developed, and his philosophy of life matured, and the novels reflect this. From the fragile charm of Under the Greenwood Tree to Far from the Madding Crowd and The Return of the Native, perhaps Hardy’s most “fatalistic” works, there is an immense advance. The Mayor of Casterbridge, too, in which Hardy quotes “Character is Fate,” marks a distinct shift in his viewpoint. The Woodlanders, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure are written by an older author with a riper social outlook and a clearer understanding of the causes of human behavior. Tess, executed for the murder of the man who had once raped her, and Jude, who dies after his beloved Sue returns to the husband she loathes, remain powerful examples of human suffering in an unforgiving world.

Thomas Hardy Biography (Novels for Students)

Thomas Hardy was born in Higher Bockhampton, in Dorsetshire, England, on July 2, 1840. His father and grandfather were master masons, and it...

(The entire section is 404 words.)

Thomas Hardy Biography (Novels for Students)

Thomas Hardy was born June 2, 1840, in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England, and he died there eighty-eight years later. His major novels,...

(The entire section is 354 words.)

Thomas Hardy Biography (Poetry for Students)

Thomas Hardy Published by Gale Cengage

Poet and novelist Thomas Hardy was born in the third year of Queen Victoria’s reign on June 2, 1840, in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England, to Thomas Hardy, a stonemason, and Jemima (Hand) Hardy. Hardy’s father, who played the violin, and his mother, who loved books, encouraged their frail son’s pursuit of literature early on. Hardy entered the new school at Lower Bockhampton in 1848 already knowing how to read. In 1856, Hardy apprenticed with architect John Hicks and, in 1862, he moved to London to work with Arthur Blomfield’s architectural firm. He returned to Dorset in 1867 and worked again with Hicks, this time overseeing the restoration of old village churches. Hardy, however, read and wrote regularly all the while and, in 1865, he published his first piece, the short story “How I Built My House,” which appeared in Chamber’s Journal.

Although Hardy’s first love was poetry, he made his reputation as a novelist. In 1868, he finished his first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, but no one would publish it. In 1871, he published the novel Desperate Remedies in three volumes with William Tinsley, but its sales were mediocre. Critics praised his next novel, Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), comparing it to the work of George Eliot. The unexpected success in 1874 of Far from the Madding Crowd, which was serialized in Cornhill, cemented Hardy’s reputation as a first-rate novelist and allowed him to devote all of his time to writing. The novel also identified Hardy with rural characters and the fictional region he called Wessex, which he based on Dorset and the surrounding area. Hardy’s future novels, many of which were also first serialized, include The Return of the Native (1878), The Trumpet-Major: A Tale (1880), A Laodicean (1881), Two on a Tower: A Romance (1882), The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid (1883), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented (1892), and Jude the Obscure (1896). After critics panned Jude the Obscure, Hardy stopped writing novels and devoted himself to poetry. Even though he had been writing poetry since the 1850s, he had published little of it, preferring instead the money that novel-writing brought him.

Hardy published his first collection of poems, Wessex Poems and Other Verses, in 1898, and Poems of the Past and the Present in 1901. Though they did not make him the kind of money he had been making writing novels, they were critically praised (for the most part) and helped establish him as a leading British poet. Lyrics such as “The Darkling Thrush,” written on the eve of the twentieth century, and “Drummer Hodge,” an indictment of the British involvement in the Boer War, became instantly popular and continue to be reprinted in anthologies. Hardy published eight volumes of poems in all. By the time of his death in 1928 of a massive heart attack, he had become an international celebrity, and admirers came from around the world to visit him. His many awards include the Order of Merit, 1910, from the British government and a number of honorary doctorates in literature from schools such as Cambridge University (1913) and Oxford University (1920).

Thomas Hardy Biography (Novels for Students)

Thomas Hardy Published by Gale Cengage

Thomas Hardy was born June 2, 1840, in a village near Dorchester in the southwestern region of England that would become the setting for his novels. His father, Thomas, was a builder and mason; his mother, Jemima Hand, was a cook.

After attending schools in his village, Bockhampton, and in Dorchester, Hardy was apprenticed at age sixteen to his father’s employer, an architect. While learning architecture, Hardy studied the classics with a university-educated tutor named Horace Moule. In 1862, Hardy moved to London, where he worked as an assistant architect, read widely, and began writing. Poems that he submitted to periodicals were rejected, but an article, “How I Built Myself a House,” was published.

Hardy’s work took him back to Dorchester and then to Weymouth, where he met Emma Lavinia Gifford, whom he married in 1874. Hardy also began writing novels at this time, and it was Emma who encouraged him to leave architecture and write full time. His first published novel, Desperate Remedies, came out in 1871 and was quickly followed by two others. (His first, unpublished novel has been lost.) But it was Far from the Madding Crowd, published in 1874, that ensured his reputation. By the late 1870s, he was an established member of England’s literary elite.

The Mayor of Casterbridge, published in 1886, was considered pivotal in Hardy’s career, as its male main character was more fully developed than those in previous novels. The Mayor of Casterbridge also represented a new achievement in the novel form by successfully blending a psychological portrait of one man with a depiction of the social realities of a particular time and place. Other major works of this period were a collection of short stories, Wessex Tales (1888), and the dark and controversial Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891). Reaction to Jude the Obscure (1896) was so harsh that Hardy gave up writing novels. He published his first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems, in 1898 and continued to write poetry throughout his remaining years.

In 1912, just after Hardy had completed a final revision of his novels, his wife died. He married Florence Emily Dugdale, who had been his secretary, in 1914. Hardy worked on his autobiography, The Early Life of Thomas Hardy, which was ostensibly written by his second wife, and burned his private papers. The autobiography, as well as the last volume of Hardy’s poetry, Winter Words, was published posthumously in 1928.

Hardy was honored during his lifetime with the British government’s Order of Merit (1910) and with honorary doctorate of literature degrees from Cambridge University in 1913 and from Oxford University in 1920. He died January 11, 1928, in Dorchester after a brief illness. His ashes are interred in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey in London, though his heart is buried in the grave of his first wife.grave of his first wife.

Thomas Hardy Biography

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Thomas Hardy

Introduction

Hardy is considered one of England's greatest novelists. His work resembles that of earlier Victorian novelists in technique, while in subject matter it daringly violated literary traditions of the age. In contrast to the Victorian ideal of progress, Hardy depicted human existence as a tragedy determined by powers beyond the individual's command, in particular the external pressures of society and the internal compulsions of character. His desire to reveal the underlying forces directing the lives of his characters led him to realistically examine love and sexuality in his fiction, a practice that often offended his readers and endangered his literary reputation. -- Thomas Hardy Criticism

Thomas Hardy Biography (Novels for Students)

Thomas Hardy was bom in 1840 in a small village in Dorset, an area of southern England steeped in history. One of the local landmarks, Corfe...

(The entire section is 491 words.)