Thomas Hardy (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
For the 1912 centennial of the birth of Charles Dickens, the editors of Bookman sent out a questionnaire to hundreds of writers asking them to explain how Dickens had influenced their work. Quite a few wrote extensively about the impact of the most celebrated Victorian novelist on their work. George Bernard Shaw, by then recognized as the foremost English dramatist of the time, went so far as to claim that Dickens was influential in ways not even imagined by his Victorian contemporaries in revising attitudes toward society. The response submitted by Thomas Hardy was hardly so effusive. In his laconic two-line reply, he said he supposed he was influenced in some way by Dickenshe suspected everyone wasbut he was unable to say how or why.
That comment speaks volumes not only about Hardy’s attitude toward Dickens but also about his own approach to novel writing. By his own admission, he cared little for the fiction he turned out over nearly three decades. He wrote novels, he often said, as a way to earn a living so he could practice the craft for which he had a deep and abiding love: poetry. Although by the end of the century he was among the country’s most successful novelists, according to legend (a legend Hardy endorsed), when public opinion turned against him after the publication of Jude the Obscure in 1895 he turned his back on fiction and devoted the rest of his lifeanother three decadesexclusively to writing verse.
(The entire section is 1788 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
Booklist 103, no. 6 (November 15, 2006): 17.
The Economist 381 (November 11, 2006): 96.
Kirkus Reviews 74, no. 21 (November 1, 2006): 1119.
Library Journal 131, no. 19 (November 15, 2006): 72.
London Review of Books 29, no. 1 (January 4, 2007): 25-29.
The New Republic 236, nos. 8/9 (February 19, 2007): 29-33.
The New York Times Review of Books 54, no. 3 (March 1, 2007): 21-24.
Publishers Weekly 253, no. 48 (December 4, 2006): 47.
The Spectator 302 (October 21, 2006): 46-48.
The Washington Post, January 21, 2007, p. BW15.
(The entire section is 51 words.)