Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy was a novelist, short story writer, and poet of the naturalist movement, who delineated characters struggling against their passions and circumstances. The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-imaginary county of Wessex, is marked by poetic descriptions, and fatalism.

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840 at Upper Bockhampton near Dorchester in Dorset. His father was a stonemason. His mother was ambitious and well-read and supplemented his formal education. Hardy trained as an architect in Dorchester before moving to London. He won prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectural Association.

Although Hardy was estranged from his wife, her death in 1912 had a traumatic effect on him. He made a trip to Cornwall to revisit places linked with her, and with their courtship, and wrote a series, Poems (1912-13), exploring his grief. But in 1914, he married Florence Dugdale, 40 years his junior, whom he had met in 1905. 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 and was encouraging about the younger author's work.

Hardy was a gloomy pessimist who emphasized the impersonal and, generally, negative powers of fate over the mainly working class people he represented in his novels. He was also a confirmed atheist, and some attribute the bleak outlook of many of his novels as reflecting his view of the absence of God.

In 1898, Hardy published his first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems, a collection of poems written over 30 years. Hardy claimed poetry was his first love, and published collections until his death. His poetry was not as well received by his contemporaries as his novels had been, but critical response to Hardy's poetry has warmed considerably in recent years. His poems deal with themes of disappointment in love and life, and mankind's long struggle against indifference to human suffering. Hardy fell ill with pleurisy in December 1927 and died January 11, 1928.

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Reader's Digest World's Best Reading
by Thomas Hardy
from Reader's Digest
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)