Biography of Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy was born June 2, 1840, in the village of Upper Bockhampton, located in Southwestern England. His father was a stone mason and a violinist. His mother enjoyed reading and relating all the folk songs and legends of the region. Between his parents, Hardy gained all the interests that would appear in his novels and his own life: his love for architecture and music, his interest in the lifestyles of the country folk, and his passion for all sorts of literature.
At the age of eight, Hardy began to attend Julia Martin's school in Bockhampton. However, most of his education came from the books he found in Dorchester, the nearby town. He learned French, German, and Latin by teaching himself through these books. At sixteen, Hardy's father apprenticed his son to a local architect, John Hicks. Under Hicks' tutelage, Hardy learned much about architectural drawing and restoring old houses and churches. Hardy loved the apprenticeship because it allowed him to learn the histories of the houses and the families that lived there. Despite his work, Hardy did not forget his academics: in the evenings, Hardy would study with the Greek scholar Horace Moule.
In 1862, Hardy was sent to London to work with the architect Arthur Blomfield. During his five years in London, Hardy immersed himself in the cultural scene by visiting the museums and theaters and studying classic literature. He even began to write his own poetry. Although he did not stay in London, choosing to return to Dorchester as a church restorer, he took his newfound talent for writing to Dorchester as well.
From 1867, Hardy wrote poetry and novels, though the first part of his career was devoted to the novel. At first he published anonymously, but when people became interested in his works, he began to use his own name. Like Dickens, Hardy's novels were published in serial forms in magazines that were popular in both England and America. His first popular novel was Under the Greenwood Tree, published in 1872. The next great novel, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) was so popular that with the profits, Hardy was able to give up architecture and marry Emma Gifford. Other popular novels followed in quick succession: The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). In addition to these larger works, Hardy published three collections of short stories and five smaller novels, all moderately successful. However, despite the praise Hardy's fiction received, many critics also found his works to be too shocking, especially Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. The outcry against Jude was so great that Hardy decided to stop writing novels and return to his first great love, poetry.
Over the years, Hardy had divided his time between his home, Max Gate, in Dorchester and his lodgings in London. In his later years, he remained in Dorchester to focus completely on his poetry. In 1898, he saw his dream of becoming a poet realized with the publication of Wessex Poems. He then turned his attentions to an epic drama in verse, The Dynasts; it was finally completed in 1908. Before his death, he had written over 800 poems, many of them published while he was in his eighties.
By the last two decades of Hardy's life, he had achieved fame as great as Dickens' fame. In 1910, he was awarded the Order of Merit. New readers had also discovered his novels by the publication of the Wessex Editions, the definitive versions of all Hardy's early works. As a result, Max Gate became a literary shrine.
Hardy also found happiness in his personal life. His first wife, Emma, died in 1912. Although their marriage had not been happy, Hardy grieved at her sudden death. In 1914, he married Florence Dugale, and she was extremely devoted to him. After his death, Florence published Hardy's autobiography in two parts under her own name.
After a long and highly successful life, Thomas Hardy died on January 11, 1928, at the age of 87. His ashes were buried in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey.
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Thomas Hardy Poems
"I Said To Love"
I said to Love, "It is not now as in old days When men adored thee and thy ways All else above;
A Broken Appointment
You did not come, And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb. Yet less for loss of your dear presence there Than that I thus found lacking in your make
I Need Not Go
I need not go Through sleet and snow To where I know She waits for me;
"How Great My Grief" (Triolet)
How great my grief, my joys how few, Since first it was my fate to know thee! - Have the slow years not brought to view How great my grief, my joys how few,
They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest Uncoffined -- just as found: His landmark is a kopje-crest That breaks the veldt around:
"Between Us Now"
Between us now and here - Two thrown together Who are not wont to wear Life's flushest feather -
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate, When Frost was spectre-gray, And Winter's dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day.
A Meeting With Despair
AS evening shaped I found me on a moor Which sight could scarce sustain: The black lean land, of featureless contour, Was like a tract in pain.
The Man He Killed
Had he and I but met By some old ancient inn, We should have set us down to wet Right many a nipperkin!
"I Have Lived With Shades"
I I have lived with shades so long, And talked to them so oft,
A Wife In London (December, 1899)
I--The Tragedy She sits in the tawny vapour That the City lanes have uprolled,
A Christmas Ghost Story.
South of the Line, inland from far Durban, A mouldering soldier lies--your countryman. Awry and doubled up are his gray bones, And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans
WE stood by a pond that winter day, And the sun was white, as though chidden of God, And a few leaves lay on the starving sod, --They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
A Thunderstorm In Town
She wore a 'terra-cotta' dress, And we stayed, because of the pelting storm, Within the hansom's dry recess, Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless
A dream of mine flew over the mead
To the halls where my old Love reigns;
And it drew me on to follow its lead:
And I stood at her window-panes;
And I saw but a thing of flesh and bone
Speeding on to its cleft in the clay;
And my dream was scared, and expired on a moan,
And I whitely hastened away.