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Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy Thomas Hardy[1†]

Thomas Hardy (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) was an English novelist, poet, and short story writer[1†]. Born in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England, Hardy was the eldest of the four children of Thomas Hardy, a stonemason and jobbing builder, and his wife, Jemima (née Hand)[1†][2†][1†]. He grew up in an isolated cottage on the edge of open heathland[1†][2†].

Hardy’s work is set much in Wessex, his name for the counties of southwestern England[1†][2†][1†]. His novels and poetry are marked by his largely pessimistic views on humanity[1†][3†]. Despite this, Hardy’s work has had a profound impact on literature. His novels include “Far from the Madding Crowd”, “The Mayor of Casterbridge”, “Tess of the d’Ubervilles”, and "Jude the Obscure"[1†][2†][1†].

Hardy’s writing career began as a novelist, with his first novel “Desperate Remedies” being published in 1871[1†][4†]. However, he gained fame for his later novels and was successful enough to leave the field of architecture for writing[1†][4†]. Despite his success as a novelist, Hardy regarded himself primarily as a poet, and his first collection was not published until 1898[1†].

Hardy’s work has been critically acclaimed, and he has been recognized as a mentor by younger poets[1†]. His novels and poetry have been influential, and his work continues to be celebrated today[1†].

Early Years and Education

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England[2†][1†]. He was the eldest of the four children of Thomas Hardy, a stonemason and jobbing builder, and his wife, Jemima (née Hand)[2†][1†]. Hardy grew up in an isolated cottage on the edge of open heathland[2†][1†]. His early experience of rural life, with its seasonal rhythms and oral culture, was fundamental to much of his later writing[2†].

Hardy was educated by his parents, especially his mother, Jemima, who was well-read and transferred her love for literature to her son[2†][5†][6†]. He was able to read before starting school[2†][6†]. At the age of eight, he spent a year at the village school[2†]. For several years, he attended Mr. Last’s Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dorchester, where he received a good grounding in mathematics and Latin[2†][1†][5†].

In 1856, at the age of sixteen, Hardy was apprenticed to John Hicks, a local architect[2†][1†][7†]. In 1862, shortly before his 22nd birthday, he moved to London and became a draftsman in the busy office of Arthur Blomfield, a leading ecclesiastical architect[2†]. Driven back to Dorset by ill health in 1867, he worked for Hicks again and then for the Weymouth architect G.R. Crickmay[2†].

Though architecture brought Hardy both social and economic advancement, it was only in the mid-1860s that lack of funds and declining religious faith forced him to abandon his early ambitions of a university education and eventual ordination as an Anglican priest[2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Thomas Hardy began his career as a novelist, with his first novel “Desperate Remedies” being published in 1871[8†][9†]. He gained fame as the author of novels such as “Far from the Madding Crowd” (1874), “The Mayor of Casterbridge” (1886), “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” (1891), and “Jude the Obscure” (1895)[8†][2†][1†][9†]. His novels are set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex, initially based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Hardy’s Wessex eventually came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire, and much of Berkshire, in south-west and south-central England[8†][1†].

Despite his success as a novelist, Hardy regarded himself primarily as a poet[8†][1†]. His first collection was not published until 1898[8†][1†]. During his lifetime, Hardy’s poetry was acclaimed by younger poets, particularly the Georgians, who viewed him as a mentor[8†][1†]. His poems were later lauded by Ezra Pound, W. H. Auden, and Philip Larkin[8†][1†].

Hardy’s long career spanned the Victorian and the modern eras[8†][9†]. He wrote fourteen novels, three volumes of short stories, and several poems between the years 1871 and 1897[8†][9†]. His work is marked by his largely pessimistic views on humanity[8†][1†]. Despite this, Hardy’s work has had a profound impact on literature[8†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Thomas Hardy’s literary career began with the publication of his first professional article, “How I Built Myself a House”, in 1865[10†]. However, his first novel, “Desperate Remedies”, was not published until 1871[10†][11†][10†]. This was followed by “Under the Greenwood Tree” and “A Pair of Blue Eyes” over the next five years[10†].

Here are some of Hardy’s main works, along with the year of their first publication:

Each of these works contributed significantly to Hardy’s reputation as a novelist. For instance, “Far from the Madding Crowd”, published in 1874, was Hardy’s first critical and commercial success[10†][1†]. Similarly, “The Mayor of Casterbridge”, “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”, and “Jude the Obscure” are considered some of Hardy’s most influential works[10†][1†].

Despite his success as a novelist, Hardy regarded himself primarily as a poet. His first collection of poetry was not published until 1898[10†][1†]. His poetry was acclaimed by younger poets who viewed him as a mentor[10†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Thomas Hardy’s work, both his novels and poetry, have been the subject of extensive analysis and evaluation[8†][12†][13†]. His writing is known for its intricate plotting, which some attribute to his training as an architect[8†]. Hardy’s work often explores themes of destiny and the limitations of human free will[8†].

His first novel, “Desperate Remedies”, was published in 1871, and his subsequent novels, such as “Far from the Madding Crowd” and “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, have been recognized for their vivid portrayal of the Wessex countryside and their exploration of social issues[8†][12†]. His novels are also known for their complex characters and their exploration of the human condition[8†][12†].

Hardy’s poetry, particularly his epic verse drama “The Dynasts”, has also been the subject of critical analysis[8†][13†]. His poetry is noted for its exploration of similar themes as his novels, including destiny and the limitations of human free will[8†]. Despite the critical acclaim, his poetry has not drawn as many readers from the general public as his novels[8†].

Hardy’s work has been evaluated as a significant contribution to English literature. His novels are considered classics, and his poetry, while not as widely read, is regarded as an important part of his literary output[8†][12†][13†].

Personal Life

Thomas Hardy was a private individual who rarely discussed his personal life in public[14†][2†]. However, it is known that he had a deep love for music, a passion he inherited from his father[14†]. From an early age, he was playing the folk fiddle at local gatherings, and throughout his life, he could be moved to tears by certain pieces of music[14†].

In terms of his relationships, Hardy’s first marriage was to Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1874[14†][2†]. The couple did not have any children and their marriage became increasingly strained over the years[14†][2†]. Emma’s death in 1912 had a profound impact on Hardy, leading him to pen several poems expressing his grief and regret[14†][2†].

Two years after Emma’s death, Hardy married his secretary, Florence Emily Dugdale, who was 39 years his junior[14†][2†]. Their marriage lasted until Hardy’s death in 1928[14†][2†].

Hardy’s personal life, like his professional one, was marked by a deep sensitivity and a keen intellectual curiosity[14†]. These traits, along with his quiet, unassuming determination, greatly influenced his writing and left a lasting impression on his readers[14†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Thomas Hardy’s work has left an indelible mark on the literary world[15†]. His novels and poems, rich in their evocation of the rural world of southwestern England, continue to captivate readers with their combination of romantic plots and convincingly presented characters[15†][16†]. His works have been adapted for film and television, further testament to their enduring appeal[15†][16†].

Hardy’s unique status as a major 20th-century poet as well as a major 19th-century novelist is now universally recognized[15†][16†]. His explorations of Positivism have enriched the poetic worlds he created[15†]. Through his literary contributions, Hardy has enriched British heritage, contributing to a deeper understanding of Victorian society, human nature, and the landscapes of rural England[15†].

Despite the challenges he faced, including poverty and dismissal, Hardy’s story is one of hard work, perseverance, and an indomitable spirit[15†]. His journey from humble beginnings to literary acclaim is a testament to the virtue of hard work and perseverance[15†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Thomas Hardy [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Thomas Hardy: British writer [website] - link
  3. New World Encyclopedia - Thomas Hardy [website] - link
  4. Academy of American Poets - About Thomas Hardy [website] - link
  5. Literary Devices - Thomas Hardy [website] - link
  6. Encyclopedia of World Biography - Thomas Hardy Biography [website] - link
  7. CliffsNotes - Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy Biography [website] - link
  8. eNotes - Thomas Hardy Analysis [website] - link
  9. Victorian Era - Thomas Hardy: The most important poet and novelist in literary history [website] - link
  10. Google Books - The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy - Thomas Hardy [website] - link
  11. Book Series In Order - Thomas Hardy [website] - link
  12. Boston University OpenBU - Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles: interpretations, evaluations and analyses since 1891 [website] - link
  13. Stanford University SearchWorks - An historical evaluation of Thomas Hardy's poetry in SearchWorks catalog [website] - link
  14. The Thomas Hardy Society - Life of Thomas Hardy [website] - link
  15. British Heritage - Thomas Hardy - Victorian Novelist c. 1880s [website] - link
  16. Britannica - Thomas Hardy - Novelist, Poet, Wessex [website] - link
  17. Britannica Kids - Thomas Hardy [website] - link
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