Thomas Hardy
Far from the Madding Crowd
Jude the Obscure
The Mayor of Casterbridge
Squire Petrick's Lady
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Study Guide

"Lucetta had been unable to restrain her glance from flitting across into Farfrae's eyes like a bird to its nest. But Henchard was constructed upon too large a scale to discern such minutiae as these by any evening light, which to him were as the notes of an insect that lie above the compass of the human ear." (The Mayor of Casterbridge)

Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset, in the village of Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester to a simple rural life. In his early years, his mother supported his love for books while his father, a stonemason by trade, taught him the violin. After his schooling in Dorchester, Hardy pursued a career as an architect, training as an apprentice locally when he was 16. He left the rural South West at the age of 22 and travelled to London where he worked as an architect for Arthur Blomfield. This was a period of great change for the young Hardy who was used to rural existence and had held a strong enough faith to consider taking Holy Orders in the early 1860s. In the metropolis his passion for reading continued but he lived amid the bustle of city life and like many 19th century intellectuals he lost his faith and became an agnostic.

In 1867, homesick for the countryside that would later become the setting for many of his novels, he returned to Dorchester where he continued his work in architecture but began to write. During this period he wrote the unpublished novel, The Poor Man and the Lady. He continued writing and found a publisher for Desperate Remedies (1871). He followed this novel with Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873) and Far from the Madding Crowd (1874). The success of these books allowed him to give up architecture and marry Emma Gifford who he had met in Cornwall in 1868. It was a marriage filled with difficulties, many of which are reflected in the turmoil of relationships in his novels, for instance those of Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886). However, the couple travelled together in Europe and despite his reservations about the city and its influence upon rural life, Hardy visited London annually for months at a time. Even so, Hardy consistently portrayed England in terms of its rural life (albeit a rural life ever more infringed upon by outside influences and new technology), specifically the southwestern counties or "Wessex". He wrote prolifically and not only novels but also short stories and poetry.

After moving to Max Gate house in 1885, Hardy gained plaudits among the aristocracy and in literary circles, though reviewers of his books typically condemned the bleakness of his outlook and his works' "immorality". Hostile criticism reached a head with the Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) - which was initially rejected for publication - and Jude the Obscure (1895), which outlined the difficulties of his marriage and was referred to cruelly by G. K. Chesterton as "The village aesthetic brooding over the village idiot". Neither of these novels, in spite of their undoubted strengths as literature are terribly optimistic tomes. As such Hardy gave up writing novels. In later years he concentrated on writing poetry (which he valued more highly) to limited applause and wrote a blank verse and prose drama entitled The Dynasts (1904-8). His wife died in 1912, and Hardy married Florence Dugdale in 1914. His literary friendships included such luminaries as George Bernard Shaw and Algernon Charles Swinburne.

In his quieter last decade, numerous public honours including the Order of Merit were bestowed upon him and he gained honorary degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He was even nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literatue, though he did not win. Since his death his poetry has been as influential as his prose. Like Wordsworth he attempted to write in common language and with the simplicity of speech, an aspect of his poetry greatly admired and regularly imitated by later twentieth century poets such as Larkin. His themes, though, followed those of his novels: death; cruel ironies in life and romance; and the struggle of man against his own desires and the perils of an advancing civilization.

Matsuoka's Homepage Elaborate and extensive set of links to all different things about Thomas Hardy, including the Thomas Hardy Society of Japan, mailing and discussion lists, etc.
Calendar of Authors Resource site which contains a biography and further information on Thomas Hardy Comprehensive site about the victorian writer. Includes a detailed chronology and information about Thomas Hardy
MWS Resource site which contains a biography, a timeline, Media Information's and further links

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