Thomas Hardy’s Literary Life
Author Biography: Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in the Southwestern English village of Upper Bockhampton. His father was a stone worker who also played the violin. His mother loved reading and telling stories about the region’s folk songs and folklore. Hardy inherited all of the passions that would surface in his writings and in his own life from his parents: his love of architecture and music, his interest in country folk cultures, and his passion for all types of reading.
Hardy began attending Julia Martin’s school in Bockhampton when he was eight years old. However, the most of his education came from literature he discovered in Dorchester, a nearby town. He taught himself French, German, and Latin with these texts. Hardy’s father apprenticed his son to a local architect, John Hicks, when he was sixteen. Hardy learned a lot about architectural drawing and renovating historic houses and churches from Hicks. Hardy enjoyed the apprenticeship since it allowed him to learn about the houses and the families who lived in them. Despite his busy schedule, Hardy did not neglect his studies: in the evenings, he would study with the Greek scholar Horace Moule.
Hardy was transferred to London in 1862 to work with the architect Arthur Blomfield. Hardy immersed himself in the cultural life of London for five years, visiting museums and theatres and studying classic literature. He even started writing his own poetry. Although he did not stay in London, preferring to return to Dorchester as a church restorer, he did bring his newfound ability for writing with him.
Hardy began writing poems and novels in 1867, while the first half of his career was devoted to the fiction. He began publishing anonymously at first, but when people gained interested in his work, he began to use his own identity. Hardy’s novels, like Dickens’, were serialised in popular publications in both England and America. Under the Greenwood Tree, his first popular work, was published in 1872. Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), Hardy’s second big novel, was so successful that he was able to give up architecture and marry Emma Gifford with the proceeds. Other well-known novels that followed quickly were The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1892). (1895). Hardy also released three collections of short tales and five minor novels, all of which were reasonably successful. Despite the praise heaped on Hardy’s fiction, many critics considered it too disturbing, particularly Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. The backlash against Jude was so intense that Hardy decided to abandon novel writing and return to his first great love, poetry.
Hardy had spent many years dividing his time between his Dorchester home, Max Gate, and his London accommodations. In his final years, he stayed in Dorchester to concentrate only on his poems. With the publishing of Wessex Poems in 1898, he accomplished his aim of becoming a poet. He next devoted his attention to The Dynasts, an epic verse drama that was finally completed in 1908. He had written over 800 poems before his death, many of which were published while he was in his seventies.
By the last two decades of Hardy’s life, he had reached fame comparable to that of Charles Dickens. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1910. New readers were also introduced to Hardy’s novels as a result of the publishing of the Wessex Editions, which were the definitive editions of all of Hardy’s early writings. As a result, Max Gate was transformed into a literary shrine.
Hardy found contentment in his personal life as well. Emma, his first wife, died in 1912. Despite the fact that their marriage had not been joyful, Hardy was devastated by her untimely demise. He married Florence Dugale in 1914, and she was loyal to him. Florence released Hardy’s memoirs in two sections after his death, under her own name.
Thomas Hardy died on January 11, 1928, at the age of 87, after a long and prosperous life. His ashes were interred at Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner.