"Cruelty is the law pervading all nature and society; and we can't get out of it if we would." -- Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM (2 June 1840 — 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the naturalist movement, several poems display elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.
While he regarded himself primarily as a poet who composed novels mainly for financial gain, during his lifetime he was much better known for his novels, such as Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd, which earned him a reputation as a great novelist. The bulk of his fictional works, initially published as serials in magazines, were set in the semi-fictional land of Wessex (based on the Dorchester region where he grew up) and explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances.
Hardy's poetry, first published in his fifties, has come to be as well-regarded as his novels and has had a significant influence over modern English poetry, especially after The Movement poets of the 1950s and 1960s cited Hardy as a major figure.
"A lover without indiscretion is no lover at all.""A resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.""A woman would rather visit her own grave than the place where she has been young and beautiful after she is aged and ugly.""And yet to every bad there is a worse.""Aspect are within us, and who seems most kingly is king.""Dialect words are those terrible marks of the beast to the truly genteel.""Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons.""Everybody is so talented nowadays that the only people I care to honor as deserving real distinction are those who remain in obscurity.""Fear is the mother of foresight.""Give the enemy not only a road for flight, but also a means of defending it.""Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.""I am the family face; flesh perishes, I live on.""I was court-martial in my absence, and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence.""If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.""If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.""It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.""Like the British Constitution, she owes her success in practice to her inconsistencies in principle.""My argument is that War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading.""My opinion is that a poet should express the emotion of all the ages and the thought of his own.""No one can read with profit that which he cannot learn to read with pleasure.""Of course poets have morals and manners of their own, and custom is no argument with them.""Patience, that blending of moral courage with physical timidity.""Poetry is emotion put into measure. The emotion must come by nature, but the measure can be acquired by art.""Some folk want their luck buttered.""That man's silence is wonderful to listen to.""The main object of religion is not to get a man into heaven, but to get heaven into him.""The offhand decision of some commonplace mind high in office at a critical moment influences the course of events for a hundred years.""The resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.""The sky was clear - remarkably clear - and the twinkling of all the stars seemed to be but throbs of one body, timed by a common pulse.""The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes.""The value of old age depends upon the person who reaches it. To some men of early performance it is useless. To others, who are late to develop, it just enables them to finish the job.""There are accents in the eye which are not on the tongue, and more tales come from pale lips than can enter an ear. It is both the grandeur and the pain of the remoter moods that they avoid the pathway of sound.""There is a condition worse than blindness, and that is, seeing something that isn't there.""Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.""Yes; quaint and curious war is! You shoot a fellow down you'd treat if met where any bar is, or help to half-a-crown.""You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them.""You was a good man, and did good things."
Thomas Hardy was born at Higher Bockhampton, a hamlet in the parish of Stinsford to the east of Dorchester in Dorset, England. His father (Thomas) worked as a stonemason and local builder. His mother Jemima was well-read and educated Thomas until he went to his first school at Bockhampton at age eight. For several years he attended a school run by a Mr Last. Here he learned Latin and demonstrated academic potential. However, a family of Hardy's social position lacked the means for a university education, and his formal education ended at the age of 16 when he became apprenticed to John Hicks, a local architect. Hardy trained as an architect in Dorchester before moving to London in 1862; there he enrolled as a student at King's College, London. He won prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectural Association. Hardy never felt at home in London. He was acutely conscious of class divisions and his social inferiority. However, he was interested in social reform and was familiar with the works of John Stuart Mill. He was also introduced to the works of Charles Fourier and Auguste Comte during this period by his Dorset friend Horace Moule. Five years later, concerned about his health, he returned to Dorset and decided to dedicate himself to writing.In 1870, while on an architectural mission to restore the parish church of St Juliot in Cornwall, Hardy met and fell in love with Emma Lavinia Gifford, whom he married in 1874. Although he later became estranged from his wife, who died in 1912, her death had a traumatic effect on him. After her death, Hardy made a trip to Cornwall to revisit places linked with their courtship, and his Poems 1912—13 reflect upon her passing. In 1914, Hardy married his secretary Florence Emily Dugdale, who was 39 years his junior. However, he remained preoccupied with his first wife's death and tried to overcome his remorse by writing poetry.
Hardy became ill with pleurisy in December 1927 and died at Max Gate just after 9 p.m. on 11 January 1928, having dictated his final poem to his wife on his deathbed; the cause of death was cited, on his death certificate, as "cardiac syncope", with "old age" given as a contributory factor. His funeral was on 16 January at Westminster Abbey, and it proved a controversial occasion because Hardy and his family and friends had wished for his body to be interred at Stinsford in the same grave as his first wife, Emma. However, his executor, Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, insisted that he be placed in the abbey's famous Poets' Corner. A compromise was reached whereby his heart was buried at Stinsford with Emma, and his ashes in Poets' Corner.
Shortly after Hardy's death, the executors of his estate burnt his letters and notebooks. Twelve records survived, one of them containing notes and extracts of newspaper stories from the 1820s. Research into these provided insight into how Hardy kept track of them and how he used them in his later work. In the year of his death Mrs Hardy published The Early Life of Thomas Hardy, 1841—1891: compiled largely from contemporary notes, letters, diaries, and biographical memoranda, as well as from oral information in conversations extending over many years.Hardy's work was admired by many authors including D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. In his autobiography Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves recalls meeting Hardy in Dorset in the early 1920s. Hardy received him and his new wife warmly, and was encouraging about his work.
In 1910, Hardy was awarded the Order of Merit.
Hardy's cottage at Bockhampton and Max Gate in Dorchester are owned by the National Trust.
Hardy's family was Anglican, but not especially devout. He was baptised at the age of five weeks and attended church, where his father and uncle contributed to music. However, he did not attend the local Church of England school, instead being sent to Mr Last's school, three miles away. As a young adult, he befriended Henry R. Bastow (a Plymouth Brethren man), who also worked as a pupil architect, and who was preparing for adult baptism in the Baptist Church. Hardy flirted with conversion, but decided against it. Bastow went to Australia and maintained a long correspondence with Hardy, but eventually Hardy tired of these exchanges and the correspondence ceased. This concluded Hardy's links with the Baptists.
Hardy’s idea of fate in life gave way to his philosophical struggle with God. Although Hardy’s faith remained intact, the irony and struggles of life led him to question the traditional Christian view of God: Hardy's religious life seems to have mixed agnosticism, deism, and spiritism. Once, when asked in correspondence by a clergyman about the question of reconciling the horrors of pain with the goodness of a loving God, Hardy replied,
Nevertheless, Hardy frequently conceived of and wrote about supernatural forces that control the universe, more through indifference or caprice than any firm will. Also, Hardy showed in his writing some degree of fascination with ghosts and spirits. Despite these sentiments, Hardy retained a strong emotional attachment to the Christian liturgy and church rituals, particularly as manifested in rural communities, that had been such a formative influence in his early years, and Biblical references can be found woven throughout many of Hardy's novels.
Hardy's friends during his apprenticeship to John Hicks included Horace Moule (one of the eight sons of Henry Moule) and the poet William Barnes, both ministers of religion. Moule remained a close friend of Hardy's for the rest of his life, and introduced him to new scientific findings that cast doubt on literal interpretations of the Bible, such as those of Gideon Mantell. Moule gave Hardy a copy of Mantell's book The Wonders of Geology (1848) in 1858, and Adelene Buckland has suggested that there are "compelling similarities" between the "cliffhanger" section from A Pair of Blue Eyes and Mantell's geological descriptions. It has also been suggested that the character of Henry Knight in A Pair of Blue Eyes was based on Horace Moule.
Hardy's first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, finished by 1867, failed to find a publisher and Hardy destroyed the manuscript so only parts of the novel remain. He was encouraged to try again by his mentor and friend, Victorian poet and novelist George Meredith. Desperate Remedies (1871) and Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) were published anonymously. In 1873 A Pair of Blue Eyes, a novel drawing on Hardy's courtship of his first wife, was published under his own name. The term "cliffhanger" is considered to have originated with the serialized version of this story (which was published in Tinsley's Magazine between September 1872 and July 1873) in which Henry Knight, one of the protagonists, is left literally hanging off a cliff.
Hardy said that he first introduced Wessex in Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), his next novel. It was successful enough for Hardy to give up architectural work and pursue a literary career. Over the next twenty-five years Hardy produced ten more novels.
The Hardys moved from London to Yeovil and then to Sturminster Newton, where he wrote The Return of the Native (1878). In 1885, they moved for a last time, to Max Gate, a house outside Dorchester designed by Hardy and built by his brother. There he wrote The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), and Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), the last of which attracted criticism for its sympathetic portrayal of a "fallen woman" and was initially refused publication. Its subtitle, A Pure Woman: Faithfully Presented, was intended to raise the eyebrows of the Victorian middle-classes.
Jude the Obscure, published in 1895, met with even stronger negative outcries from the Victorian public for its frank treatment of sex, and was often referred to as "Jude the Obscene". Heavily criticised for its apparent attack on the institution of marriage through the presentation of such concepts as erotolepsy, the book caused further strain on Hardy's already difficult marriage because Emma Hardy was concerned that Jude the Obscure would be read as autobiographical. Some booksellers sold the novel in brown paper bags, and the Bishop of Wakefield is reputed to have burnt his copy. In his postscript of 1912, Hardy humorously referred to this incident as part of the career of the book: "After these [hostile] verdicts from the press its next misfortune was to be burnt by a bishop ... probably in his despair at not being able to burn me".Despite this criticism, Hardy had become a celebrity in English literature by the 1900s, with several highly successful novels behind him, yet he felt disgust at the public reception of two of his greatest works and gave up writing fiction altogether. Other novels written by Hardy includeTwo on a Tower a romance story set in the world of Astronomy
Although he wrote a great deal of poetry, most of it went unpublished until after 1898, thus Hardy is best remembered for the series of novels and short stories he wrote between 1871 and 1895. His novels are set in the imaginary world of Wessex, a large area of south and south-west England, using the name of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom that covered the area. Hardy was part of two worlds. He had a deep emotional bond with the rural way of life which he had known as a child, but he was also aware of the changes which were under way and the current social problems, from the innovations in agriculture ... he captured the epoch just before the Industrial Revolution changed the English countryside ... to the unfairness and hypocrisy of Victorian sexual behaviour.
Hardy critiques certain social constraints that hindered the lives of those living in the 19th century. Considered a Victorian Realist writer, Hardy examines the social constraints that are part of the Victorian status quo, suggesting these rules hinder the lives of all involved and ultimately lead to unhappiness. In Two on a Tower, Hardy seeks to take a stand against these rules and sets up a story against the backdrop of social structure by creating a story of love that crosses the boundaries of class. The reader is forced to consider disposing of the conventions set up for love. Nineteenth-century society enforces these conventions, and societal pressure ensures conformity. Swithin St Cleeve's idealism pits him against contemporary social constraints. He is a self-willed individual set up against the coercive strictures of social rules and mores.
Hardy’s stories take into consideration the events of life and their effects. Fate plays a significant role as the thematic basis for many of his novels. Characters are constantly encountering crossroads, which are symbolic of a point of opportunity and transition. Far From the Madding Crowd tells a tale of lives that are constructed by chance. “Had Bathsheba not sent the valentine, had Fanny not missed her wedding, for example, the story would have taken an entirely different path.” Once things have been put into motion, they will play out. Hardy's characters are in the grips of an overwhelming fate.
Hardy paints a vivid picture of rural life in the 19th century, with all its joys and suffering, as a fatalistic world full of superstition and injustice. His heroes and heroines are often alienated from society and are rarely readmitted. He tends to emphasise the impersonal and, generally, negative powers of fate over the mainly working class people he represents in his novels. Hardy exhibits in his books elemental passion, deep instinct, and the human will struggling against fatal and ill-comprehended laws, a victim also of unforeseeable change. Tess of the d'Urbervilles, for example, ends with:
In particular, Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure is full of the sense of crisis of the later Victorian period (as witnessed in Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach'). It describes the tragedy of two new social types, Jude Fawley, a working man who attempts to educate himself, and his lover and cousin, Sue Bridehead, who represents the 'new woman' of the 1890s.
His mastery, as both an author and poet, lies in the creation of natural surroundings making discoveries through close observation and acute sensitiveness. He notices the smallest and most delicate details, yet he can also paint vast landscapes of his own Wessex in melancholy or noble moods. (His eye for poignant detail ... such as the spreading bloodstain on the ceiling at the end of Tess of the d'Urbervilles and little Jude's suicide note ... often came from clippings from newspaper reports of real events).
For the full text of several poems, see the External links section
In 1898 Hardy published his first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems, a collection of poems written over 30 years. Hardy claimed poetry as his first love, and published collections until his death in 1928. Although his poems were not as well received by his contemporaries as his novels, Hardy is now recognized as one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. His verse had a profound influence on later writers, notably Philip Larkin, who included many of Hardy's poems in the edition of the Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse that Larkin edited in 1973.
In a recent biography on Hardy, Claire Tomalin argues that Hardy became a truly great English poet after the death of his first wife, Emma, beginning with the elegies he wrote in her memory, calling these poems, "one of the finest and strangest celebrations of the dead in English poetry."
Most of his poems such as "Neutral Tones'", deal with themes of disappointment in love and life, and mankind's long struggle against indifference to human suffering. Some, like "The Darkling Thrush" and "An August Midnight", appear as poems about writing poetry, because the nature mentioned in them gives Hardy the inspiration to write those. A vein of regret tinges his often seemingly banal themes. His compositions range in style from the three-volume epic closet drama The Dynasts to smaller, and often hopeful or even cheerful ballads of the moment such as the little-known "The Children and Sir Nameless", a comic poem inspired by the tombs of the Martyns, builders of Athelhampton. A particularly strong theme in the Wessex Poems is the long shadow that the Napoleonic Wars cast over the nineteenth century, for example, in "The Sergeant's Song" and "Leipzig", and the way those memories wind through the English landscape and its inhabitants.
A few of Hardy's poems, such as "The Blinded Bird" (a melancholy polemic against the sport of ), display his love of the natural world and his firm stance against animal cruelty, exhibited in his antivivisectionist views and his membership in the RSPCA.
Composers who have set Hardy's text to music include Gerald Finzi, who produced six song-cycles for poems by Hardy, Benjamin Britten, who based his song-cycle Winter Words on Hardy's poetry, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst. Holst also based one of his last orchestral works, Egdon Heath, on Hardy's work. Composer Lee Hoiby's setting of "The Darkling Thrush" became the basis of the multimedia opera Darkling and Timothy C. Takach, a Minneapolis-based composer, has also set "The Darkling Thrush" as an original composition for four-part a cappella mixed choir.
Berkshire is North Wessex,Devon is Lower Wessex,Dorset is South Wessex,Somerset is Outer or Nether Wessex,Wiltshire is Mid-Wessex,
Bere Regis is King's-Bere of Tess,Bincombe Down cross roads is the scene of the military execution in A Melancholy Hussar. It is a true story, the deserters from the German Legion were shot in 1801 and are recorded in the parish register.Bindon Abbey is where Clare carried her.Bournemouth is Sandbourne of Hand of Ethelberta and Tess of the d'Urbervilles,Bridport is Port Bredy,Charborough House and its folly tower at is the model for Welland House in the novel Two on a Tower.Corfe Castle is the Corvsgate-Castle of Hand of Ethelberta.Cranborne Chase is The Chase scene of Tess's seduction. (Note ... Bowerchalke on Cranborne Chase at was the film location for the great fire in John Schlesinger's 1967 film Far from the Madding Crowd.)Milborne St Andrew is "Millpond St Judes" in Far From the Madding Crowd. Charborough House is located between Sturminster Marshall and Bere Regis.Charborough House and its folly tower at 50°46?38.75?N 2°6?7.09?W? / ?50.7774306°N 2.1019694°W? / 50.7774306; -2.1019694 is the model for Welland House in the novel Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy. Little England Cottage, Milborne St Andrew being the location of Swithin St Cleeves home and remains as described to this day.Dorchester, Dorset is Casterbridge, the scene of Mayor of Casterbridge.Dunster Castle in Somerset is Castle De Stancy of A Laodicean.Fordington moor is Durnover moor and fields.Greenhill Fair near Bere Regis is Woodbury Hill Fair,Lulworth Cove is Lulstead Cove,Marnhull is Marlott of Tess of the D'Urbervilles,Melbury House near Evershot is Great Hintock Court in A Group of Noble Dames.Minterne is Little Hintock,Owermoigne is Nether Moynton in Wessex Tales.
Piddlehinton and Piddle Trenthide are the Longpuddle of A Few Crusted Characters.Puddletown Heath, Moreton Heath, Tincleton Heath and Bere Heath are Egdon Heath.Poole is Havenpool in Life's Little Ironies.Portland is the scene of The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved.Puddletown is Weatherbury in Far from the Madding Crowd,River Frome valley is the scene of Talbothays dairy in Tess.Salisbury is Melchester in On the Western Circuit, Life's Little Ironies and Jude the Obscure etc.Shaftesbury is Shaston in Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure.Sherborne is Sherton-Abbas,Sherborne Castle is home of Lady Baxby in A Group of Noble Dames.Stonehenge is the scene of Tess's apprehension.Sutton Poyntz is Overcombe.Swanage is the Knollsea of Hand of Ethelberta.Taunton is known as Toneborough in both Hardy's novels and poems.Wantage is Alfredston, of Jude the Obscure. Fawley, Berkshire is Marygreen of Jude the Obscure.Weyhill is Weydon Priors,Weymouth is Budmouth Regis, the scene of Trumpet Major & portions of other novels;Winchester is Wintoncester where Tess was executed. Wimborne is Warborne of Two on a Tower.Wolfeton House, near Dorchester is the scene of The Lady Penelope in a Group of Noble Dames.Woolbridge old Manor House, close to Wool station, is the scene of Tess's confession and honeymoon.
Hardy provides the springboard for D. H. Lawrence's Study of Thomas Hardy (1936). Though this work became a platform for Lawrence's own developing philosophy rather than a more standard literary study, the influence of Hardy's treatment of character and Lawrence's own response to the central metaphysic behind many of Hardy's novels helped significantly in the development of The Rainbow (1915, suppressed) and Women in Love (1920, private publication). Hardy was clearly the starting point for the character of the novelist Edward Driffield in W Somerset Maugham's novel Cakes and Ale. Thomas Hardy's works feature prominently in the narrative in Christopher Durang's The Marriage of Bette and Boo, in which a graduate thesis analysing Tess of the d'Urbervilles is interspersed with analysis of Matt's family's neuroses.
Hardy divided his novels and collected short stories into three classes:
Novels of Character and Environment
The Poor Man and the Lady (1867, unpublished and lost)
Under the Greenwood Tree (1872)
Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)
The Return of the Native (1878)
The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)
The Woodlanders (1887)
Wessex Tales (1888, a collection of short stories)
Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891)
Life's Little Ironies (1894, a collection of short stories)
Jude the Obscure (1895)
Romances and Fantasies
A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873)
The Trumpet-Major (1880)
Two on a Tower (1882)
A Group of Noble Dames (1891, a collection of short stories)
The Well-Beloved (1897) (first published as a serial from 1892)
Novels of Ingenuity
Desperate Remedies (1871)
The Hand of Ethelberta (1876)
A Laodicean (1881)
Hardy also produced a number of minor tales and a collaborative novel, The Spectre of the Real (1894). An additional short-story collection, beyond the ones mentioned above, is A Changed Man and Other Tales (1913). His works have been collected as the 24-volume Wessex Edition (1912—13) and the 37-volume Mellstock Edition (1919—20). His largely self-written biography appears under his second wife's name in two volumes from 1928—30, as The Early Life of Thomas Hardy, 1840—91 and The Later Years of Thomas Hardy, 1892—1928, now published in a critical one-volume edition as The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy, edited by Michael Millgate (1984).
Short Story Collections
Life's Little Ironies
Short stories (with date of first publication)
"How I Built Myself A House" (1865)
"Destiny and a Blue Cloak" (1874)
"The Thieves Who Couldn't Stop Sneezing" (1877)
"The Duchess of Hamptonshire" (1878)
"The Distracted Preacher" (1879)
"The Honourable Laura" (1881)
"What The Shepherd Saw" (1881)
"A Tradition of Eighteen Hundred and Four" (1882)
"The Three Strangers" (1883)
"The Romantic Adventures Of A Milkmaid" (1883)
"Interlopers At The Knap" (1884)
"A Mere Interlude" (1885) (republished in Penguin Great Loves series)
"A Tryst At An Ancient Earthwork" (1885)
"Alicia's Diary" (1887)
"The Waiting Supper" (1887—88)
"The Withered Arm" (1888)
"A Tragedy Of Two Ambitions" (1888)
"The First Countess of Wessex" (1889)
"Anna, Lady Baxby" (1890)
"The Lady Icenway" (1890)
"Lady Mottisfont" (1890)
"The Lady Penelope" (1890)
"The Marchioness of Stonehenge" (1890)
"Squire Petrick's Lady" (1890)
"Barbara Of The House Of Grebe" (1890)
"The Melancholy Hussar of The German Legion" (1890)
"Absent-Mindedness in a Parish Choir" (1891)
"The Winters And The Palmleys" (1891)
"For Conscience' Sake" (1891)
"Incident in Mr. Crookhill's Life"(1891)
"The Doctor's Legend" (1891)
"Andrey Satchel and the Parson and Clerk" (1891)
"The History of the Hardcomes" (1891)
"Netty Sargent's Copyhold" (1891)
"On The Western Circuit" (1891)
"A Few Crusted Characters: Introduction" (1891)
"The Superstitious Man's Story" (1891)
"Tony Kytes, the Arch-Deceiver" (1891)
"To Please His Wife" (1891)
"The Son's Veto" (1891)
"Old Andrey's Experience as a Musician" (1891)
"Our Exploits At West Poley" (1892—93)
"Master John Horseleigh, Knight" (1893)
"The Fiddler of the Reels" (1893)
"An Imaginative Woman" (1894)
"The Spectre of the Real" (1894)
"A Committee-Man of 'The Terror'" (1896)
"The Duke's Reappearance" (1896)
"The Grave By The Handpost" (1897)
"A Changed Man" (1900)
"Enter a Dragoon" (1900)
"Blue Jimmy: The Horse Stealer" (1911)
"Old Mrs. Chundle" (1929)
The Photograph (1890)
Wessex Poems and Other Verses (1898)
Poems of the Past and Present (1901)
The Man He Killed (1902)
Time's Laughingstocks and Other Verses (1909)
The Voice (1912)
Satires of Circumstance (1914)
Moments of Vision (1917)
Collected Poems (1919)
Late Lyrics and Earlier with Many Other Verses (1922)
Human Shows, Far Phantasies, Songs and Trifles (1925)
Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres (1928)
The Complete Poems (Macmillan, 1976)
Selected Poems (Edited by Harry Thomas, Penguin, 1993)