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Thomas Hardy was an English author of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best remembered for his pessimistic novels of the Naturalist school, including Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895), though he turned his attentions to poetry later in his career. Thomas Hardy set many of his novels in the semi-fictional Wessex, representing south and southwest England, and used his work to address many of the social ills of his era. Though much of it was controversial at the time of publication, Hardy's work now has a place among the classics of Victorian literature.
Thomas Hardy was born on 2 June 1840 near Dorchester in Dorset, England, a town he would later immortalize in his fiction as "Casterbridge." Hardy's father was a stonemason, while his mother ensured that he had a good education. At the age of 16, Thomas Hardy began an apprenticeship with a local architect. He gained success as an architect, working in Dorset and London, before turning to a full-time literary career in 1874.
Thomas Hardy wrote his first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, in 1867, though he was unable to find a publisher and later destroyed the manuscript. His next two novels were published anonymously in 1871 and 1872. Thomas Hardy met the woman who would become his wife, Emma Lavinia Gifford, in 1870, and wrote about their courtship in his 1873 novel A Pair of Blue Eyes, the first published under his name.
Thomas Hardy finally gained acclaim as a writer in 1874 with Far from the Madding Crowd, allowing him to give up his career in architecture for one in literature. Hardy began increasingly to criticize what he saw as the hypocrisy of his day, shocking Victorian morality. Tess of the D'Urbervilles dealt with a "fallen woman" who became pregnant out of wedlock, while Jude the Obscure, his final novel, dealt with a couple who chose not to marry, though they lived together and had children -- with ultimately tragic consequences.
After Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy gave up novel writing and turned instead to poetry, publishing several volumes over the remainder of his life. He was deeply affected by the death of his wife in 1912, and many of his poems of that year deal with his feelings of grief. In 1914, Thomas Hardy married his secretary, Florence Dugdale.
Thomas Hardy died on 11 January 1928 of pleurisy. His heart was buried at the grave of his first wife, while his ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner. Unfortunately, Hardy's unpublished manuscripts and letters were burned by his executors after his death. Hardy posthumously received much more acclaim than he ever did during his lifetime, inspiring later writers and earning a place in the literary canon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who was Thomas Hardy and why is he significant in literature?
Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet, born on June 2, 1840, in Dorset, England. He is significant for his contributions to the naturalist movement, with his novels set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex. Hardy's works, such as "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" and "Far from the Madding Crowd," are renowned for their critical portrayal of Victorian society, particularly concerning the struggles of the rural working class. His literary style combines a deep sense of melancholy with a profound empathy for his characters, making his work timeless and influential.
What are some of Thomas Hardy's most famous works?
Thomas Hardy's most famous novels include "Tess of the d'Urbervilles," "The Mayor of Casterbridge," "Jude the Obscure," and "Far from the Madding Crowd." These works are celebrated for their exploration of tragic characters, social criticism, and the role of fate in life. Hardy's poetry, particularly collections like "Wessex Poems" and "Poems of the Past and the Present," is also highly regarded for its themes of nature, love, and loss.
How did Thomas Hardy's upbringing influence his writing?
Thomas Hardy's upbringing in rural Dorset had a profound influence on his writing. The landscapes, customs, and people of the region are intricately woven into the fabric of his fictional Wessex. Hardy's early experiences with the class divisions and the hardships of country life are reflected in his novels, which often depict the societal constraints and personal struggles of his characters. His architectural training also influenced his detailed descriptions of settings and buildings in his narratives.
What themes are commonly explored in Thomas Hardy's literature?
Common themes in Thomas Hardy's literature include the inevitability of fate, the conflict between tradition and progress, the constraints of society on the individual, and the natural world's beauty and cruelty. Hardy often examined the human condition, portraying characters who are in conflict with societal norms or who face moral dilemmas. His works also frequently explore the theme of unattainable love and the impact of the past on the present.
How has Thomas Hardy's work influenced modern literature?
Thomas Hardy's work has had a lasting influence on modern literature, particularly in the genres of naturalism and realism. His complex characters and detailed portrayal of rural life laid the groundwork for future writers to explore similar themes. Hardy's use of a fictional landscape as a microcosm of society has been emulated by numerous authors. Moreover, his poetic techniques and themes have shaped modernist and contemporary poetry, with his influence seen in the works of poets like Philip Larkin and novelists like D.H. Lawrence.