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Poet Thomas Hardy Biography, Poems & Quotes

Classic Poetry

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Biography of Thomas Hardy 
  


              
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) own life wasn't similar to his stories. He was born on the Egdon Heath, in Dorset, near Dorchester. His father was a master mason and building contractor. Hardy's mother, whose tastes included Latin poets and French romances, provided for his education. After schooling in Dorchester Hardy was apprenticed to an architect. He worked in an office, which specialized in restoration of churches. In 1874 Hardy married Emma Lavinia Gifford, for whom he wrote 40 years later, after her death, a group of poems known as VETERIS VESTIGIAE FLAMMAE (Vestiges of an Old Flame).

At the age of 22 Hardy moved to London and started to write poems, which idealized the rural life. He was an assistant in the architectural firm of Arthur Blomfield, visited art galleries, attended evening classes in French at King's College, enjoyed Shakespeare and opera, and read works of Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and John Stuart Mills, whose positivism influenced him deeply. In 1867 Hardy left London for the family home in Dorset, and resumed work briefly with Hicks in Dorchester. He entered into a temporary engagement with Tryphena Sparks, a sixteen-year-old relative. Hardy continued his architectural work, but encouraged by Emma Lavinia Gifford, he started to consider literature as his "true vocation."

Unable to find public for his poetry, the novelist George Meredith advised Hardy to write a novel. His first novel, THE POOR MAN AND THE LADY, was written in 1867, but the book was rejected by many publishers and he destroyed the manuscript. His first book that gained notice, was FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (1874). After its success Hardy was convinced that he could earn his living as an author. He devoted himself entirely to writing and produced a series of novels, among them THE RETURN OF NATIVE (1878), THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE (1886).

TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES (1891) came into conflict with Victorian morality. It explored the dark side of his family connections in Berkshire. In the story the poor villager girl Tess Durbeyfield is seduced by the wealthy Alec D'Uberville. She becomes pregnant but the child dies in infancy. Tess finds work as a dairymaid on a farm and falls in love with Angel Clare, a clergyman's son. They marry but when Tess tells Angel about her past, he hypocritically desert her. Tess becomes Alec's mistress. Angel returns from Brazil, repenting his harshness, but finds her living with Alec. Tess kills Alec in desperation, she is arrested and hanged.

Hardy's JUDE THE OBSCURE (1895) aroused even more debate. The story dramatized the conflict between carnal and spiritual life, tracing Jude Fawley's life from his boyhood to his early death. Jude marries Arabella, but deserts her. He falls in love with his cousin, hypersensitive Sue Bridehead, who marries the decaying schoolmaster, Phillotson, in a masochist fit. Jude and Sue obtain divorces, but their life together deteriorates under the pressure of poverty and social disapproval. The eldest son of Jude and Arabella, a grotesque boy nicknamed 'Father Time', kills their children and himself. Broken by the loss, Sue goes back to Phillotson, and Jude returns to Arabella. Soon thereafter Jude dies, and his last words are: "Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul?".

In 1896, disturbed by the public uproar over the unconventional subjects of two of his greatest novels, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, Hardy announced that he would never write fiction again. A bishop solemnly burnt the book, 'probably in his despair at not being able to burn me', Hardy noted. Hardy's marriage had also suffered from the public outrage - critics on both sides of the Atlantic abused the author as degenerate and called the work itself disgusting. In April, 1912, Hardy wrote:

By 1885 the Hardys had settled near Dorchester at Max gate, a house designed by the author and built by his brother, Henry. With the exceptions of seasonal stays in London and occasional excursions abroad, his Bockhampton home, "a modest house, providing neither more nor less than the accommodation ... needed" (as Michael Millgate describes it in his biography of the author) was his home for the rest of his life.

After giving up the novel, Hardy brought out a first group of Wessex poems, some of which had been composed 30 years before. During the remainder of his life, Hardy continued to publish several collections of poems. "Hardy, in fact, was the ideal poet of a generation. He was the most passionate and the most learned of them all. He had the luck, singular in poets, of being able to achieve a competence other than by poetry and then devote the ending years of his life to his beloved verses." (Ford Madox Ford in The March of Literature, 1938) Hardy's gigantic panorama of the Napoleonic Wars, THE DYNASTS, composed between 1903 and 1908, was mostly in blank verse. Hardy succeeded on the death of his friend George Meredith to the presidency of the Society of Authors in 1909. King George V conferred on him the Order of Merit and he received in 1912 the gold medal of the Royal Society of Literature.

Hardy kept to his marriage with Emma Gifford although it was unhappy and he had - or he imagined he had - affairs with other women passing briefly through his life. Emma Hardy died in 1912 and in 1914 Hardy married his secretary, Florence Emily Dugdale, a woman in her 30's, almost 40 years younger than he. From 1920 through 1927 Hardy worked on his autobiography, which was disguised as the work of Florence Hardy. It appeared in two volumes (1928 and 1930). Hardy's last book published in his lifetime was HUMAN SHOWS, FAR PHANTASIES, SONGS AND TRIFLES (1925). WINTER WORDS IN VARIOUS MOODS AND METRES appeared posthumously in 1928.

Hardy died in Dorchester, Dorset, on January 11, 1928. His ashes were cremated in Dorchester and buried with impressive ceremonies in the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. According to a literary anecdote his heart was to be buried in Stinsford, his birthplace, and all went according to plan, until a cat belonging to the poet's sister snatched the heart off the kitchen, where it was temporarily kept, and disappeared into the woods with it.

The center of Hardy's novels was the rather desolate and history-freighted countryside around Dorchester. His novels bravely challenged many of the sexual and religious conventions of the Victorian age, and dared to present a bleak view into human nature. In the early 1860s, after the appearance Darwin's Origin of Species (1859), Hardy's faith was still unshaken, but he soon adopted the mechanical-determinist view of nature's cruelty, reflected in the inevitably tragic and self-destructive fates of his characters. In his poems Hardy depicted rural life without sentimentality - his mood was often stoically hopeless. "Though he was a modern, even a revolutionary writer in his time, most of us read him now as a lyrical pastoralist. It may be a sign of the times that some of us take his books to bed, as if even his pessimistic vision was one that enabled us to sleep soundly." (Anatole Broyard in New York Times, May 12, 1982)

Biography source: ReadPrint.com


Poems By Thomas Hardy
18: Hap



Quotes By Thomas Hardy
"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."

"An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, in blast-beruffled plume."

"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."

"Don't you go believing in sayings, Picotee: they are all made by men, for their own advantages. Women who use public proverbs as a guide through events are those who have not ingenuity enough to make private ones as each event occurs."

"Ethelberta breathed a sort of exclamation, not right out, but stealthily, like a parson's damn."

"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."

"Had other aims than my delight."

"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 all hearts were open and all desires known - as they would be if people showed their souls - how many gapings, sighings, clenched fists, knotted brows, broad grins, and red eyes should we see in the market-place!"

"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."

"Let me enjoy the earth no less because the all-enacting light that fashioned forth its loveliness had other aims than my delight."

"Like the British Constitution, she owes her success in practice to her inconsistencies in principle."

"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."

"Once victim, always victim - that's the law!"

"Patience, that blending of moral courage with physical timidity."

"Pessimism... is, in brief, playing the sure game. You cannot lose at it; you may gain. It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed. Having reckoned what to do in the worst possible circumstances, when better arise, as they may, life becomes child's play."

"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 excessive regard of parents for their children, and their dislike of other people's is, like class feeling, patriotism, save-your-soul-ism, and other virtues, a mean exclusiveness at bottom."

"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 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 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."

"Well: what we gain by science is, after all, sadness, as the Preacher saith. The more we know of the laws and nature of the Universe the more ghastly a business we perceive it all to be - and the non-necessity of it."

"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."