Spotlight On: Thomas Hardy

Hi everyone,

Today’s post is another installment of my “Spotlight On:…” series. I honestly look forward to writing these posts every month.

Today I’m going to be writing about Thomas Hardy as I recently read and enjoyed his Wessex Tales short story collection.

As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:

1. A little bit about their life

2. Their works I have read

3. Their works I am yet to read

4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works

5. Quotes

6. An author biography recommendation

So without further ado…


A Little Bit About Their Life

Thomas Hardy was born on 2nd June 1840 in Dorset, England. He was the eldest son of Thomas Hardy and Jemima Hardy. His father was a builder and stonemason. Thomas Hardy led quite a secluded and rural life though his mother passed on to him her love of reading.

He spent a year at the village school at age eight and then moved to bigger schools in Dorchester where he received an education in Latin and mathematics. In 1856 his education finished and he was apprenticed a local architect named John Hicks. By 1862, when he was 22 years old, Hardy moved to London and became a draftsman in the office of Arthur Blomfield, an architect. Unfortunately, due to poor health, Hardy returned back home in 1867 and began working for Hicks once again.

Hardy always had ambitions to attend university and become an Anglican priest, however lack of funds and declining religious faith instructed him to abandon his dreams and join a career in architecture. In his spare time, Hardy wrote and studied poetry and prose. His first novel manuscript, The Poor Man and the Lady (1867-68), was rejected by several publishers, but one editor, George Meredith encouraged him, and so Hardy set out to refine his style. A second story, Desperate Remedies (1871), was accepted and published. His next novel, Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), demonstrates Hardy now coming into his own style.

In March 1870, Hardy was sent to work on a church in Cornwall. There he first met the rector’s sister-in-law, Emma Lavinia Gifford, who became his wife four years later (against the wishes of both their families). His novel A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873), drew heavily upon the circumstances of their courtship for its wild Cornish setting and its melodramatic story of a young woman (somewhat resembling Emma Gifford). Emma encouraged Hardy to write, and by 1872, Hardy left architecture to devote his time to his literary career.

Hardy found it difficult to establish himself as a member of a professional middle class in a town (Dorchester) where his humbler background was well-known. He accepted an appointment as a local magistrate and designed and built Max Gate, the house just outside Dorchester where he lived until his death.

Hardy’s short novel The Well-Beloved (serialized 1892, revised for volume publication 1897) displays a hostility to marriage that was related to increasing frictions within his own marriage. Hardy wrote fourteen novels, three volumes of short stories, and several poems between the years 1871 and 1897. Hardy’s great novels, including Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895), were all published during this period. They both received negative reviews, which may have led Hardy to abandoning fiction to write poetry.

In 1912, Hardy’s wife, Emma, died, ending 20 years of “domestic estrangement.” In 1914, Hardy married Florence Emily Dugdale, with whom he lived until his death on January 11, 1928. He continued to write and publish poetry until his death on 11th January 1928. From 1898 until his death Hardy published eight volumes of poetry; about one thousand poems were published in his lifetime. His cremated remains were interred in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey, while his separated heart was buried in the churchyard of his native parish in Stinson, England near the grave of his first wife.


Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet to Read

The only book by Thomas Hardy that I have read is Wessex Tales. I decided to start with a short story collection rather than go in with some of his most popular works in order to get a taste of his writing style and to make sure that I liked it. I did so next on my list are all his greats (Jude the Obscure, Tess of the D’Urbevilles, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge…).


Great Film/TV Adaptations Based On Their Works

I think the adaptation on the top of everyone’s favourites list is Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) starring Carey Mulligan.

I would also like to watch Jude (1996) starring Kate Winslet and The Return of the Native (1994) starring Catherine Zeta-Jones.


Quotes

“So each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, or at least some remote and distant hope….”

“Why is it that a woman can see from a distance what a man cannot see close?”

“Though a good deal is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened.”

“Meanwhile, the trees were just as green as before; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now as ever. The familiar surroundings had not darkened because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.

She might have seen that what had bowed her head so profoundly -the thought of the world’s concern at her situation- was found on an illusion. She was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, to anybody but herself.”


An Author Biography Recommendation

If you want to read more about Thomas Hardy’s life, I would recommend reading Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man by Claire Tomalin (who writes some of the best author biographies!)


Have you read any Thomas Hardy books? What’s your favourite?

Thanks for reading!

Love, Zoë xx

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