"There is a condition worse than blindness, and that is, seeing something that isn't there."

Poet and Novelist. Hardy was born in 1840 at Higher Brockhampton near Dorchester, a town, which became the centre of his fictional Wessex. His writing career spanned more than fifty years. His father was a master mason and builder, and his mother encouraged him in the pursuit of literature. He was educated in Dorchester, then in 1856 he was apprenticed to John Hicks, a local architect, after which he spent five years in the architectural offices of Arthur Blomfield. By this time he was submitting poetry to various periodicals. Hardy returned to work for John Hicks and whilst surveying a church in St Junot in Cornwall, he met Emma Lavinia Gifford, his future wife.

It was at this time that he began work on his first published novel, Desperate Remedies (1871).  For the next quarter of a century Hardy produced novels, one after another. Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873) followed in 1874 by Far From the Madding Crowd, the success of which enabled him to marry Emma Gifford. At first they lived in Swanage, where he worked on The Hand of Ethelberta (1876) then moved to Sturminster Newton, where he wrote Return of the Native (1878). They lived in London for three years while he wrote The Trumpet Major (1880) and A Laodicean (1881), despite this being a period of ill health and marital problems. In 1881 they returned to Dorset, living in Wimborne, where Hardy wrote Two on a Tower (1882). In 1885 they moved into Max Gate on the edge of Dorchester, where they spent the rest of their lives. The Mayor of Casterbridge was published in 1886, The Woodlanders (1887), Wessex Tales (a collection of short stories - 1888), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891) Life's Little Ironies (a collection of short stories -1894), )and his last ever novel, Jude the Obscure (1895). This last novel reflected the problems of his married life and its bizarre reception greatly influenced his decision to give up novel writing. Although The Well-Beloved was published in 1897, it had actually been written prior to Jude the Obscure.

For the last 30 years of his life Hardy produced a vast amount of poetry which has been published as The Collected Poems of Thomas Hardy. The mantle of the 'Grand Old man of Letters' fell across Hardy's shoulders, as various accolades, distinctions and honorary degrees were bestowed upon him. Emma died in 1912 and in 1914 he married his secretary, Florence Emily Dugdale, a woman almost forty years his junior.  Between the years 1920 to 1927 he worked on his autobiography. He died peacefully in Dorchester, Dorset, on January 11th 1928.

*** Devotees of Hardy were surprised some years ago to find a Wordsworth edition for sale entitled 'Return of the Dead' by Thomas Hardy, which provoked a number of enquiries as to the history of this unfamiliar title. In truth, this was the result of a mental aberration by the cover designer, and a certain lack of attention on behalf of the Wordsworth staff, and the book was hurriedly withdrawn from sale. It may now be a collector's item...***


Author image