Who Was Thomas Hardy?
“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.”
To celebrate the launch of our new Tess of the d’Urbervilles crate, we wanted to dedicate this blog post to its author: Thomas Hardy. Creator of so many great books and a talented poet too. There’s a lot of Hardy’s life that’s worth writing about; who he was, what he stood for and why his books have withstood the test of time. We’ve taken some of the most significant parts of his story and have written about them below.
Thomas Hardy was born in Higher Bockhampton, Dorchester on 2nd June 1840. His father was a stonemason who loved to play music and his mother was a homemaker who instilled in Thomas a love for books and reading from a young age. He was the eldest child in a family of six with one younger brother and two younger sisters.
His primary age education took place in his local village however at the age of ten, he was transferred to a more prestigious school over three miles away - which he would walk to and from every day. The school offered a very different environment to the rugged countryside where Hardy grew up.
Following a few years working as an architect’s apprentice, Hardy made the cautious move to London at the age of twenty two. Here, he quickly found employment as a draftsman in a leading architect’s office.
After five years in the city, Hardy moved back to the area he was born and continued with his architectural wage. To supplement his wage, he began finessing his skill for writing. It wasn’t long before his writing reached such a level of popularity that he was able to do it full time.
His first significant literary success was an invitation from the prestigious Cornhill Magazine, who asked him to contribute a serial. The result? Far From the Madding Crowd - perhaps his most famous novel.
The following years saw him produce books like Tess of the d’Urbervilles and The Mayor of Casterbridge. He became known for his meticulous descriptions and gritty social commentary.
Hardy stopped writing fiction after the public turned on him following the publication of his final book, Jude the Obscure, with many deeming it obscene. Hardy spent the later years of his life focusing on writing poetry, a lot of which was written immediately after the death of his first wife, Emma.
Life with Emma
Hardy’s relationship and marriage to his first wife Emma Gifford has always been of interest to fans past and present. The two met and fell in love in Bodmin, Cornwall. Soon after the pair got married, despite it being against both their family’s wishes.
The marriage itself however is believed to have been an unhappy one, with the two living separate lives despite being in the same house.
Hardy once told a friend that his book Jude the Obscure was based on his marriage to Emma. He prefaced the book by talking about the ‘tragedy of unfilled aims’. The feeling seemed to be entirely mutual with an extract from one of Emma’s letters stating that Hardy “understands only the women he invents - the others not at all.”
Despite their complicated relationship, Hardy’s heart was buried with Emma following his death on 11th January 1928.