Thursday, July 5, 2012

Author Focus: Thomas Hardy (A Victorian Celebration).

Welcome to this week's Author Focus post on Thomas Hardy! Considering I am currently in the middle of a Hardy novel (Far From the Madding Crowd), I thought it was fitting to feature him this week. Here are the other authors I have featured so far:
Hardy is quickly becoming an author that I love, so I am excited to share a little more about his life and his work. Like the other authors I am featuring, Hardy was a powerhouse during the Victorian Era, and his name was well-known.

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, which makes him a later edition to the Victorian Era. He was lucky enough as a boy to be sent to school, but his family didn't have the money to send him off to university. Instead, he found work as an apprentice to learn a trade. Under a fellow by the name of James Hicks, Hardy became an architect. After a couple of years, Hardy moved to London and enrolled in King's College to learn more about architecture and pursue writing on the side.

It was also during these early years that Hardy began to write. His first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, was finished in 1867, but failed to find a publisher. He was so frustrated by this, that he actually burned large portions of the novel and only a few pieces remain. After encouragement from a friend (George Meredith-another Victorian), Hardy continued to write and published Desperate Remedies and Under the Greenwood Tree anonymously.

Hardy wasn't a big fan of living in the city. After growing up in the country, Hardy wasn't used to seeing such differences in class and social standing. He eventually decided to leave London and focus more on his writing. He spent a number of years traveling the country to complete architectural work in parishes and rural communities (perhaps this inspired the work of Jude in Jude the Obscure?). It was on one of these missions that Hardy met and fell in love with Emma Lavinia Gifford. The two married in 1874, and Hardy's novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, was inspired by their own love story. This was also Hardy's first novel that was published under his name.

He continued to write novels throughout the rest of the 19th century. It was after the publication of Jude the Obscure in 1895 that Hardy stopped writing fiction to focus on his poetry-something he felt he was better at writing. When it was published, Jude the Obscure shocked and riled up Hardy's audience. People were outraged at the depictions of sex and the relationships between the main characters. It was nicknamed "Jude the Obscene." This view of Hardy's work really bothered him, which led to that turn to poetry.

In 1912, Emma passed away and it wrecked Thomas. He pulled away and began writing more and more poetry, which is what he truly believed he was best at. He did remarry, in 1914, but his first wife really held his heart. Throughout the rest of his life, Hardy continued to write, but never had the same success as he did as a novelist. He passed away on January 11, 1928. There was a little kerfuffle over where he was to be buried, but a compromise was made. His heart was buried by Emma and his ashes are laid to rest in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.

One of the things that sets Hardy apart from some of the other Victorians is that he bridges a couple of movements in literature. While all of his novels were published within the boundaries of the Victorian era, many of his later novels also speak to the Realism movement. He liked to challenge the ideals of the Victorian era-like the issue of marriage in Jude the Obscure. He was also very protective of his writing, and after the reception of his last two novels-Tess of D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure-he swore off of writing fiction. I really wonder what kinds of novels he would have published in his later life-during the era of World War I, etc. We'll never know.

I am still beginning to explore Hardy's novels. I have read two-The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure- and I am in the middle of my third-Far From the Madding Crowd. I also have Tess of D'Urbervilles and The Return of the Native left on my 250 list. I have come to expect a lot from my Hardy novels-depth, description, and tragedy. But I love the way Hardy explores the dark aspects of Victorian life, and I cannot wait to read more from him (and about him).

If you are interested in picking up a Hardy novel, here is a list in order of publication (Hardy also has a lot of poetry-I own a complete collection, but sometimes his poems are published separately):
  • The Poor Man and the Lady 1867 (most of the novel is lost)
  • Desperate Remedies 1871
  • Under the Greenwood Tree 1872
  • A Pair of Blue Eyes 1873
  • Far From the Madding Crowd 1874
  • The Hand of Ethelberta 1876
  • The Return of the Native 1878
  • The Trumpet-Major 1880
  • A Laodicean 1881
  • Two on a Tower 1882
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge 1886
  • The Woodlanders 1887
  • Wessex Tales (short stories) 1888
  • A Group of Noble Dames (short stories) 1891
  • Tess of D'Urbervilles 1891
  • Life's Little Ironies (short stories) 1894
  • Jude the Obscure 1895
What Hardy novels have you read and loved? Give me some more recommendations! :)


  1. Thank you so much for these well-written enjoyable posts on Victorian author's.
    Currently I'm reading Silas Marner, then I'll read The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.
    I just finished The Woman in White by Gaskell, as well as Oliver Twist by Dickens. About 2 weeks ago I read Ruth by Gaskell.
    I'm hoping soon after the Eliot reads to tackle Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I have a book of poetry by Thomas Hardy entitled The Essential Hardy selected by Joseph Brodsky. I've read this little book more than once.

    1. You're welcome! I think I write them more for me than for you guys, since I like doing the research. :)

      Silas Marner is such a wonderful little book. And Mill on the Floss is one of my most favorite books-EVER. :)

      I have only read a little of Hardy's poetry, but I've loved it!

  2. I read Jude the Obscure last year and at the time I didn't know it was his last and most controversial novel. I loved it, though it was incredibly heartbreaking. I'm more than halfway through The Return of the Native right now and it's so good! Like you, I'm developing a huge appreciation for his work and his writing. It's kind of thrilling to find a "new" author that I have so many books I haven't read yet.

    1. Oh Jude....I still think about that one!

      I'm hoping to get to Return of the Native by the end of the month...if not, I'm going to read it in the fall. :)

      And yes! I like that he has a lot to choose from, so I can spread them out a bit.

  3. The Mayor of Casterbridge is the novel which finally solidified my love for literature and the Classics. I read it in one of my senior seminars in college, where I was studying English. I remember writing a paper about it and being so energized and excited about it (even though I was taking 7 classes that semester!). Since, I've only read one other Hardy novel - Far from the Madding Crowd, but I absolutely loved that one as well.

    1. I think you're the only other person I know who has read Mayor. :) It was my first Hardy and it just blew me away! SUCH a great novel-from beginning to end.

      I'm about...2/3 of the way through Madding Crowd, and I really love it. :)

  4. I haven't read everything by Hardy (yet), but what I've read I've loved. My favorites so far are Tess and Far From the Madding Crowd, but you don't want to overlook Desperate Remedies, one of his earliest novels. It is more gothic than his later novels, and it was very, very good.

    1. Oh, thanks for the rec! I think Hardy is one that I want to read EVERYTHING by, so I will definitely get to it one day! :)

  5. As you know, I'm reading a biography on Hardy right now. (I think you know that? And by "reading," I mean, I intend to start it soon!) Anyway, you and others here really make me think I'll like Hardy. I've read a handful of his poetry, and I do love that.

    1. Oh, he's just SO GOOD. His writing is just so beautiful and he makes you feel so much for the characters. He's known for his character development, and I think you'd like that about him. :) All of the novels I've read have been excellent (I've finished Mayor and Jude, and almost done with Madding Crowd).

  6. I haven't read a single Hardy book; I have to remedy that... though I'm now starting with his short fiction to be featured for Short Stories on Wednesdays. I've seen the movie adaptation of Jude the Obscure (accidentally) and it is all dark and serious. I am excited to discover more about Hardy through his works. Thank you for sharing some things about him.

  7. Jude the Obscure was one of the best and most poignant (and tragic) classic novels I have ever read. It is a difficult read, but especially for those of us who have children. Hardy was a true literary genius.

  8. Hardy is one of my favourite Victorian novelists, and such a complex character. Both Tess and Jude feel ahead of their time, certainly ahead of much comparable English literature. Hardy's sensitive portrayal of women and the way in which they were constricted by Victorian society sets him apart from the majority of male novelists of the era, and Jude deals with a bleak existentialism that was rare in English literature.

    Return of the Native too, is a fantastic novel with really memorable characters. Hardy is often criticised for writing in too bleak a manner, but the mix of psychologically complex characters, of rustic traditions, and

  9. Oops, my iPad got annoyed with blogger comments there.

    ... harsh realism make Hardy one of the masters for me. Enjoy.