Thomas Hardy

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Thomas Hardy (1848 - 1928) was an English poet and novelist, author of the "Wessex" novels.

A native of Dorset and first son of a jobbing builder, he originally worked as an architect before the income from his novels enabled him to work full time on his writing. Most of the novels are set in "Wessex", in which the real towns and villages of Dorset and neighbouring counties are given fictional names. As his novels gave more and more expression to his pessimistic views on life, so he began to fall out of critical favour. He was also accused of "immorality", the sub-title of his novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, a Pure Woman giving particular offence. After the publication of Jude the Obscure in 1895 he gave up fiction and concentrated on poetry, which he always considered the superior form of literature.

His shorter poems were intensely crafted, with much rhythmic ingenuity and innovation. Despite the amount of work put into them, he could produce several such poems in a day, and he published eight collections in all. In 1912 the sudden death of his first wife, Emma, with whom he had had an unhappy relationship, changed the character of his writing, and gave rise to an intense group of poems recalling his original love and indirectly revealing his present regrets. The main exception to his writing of shorter poems was his long work The Dynasts (1904 - 6), partly in prose, dealing with the Napoleonic wars. The historian G M Young, writing in 1940, considered The Dynasts unmatched in beauty and power since Byron's Childe Harold,[1] a judgment not in accord with modern opinion, which prefers Browning's The Ring and the Book and finds more enjoyment in Hardy's late lyrics than in his epic undertaking.

  1. Introduction to the Macmillan/Heron Books Selected poems, no date.