- Thomas Hardy - Poet of Loss [Biography]
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Thomas Hardy

"The value of old age depends upon the person who reaches it. To some men of early performance it is useless. To others, who are late to develop, it just enables them to finish the job. "

Thomas Hardy was born in Dorsetshire, the county in southwest England that he used as the "Wessex" setting for his novels. At the age of 16 he was apprenticed to a church architect. While pursuing his architectural career in London, he wrote poetry in his spare time. After unsuccessfully trying to get his poetry published, he turned to writing fiction. Although his first novel was rejected by publishers, his second, Desperate Remedies (1871) was well received, and he gave up his architectural practice to devote himself to writing.

The best of his prose works are those he classified as "novels of environment and character": Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the D'Ubervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1896). Hardy's realistic representation of people and his fatalistic, pessimistic view of life offended many of his contemporaries. When his last novel was denounced and referred to as Jude the Obscene, he turned from the writing of prose to his first love, poetry.

His most ambitious poetic work was The Dynasts, an epic-drama about the Napoleonic wars and their impact on England, published in three parts from 1904 to 1908. He wrote and published a great deal of fine poetry until the end of his life.

When he died at the age of 88, his heart was buried in his native Dorset in accordance with his wishes, but his ashes were placed in Westminster Abbey.

contributed by Gifford, Katya

8 March 2002

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