Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Thomas Hardy was born and brought up in Dorsetshire. At 15 he was apprenticed to an ar­chitect who rebuilt old churches. He was devoted to architecture, and in 1863 he won the Prize of the Architectural Association for design. Meanwhile, he read a lot and was self-educated. He decided to try his hand at writing, and in 1865 his first story was published.

But he won fame with the publication of the novel “Far from the Madding Crowd”, only in 1874. It’s a melodramatic love story of Gabriel Oak, a shepherd, and Bathsheba Everdence. They have to suffer a lot until they get married.

In “The Return of the Native” (1878) Thomas Hardy depicts the narrow village world, its farms, fields and low hills. According to the author, nature plays an important part in revealing a severe struggle for existence among the common villagers, poor wood-cutters and poor farmers. “The heaven being spread with this pallid screen and the earth with the darkest vegetation, their meeting-line at the horizon was clearly marked. In such contrast the heath wore the appearance of an installment of night which had taken up its place before its astronomical hour was come: darkness had to a great extent arrived hereon, while day stood distinct in the sky. Looking upward, a furze-cutter would have been inclined to continue work; looking down, he would have decided to finish his fagot and go home.” (“The Return of the Native”, Chapter I).

In 1886 Thomas Hardy wrote “The Mayor of Casterbridge”. It’s about Michael Henchard who sells his wife and children. He has done it while he is drunk, and afterwards, having realized everything he has done, Michael resolves never to drink again. He works hard, becomes rich, and in the end he is made the Mayor of Casterbridge. His wife returns to him, but the hardships cut the ground from under his feet, and Michael is ruined and becomes a hard drinker again.

In 1891 Thomas Hardy produced a tale of a poor girl, Tess Durbeyfield, whose misfortunes are so great that she commits a crime. Fate is against Tess, though she is descended from an ancient noble family, the D’Urberville. She is at her wit’s end and dies (“Tess of the D’UrberviIle”).

Thomas Hardy’s last novel, “Jude the Obscure” (1896) is about a poor stone- worker who wants to educate himself. But again, fate has lost interest in him, his marriage is a failure, his children die. Jude drinks like a fish and dies.

Thomas Hardy writes all his novels about different people, but in all his novels the idea of struggle for existence goes hand in hand with pessimism and hopelessness.

Fate blindly rules the destiny of men and women, and often takes the form of tragic irony. Fate and Chance are at odds with Destiny.

After Thomas Hardy had written all his novels, he began to pub­lish his poems, most of which had been already composed by that time. And again, the lyrics treat the problems of fate, death and sorrow. All of them are penetrated with the spirit of extreme pessimism. Nevertheless, Hardy’s poetry varies much in form and nature, including songs, ballads or philosophical verses. His famous collection of poems under the title “Time’s Laughingstocks and Other Verses” appeared in 1909. The dif­ference between his lyrical output and philosophical style is illustrated by his two famous poems: “The Divisions” and “At a Lunar Eclipse”.

In spite of the vagueness, sometimes dimness, of Thomas Hardy’s literary manner, his poetry has a more modern ring than his novels.

Two Lips

I kissed them in fancy as I came

Away in the morning glow:

I kissed them through the glass of her picture-frame:

She did not know.

I kissed them in love, in troth, in laughter,

When she knew all; long so!

That I should kiss them in a shroud thereafter

She did not know.


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