Friendship Poems

Thomas Hardy Biography

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, to his father Thomas and his mother Jemima, at Higher Bockhampton, which was a hamlet in the parish of Stinsford to the east of Dorchester in Dorset, England. Hardy’s father worked as a stonemason and a local builder and his mother was well read. Thomas Hardy’s mother educated Thomas at home until he was 8 years old and attended his first school at Bockhampton.

Thomas Hardy attended a school run by Mr. Last for several years where he learned Latin and demonstrated academic potential. Despite his academic potential, a family with Thomas Hardy’s social position lacked the means for a university education, so Thomas Hardy’s formal education ended when he was 16 years old. After school, Thomas Hardy became an apprentice to John Hicks, a local architect. He trained as an architect in Dorchester until he moved to London in 1862, where he enrolled as a student at King’s College in London.

Once Thomas Hardy moved to London and enrolled in school, he won prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectural Association. Despite winning, these awards Thomas Hardy never felt at home in London, mainly because he was acutely conscious of class divisions and his social inferiority. Due, in part, to his social class, Thomas Hardy was very interested in social reform and was familiar with the works of John Stuart Mill. Thomas Hardy was also introduced to the works of Charles Fourier and Auguste Comte by his Dorset friend, Horace Moule. Five years after moving to London, Thomas Hardy returned to Dorset because he was concerned about his health. Once he moved back to Dorset, he decided to dedicate himself to writing.

Thomas Hardy met his wife, Emma Lavinia Gifford, when he was on an architectural mission to restore the parish church of St. Juliot in Cornwall in 1870. Thomas Hardy and Emma Gifford were married in 1874. Emma and Thomas Hardy became estranged before her death in 1912, although her death still had a traumatic effect on him. After she died, Thomas Hardy made a trip back to Cornwall to revisit places that were linked to their courtship. His Poems of 1912-13 reflected upon her passing.

In 1914, two years after his estranged wife, Emma, passed away, Thomas Hardy married his secretary Florence Emily Dugdale, though she was 39 years his junior. Thomas Hardy was still preoccupied with his first wife’s death in spite of having remarried. To try to overcome his remorse, Thomas Hardy continued writing poetry.

He published his first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems, a collection of poems written over 30 years, in 1898. Thomas Hardy’s poetry was not as well received by his contemporaries as his novels were, but in recent years, they have been applauded considerably, in part because of their influence on Philip Larkin. The majority of Thomas Hardy’s poems deal with themes of disappointment in love and life, as well as humankind’s long struggle against indifference to human suffering. Thomas Hardy’s compositions range in style from the three-volume epic The Dynast to the smaller, and hopeful or even cheerful ballads of the moment like The Children and Sir Nameless. A few of Thomas Hardy’s poems even display his love of the natural world and his firm stance against animal cruelty. No matter how well his poetry is regarded, it is still not regarded as highly as his prose.

Thomas Hardy continued publishing his collections of poetry until his death in 1928. In December 1927, Thomas Hardy became ill with pleurisy and died in January 1928. On his deathbed, Thomas Hardy dictated his last poem to wife. Thomas Hardy’s interment was a controversial affair because he wished for his body to be interred at Stinsford in the same grave as his first wife, but his executor insisted that he be placed in the famous Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey. Finally, a compromise was reached, Thomas Hardy’s heart was buried in Stinsford with Emma, and his ashes were buried in Poets’ Corner.

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