Thomas Hardy Essay, Research Paper
Thomas Hardy, written by Trevor Johnson, is the detailed journey through the life of one of England?s greatest writers. This biography describes some of the major details of his life such as his family, his education, and his major works.
Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 at the Village of Upper Bochampton. He was the child of a country stonemason. Hardy was the third Thomas of his family. His mother?s maiden name was Jemima Hand and she and her husband led Hardy to have an unusually happy childhood. His early years were a seed-bed to his later creative development. His mother knew what real poverty was when she was young because she lost her father. Hardy said ? she read every book she could lay her hands on? and she grew up to be a woman of ability, judgment, and ? an energy that might have carried her to incalculable issues!? Many thought she was the dominant influence in Hardy?s life but his father was a man of character also. Even though he didn?t ? possess the art of enriching himself by business,? he was a fine craftsman, and a lover of music. Hardy?s family was never poor and he summed up his happy childhood in a tiny lyric:
She sat here in her chair,
smiling into the fire;
He who played stood there,
Bowing it higher and higher.
Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!
As a young child, Hardy mastered the violin learning over 100 tunes. He also sang in the Stansford Church every Sunday. It seems to be that Hardy and his parents had a good relationship. In 1867 Hardy met Tryphena Sparks who was 16 and a daughter to a family related to his. She was intelligent and made her living as a teacher. She bore a child in 1868 and Hardy fell deeply in love with her. But in 1872 she broke his heart by returning her engagement ring. She then remarried and had two more children before dying in 1890. Tryphena had a great influence on his writing. On March 7, 1870 Hardy took an architectural trip to a church named St. Juliot. He stayed at the rectory and met the rector?s sister-in-law, Emma Lavinia Gifford. She was younger and attractive, and they walked hand in hand through the countryside. They fell half in love and Hardy made many trips back to St. Juliot. In 1874 they were married and proceeded to wander about Europe until they settled in Sturminster Newton. After two years there Hardy decided to move back to London. Years later he looked back on those two years as their happiest
time together. Hardy seemed to live a peaceful and successful life, but there was a “pattern of storm beneath the tranquillity.” During these three decades of creation, public acclaim, and critical praise, his private life was overshadowed by what appeared to be his
wife?s fall to insanity. She was a victim of delusions, one of her biggest delusions is that she married a lesser man than she deserved. She also believed that she had written Hardy?s work and he stole them from her to be published for himself. She also insulted him publicly by taking more pride in being the niece of archdeacon than being the wife of the greatest English writer. She even tried to stop the publication of Jude The Obscure
because she felt it immoral. She died unexpectedly in 1912 and even though Hardy was with her last before she died, she never regained consciousness after a dispute they had earlier. His remorse and grief broke into the release of the most moving love poems of his or any other century. Home life became much more calm and ordered when he married Florence Ellen Dugdale in 1914.
Education wasn?t the biggest thing in Hardy?s life, but he was a very intelligent young student. He was an avid reader beginning to spell out titles at the age of three. He had a remarkable memory sometimes dressing as a parson and delivering sermons from his head. He did well at the village school and he caught the eye of Mrs. Julia Martin. She thought he was a star pupil and he became somewhat “in love” with her. His parents and her had a disagreement over the decision to move him to a school in Dorchester , the young Hardy got a ” a stinging foretaste of the pain and humiliation of the Victorian class structure.” At 14 he was proficient in Latin, knew Shakespeare, the Bible, and Pilgrim?s Progress, which were all major works of literature.
Part of Hardy?s education wasn?t in school. He learned how fierce the world can be. He witnessed two executions and heard tales from his father of people being burned at the stake and savage punishments. All around him people were in extreme poverty
because of the poor law system. There were many skilled men that didn?t have jobs. Hardy described himself as a student in The Sun on the Bookcase. During this time he was studying architecture, and since his father couldn?t afford to send him to a university, he became an apprentice to John Hicks the local architect. While apprenticing Hardy became a skilled draftsman and sort of went to college at the same time. His neighbor was William Barnes, who Hardy considered a university in himself. Barnes was a scholar, linguist, folklorist, and a poet all rolled into one. Hardy questioned him and studied his works to gain knowledge that he was missing out on. At the age of 23 Hardy concluded his training and began to write.
Hardy?s first writing was The Poor Man and the Lady, which received praise but no publishing. It was in 1865 that Hardy first got published. How I Built My First House was published in the Chambers Journal, and he followed that in 1868 with his first published novel Desperate Remedies. His writing began to get more popular in 1869 when he wrote Under The Greenwood Tree but he was not well known because he remained anonymous during the first two novels.
As most writers do, Hardy had a hot streak. From 1878-1912 he was ” possessed
with during with driving energy,” as he wrote nine more novels, three volumes of short stories, and three collections of poems. He also wrote his greatest achievement during the First World War period. The Dynasts, which were 520 pages of mingled prose was said to be ” a God?s eye view of the Napoleonic Wars.”
Hardy?s major works were mostly poems, since he wrote on and off for 70 years, he produced over 1000. Hardy liked to focus on what Trevor Johnson called “the miry
back alleys of human existence.” Although he wrote for 70 years, he only published poems for 30. In 1898, he completed Wessex Poems, a collection of 51 non-dated works of poetry. He often went back and revised his works, even destroying ones that he didn?t like. It is very difficult to trace his development because he didn?t date much of his early work. Johnson put Hardy?s poems in 6 categories to come up with some sort of organization. They were labeled as formal, narrative, satirical, philosophical, reflective, and love. His formal poetry consisted of sonnets, epigrams, and translation, these being more or less traditional. Narrative poetry was like telling a story and Hardy used topical anecdotes and past legends in ballad form to tell those stories. His satirical poems relied on human folly and the sense of humor of the reader. His best satirical poem was based on Victorian sexual morality called The Ruined Maid. Somewhere along the line his intelligence had to show through so he wrote philosophical poems which were questionings of his perceptions. The last two categories are the largest. Reflective poetry was mainly his meditation on someone and his love poetry has no explanation. One of his major love poems was to his wife who he lost called My Lost Prize.
Hardy was not only a poet, he was also a novelist. His belief on the purpose of fiction was ?to give pleasure by gratifying the love of the uncommon human experience.? He also thought that telling a story was an important ingredient in a novel. As his popularity grew, his readers began to expect more from him. Some of his most known are Under The Greenwood Tree, The Mayor of Casterbridge, A Pair of Blue Eyes, Jude The Obscure, Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D?Ubervilles, The Hand of
Ethelberta, The Trumpet Major, The Well Beloved, Two on a Tower, and his first, Desperate Remedies.
Trevor Johnson didn?t mention any negative condemnation so he probably thought Hardy was a successful author. Hardy was acknowledged as the greatest English author of his time. He received an Order of Merit and many doctorates from universities. His achievements stemmed further from writing by receiving two architectural awards. He was even popular enough to get pestered by nosy neighbors.
His relationships with other writers were few but important. When he was with Florence Ellen Dugdale, his home was a pilgrimage to young writers like, Edmund Blunden, Robert Graves, T.E. Lawrence,, and Siegfried Sassoon. But perhaps the greatest honor he ever received was when he died. His ashes were scattered in Poet?s Corner in Westminster Abby next to the great Charles Dickens.
Thomas Hardy by Trevor Johnson is a well written, thorough, and easy to follow biography. Leaving out only ancestry and condemnation, it provided a lot of information on major topics. This book is a good description of Hardy and it is a good research reference. By reading this and The Mayor of Casterbridge it is easy to tie together Hardy?s life and Michael Henchard?s. It is clear that Hardy knew of lost love and
experienced the surrounding hardships. Thomas Hardy is a good writer and by Trevor Johnson?s description, he led a good life.