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Thomas Hardy was born in the hamlet of Upper Bockhampton about three miles east of Dorchester in Dorset, England, on 2nd June 1840.
Despite a fairly wide education and being an avid reader his parents thought it unlikely he would lead a successful scholarly or clerical career and he was apprenticed in 1856, at age 16, to a local architect whose speciality was in church restoration. Hardy’s only opportunity to read was in the morning before work between the hours of five and eight.

On the back of a failed love affair he moved to London and spent five years working as an assistant to the architect Arthur Blomfield, also a restorer and designer of churches. Hardy though had by now become disillusioned with institutionalised forms of Christianity and abandoned any lingering hopes of ordination in the Anglican Church. However, his writing of poetry was now flourishing, although it was still rejected for publication.

His novel ‘Desperate Remedies’, was published anonymously in 1871 and he now resolved to write full time though he was not yet in a position to achieve financial security or literary success. His second novel, ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’, appeared in 1872 and in 1873 ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’, the most autobiographical of his works arrived. With ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ in 1874, came critical acclaim, public attention and financial success. This was repeated in 1878 with ‘The Return of the Native’, and the ensuing years saw him rise to ever greater popularity.

His classic ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ arrived in 1886 and 5 years later ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’. The latter only saw publication after extensive alterations to its plot and the deletion of long passages to lessen the shock to the prudish Victorian audience who were dismayed by the seduction and ruin of a young girl by a rakish aristocrat.

‘Jude the Obscure’, his last novel, suffered the same fate when it was published in 1895. The uproar so disturbed him that he returned to poetry. In 1898 he had an earlier poetry collection, ‘Wessex Poems’ published.

Hardy spent the years between 1903 and 1908 writing ‘The Dynasts’, an epic poem on the Napoleonic Wars.

In his twilight years came honours and awards from the great and the good in recognition of his stature as one of the most outstanding of British authors across novels, short stories and poetry. George V conferred on him the Order of Merit in 1910.

From 1920 to 1927 he worked, in secret, on his autobiography, which was later published after his death as the work of his second wife, Florence Hardy.

Thomas Hardy OM died on the 11th January 1928.

His heart was buried alongside his first wife in Stinsford churchyard, Dorchester.

Nigel Lambert
hr min
May 5
The Copyright Group