I am taking a break from the usual Sunday review and instead celebrating the birthday of the fantastic Thomas Hardy. Mostly this choice is due to my intense love for Hardy’s works, but is also a consequence of the belief that a review of my current read – Robert Cryer’s ‘International Criminal Law and Procedure’ – would not be well received. If I’m wrong on that count, then definitely feel free to send me an email.
While it is easy to dip into book after book without any appreciable knowledge of the author behind the words, I do think that the reading experience can be massively enhanced by understanding a little about the context in which the author was writing. I mean, knowing something about George Orwell’s life and politics makes the purposes of Animal Farm and 1984 more grounded in our own reality. This reasoning is at least partly the motivation behind my Literary Excursions series. So while I debated reviewing one of Hardy’s books in honour of his birthday, I think that dipping into some Hardy highlights might better celebrate the occasion. Welcome to Thomas Hardy 101!
Disclaimer: Really do not try to base any kind of English Lit exam answer off of this post. You will get an F.
Best Hardy Facts
- Thomas Hardy was actually an architect by trade, giving up the game to become a writer after the massive success of Far from the Madding Crowd.
- The word ‘cliffhanger’ comes to us from Hardy’s brilliant serialisation of A Pair of Blue Eyes, in which one of the novel’s episodes ends with his protagonist, Henry Knight, hanging off of a cliff.
- Hardy received a huge amount of criticism for his controversial take on marriage and religion in Jude the Obscure. In response to the aggressive response, Hardy wrote a postscript for the novel’s 1912 edition – “After these verdicts from the press its next misfortune was to be burnt by a bishop – probably in his despair at not being able to burn me.”
- Hardy was a big fan of Charles Darwin and a dedicated advocate of the Theory of Evolution. Look to Hardy’s novels and you will see that determinism and natural forces serve as central themes.
- After Hardy’s death in 1928, his ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey. However, his heart is buried in the grave of his first wife, Emma Gifford, in Stinsford Cemetery.
Best Hardy Poems
– Taken from Satires of Circumstance in Fifteen Glimpses (1914)
The kettle descants in a cosy drone,
And the young wife looks in her husband’s face,
And then in her guest’s, and shows in her own
Her sense that she fills an envied place;
And the visiting lady is all abloom,
And says there was never so sweet a room.
And the happy young housewife does not know
That the woman beside her was his first choice,
Till the fates ordained it could not be so…
Betraying nothing in look or voice
The guest sits smiling and sips her tea,
And he throws her a stray glance yearningly.
In the Room of the Bride-Elect
‘Would it had been the man of our wish!’
Sighs her mother. To whom with vehemence she
In the wedding dress – the wife to be –
‘Then why were you so mollyish
As not to insist on him for me!’
The mother, amazed: ‘Why dearest one,
Because you pleaded for this or none!’
‘But father and you should have stood out strong!
Since then, to my cost, I have lived to find
That you were right and I was wrong;
This man is a dolt to the one declined…
Ah! – here he comes with his button-hole rose.
Good God – I must marry him I suppose!’
Best Hardy Quotes
“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”
“If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have left him alone.”
“A man’s silence is wonderful to listen to.”
“A lover without indiscretion is no lover at all.”
“My opinion is that a poet should express the emotion of all the ages and the thought of his own.”
“Like the British Constitution, she owes her success in practice to her inconsistencies in principle.”