Poems Without Frontiers

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Thomas Hardy 1840- 1928

Hardy was born in Lower Bockhampton, Dorset, to a family of modest means but he was encouraged in academic studies by his mother and the local schoolmaster. He left school at 16 to study architecture in Dorchester moving in 1862 to London for further study; but he returned to Dorset to resume local practice and to begin writing.

In 1870, whilst advising on church architecture, he met his future wife, Emma Gifford, who, in the finely graded society of the time, considered herself his social superior, which led to later marital difficulties despite his increasing fame. His third published novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, drew on his courtship of her.

He achieved lasting fame with "Far from The Madding Crowd", a quotation from Gray's Elegy, and devoted his life to writing. He is widely recognized as a great novelist with several well-received publications mostly associated with the Wessex area, named after the kingdom of that name in the Saxon era. They deal with rural themes and the dignity of the lower classes. They blend poverty with riches, disadvantage with privilege, aspirations with class rigidity. His tendency for realism attracted opprobrium, however, until, after Jude The Obscure, published in 1895, he gave up writing novels and turned exclusively to poetry, which had already occupied him for several decades, publishing Wessex Poems in 1898.

After the death of Emma, in 1912, he married his secretary, the much younger Florence Dugdale, who encouraged his publications and produced a biography after his death from Pleurisy in 1928. His poetic output was considered of lower quality than his novels but recent decades have re-evaluated him as one of the most important poets of the time. His themes often address remorse, sadness, lamentation and bewilderment of which The Darkling Thrush is the most representative.