A Digital and Naturalistic Landscape of Thomas Hardy's Wessex: Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy Biography

Victorian and English author, Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840 in Higher Bockhampton, a village three miles east of the county of Dorchester.  His father was a stone-mason and a local builder.  Like his father, Hardy trained as an architect in Dorchester.  He worked on the restoration of churches until 1862 when he moved to London to officially study architecture at King’s College. While in London, he worked as an assistant architect for Arthur Blomfield, restoring and designing Gothic style churches.  During his time in London, he became interested in literature and writing.  He read the works of Charles Dickens, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Henry Huxley, John Stuart Mill, and Charles Darwin.  Under the influence of these works, Hardy began to question his Christian faith and eventually became an agnostic. Hardy was profoundly influenced by Darwin’s Origin of Species, which he thematically explores in his naturalistic writings.  Also inspired by the poets, Robert Browning and Algernon Swinburne, Hardy abandoned his initial goals of becoming an architect in pursuit of becoming a poet.  He wrote much poetry during his times in London, but was unable to publish them. Although Hardy was captivated by much of London, he was also weary of the city due to its class divisions at the time. He eventually returned to his hometown, Bockhampton five years later due to health concerns and to focus more intensely on his writing.

Unsuccessful with publishing his poetry, he began to write fiction.  In 1871, he published his novel, Desperate Remedies anonymously in three volumes by publisher, William Tinsley.  After his publication of Desperate Remedies, he devoted his entire life to writing and produced fourteen novels altogether. He received much fame and success for his fourth novel, Far From the Madding Crowd (1874).  His twelfth novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) received wide acclaim for its highly charged metaphorical language and physical descriptions.  Considered a realist and naturalist of his time, Hardy’s novels reflect themes of nature, predeterminism, rural life, class divisions, human suffering,  and hypocrisy.  Although his novels received varied critical reviews and responses, his last novel, Jude the Obscure, created the most controversy among critics. The Bishop of Wakefield burned his copy of Jude the Obscure, calling it indecent. Hardy wrote in his 1812 Preface of Jude the Obscure that the Bishop’s outbreak of anger cured him of further interest in writing novels.  He returned to his true passion of writing poetry thereafter.  In 1898, he published a total of eight volumes of verse entitled the Wessex Poems.   

In December 1927, Hardy  became ill from pleurisy and died at Max Gate on January 11, 1928.  His funeral was held on January 16, 1928 at Westminster Abbey.  Hardy wished for his body to be interred in the same grave as his first wife, Emma Hardy, but his executor, Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, insisted that he be buried in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.  A compromise was made among family and friends and his heart was buried with Emma, while his ashes were buried in the Poet’s Corner.  Though his writing is frequently described as gloomy and depressing, Hardy is still widely read today among literary scholars and students alike.  Considered one of the best English writers of the nineteenth century, he is known for his highly poetic language, controversial themes, and detailed descriptions of southern England's rural landscape.

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