English novelist and poet who set much of his work
in Wessex, an imaginary county in southwestern England.
Thomas Hardy, the son
of a stonemason, was born in Dorsetshire, England, in 1840. He trained as an architect
and worked in London and Dorset for ten years. Hardy began his writing career
as a novelist, publishing Desperate Remedies in 1871, and was soon successful
enough to leave the field of architecture for writing. His novels Tess of the
D'Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895), which are considered literary
classics today, received negative reviews upon publication and Hardy was criticized
for being too pessimistic and preoccupied with sex. He left fiction writing for
poetry, and published eight collections, including Wessex Poems (1898) and Satires
of Circumstance (1912).
Hardy's poetry explores a fatalist outlook against
the dark, rugged landscape of his native Dorset. He rejected the Victorian belief
in a benevolent God, and much of his poetry reads as a sardonic lament on the
bleakness of the human condition. A traditionalist in technique, he nevertheless
forged a highly original style, combining rough-hewn rhythms and colloquial diction
with an extraordinary variety of meters and stanzaic forms. A significant influence
on later poets (including Frost, Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Philip Larkin), his
influence has increased during the course of the century, offering an alternative--more
down-to-earth, less rhetorical--to the more mystical and aristocratic precedent
of Yeats. Thomas Hardy died in 1928.