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Thomas Hardy

Thomas HardyThomas Hardy, OM (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth. Charles Dickens was another important influence. Like Dickens, he was highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society.

While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially, therefore, he gained fame as the author of novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). Hardy’s poetry, though prolific, was not as well received during his lifetime. It was rediscovered in the 1950s, as Hardy’s poetry had a significant influence on the Movement poets of the 1950s and 1960s, including Philip Larkin.[3]

Most of his fictional works – initially published as serials in magazines – were set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex. They explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances. Hardy’s Wessex is based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom and eventually came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire and much of Berkshire, in southwest and south central England.

And one of these days I’m going to read Tess of the d’Urbervilles! It’s on my To Be Read shelf. I loved this poem by Hardy…

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At Tea

The kettle descants in a cosy drone,
And the young wife looks in her husband’s face,
And then at 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 first his 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.