Thomas Hardy photo by clemensfranz | Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy photo by clemensfranz

Famous novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in Higher Brockhampton, a small village near to Dorchester. He lived in Dorchester for much of his life.

Thomas Hardy moved to London as a young man to train to be an architect. After 5 years, in 1867 he moved back to Dorset where he settled in Weymouth. There he concentrated on his writing as well as continuing his architectural work.

In 1885, Hardy and his wife moved into Max Gate in Dorchester, a house he had designed. He lived there for the rest of his life and died there in January 1928.

By the time of his death, Hardy was a famous figure in literary circles. His funeral was held at Westminster Abbey and the plan was for him to be buried in Poets’ Corner there. However, that proved controversial as Hardy’s wish was to be buried with his first wife. A compromise was agreed. His heart was buried at Stinsford in Dorset with Emma his first wife, and his ashes were interred Poets’ Corner. The chief mourners at his funeral were his second wife Florence, his sister, the Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, Rudyard Kipling, Sir James Barrie, George Bernard Shaw and A.E. Housman.

An annual wreath-laying takes place at his grave on 11th January.

The National Trust owns Max Gate on the outskirts of Dorchester, as well as his birthplace in Higher Bockhampton. They are both open to the public.

Writing

Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life and regarded himself primarily as a poet. However, his first collection of poetry was not published until 1898. Initially, he gained fame as the author of novels.

Many of his novels concern tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances. They are often set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex. Hardy initially based Wessex on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom of that name. But eventually it came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire, and much of Berkshire, in southwest and south central England.

The novel that first made Hardy famous is Far from the Madding Crowd published in 1874. Other famous novels are The Mayor of Casterbridge published in 1886 and Tess of the D’Urbervilles published in 1891. Dorchester is known as the fictional Casterbridge.

Incredibly prolific, Hardy wrote fourteen novels, three volumes of short stories, and several poems between the years 1871 and 1897. 

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