Thomas Hardy

© The Dorset Natural History & Archaeological Society

Thomas Hardy Author and Poet

Thomas Hardy was a world renowned author of many poems and novels including Tess of the D´Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Thomas Hardy had many connections with Dorset and with another famous resident - T.E. Lawrence (also known as Lawrence of Arabia). Hardy moved back and forth between Dorset and London over many years, but eventually settled in the outskirts of Dorset's county town, Dorchester.

Hardy's early years

On 2 June 1840, Thomas Hardy was born in a cottage in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, near the market town of Dorchester. He was the eldest of four children of Thomas Hardy and Jemima Hand. He went to school in Stinsford and Dorchester.

Hardy later became assistant to Dorchester architect John Hicks and in 1862 moved to London to work for architect Arthur Blomfield.

After returning to Dorset in 1868, Hardy finished his first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, but it was rejected by publishers. 2 Years later he met his future wife, Emma Lavinia Gifford, in St. Juliot, Cornwall, while working on the restoration of a local church.

His first success

In 1872 Hardy's novel "Under the Greenwood Tree" was published and 2 years after that, his first literary success "Far from the Madding Crowd" was published. Hardy then married Emma Gifford and the two rented a house in London.

In the following years, his published works included The Hand of Ethelberta, The Return of the Native and The Trumpet-Majoris.

The Hardy's return to Dorset in 1881 and later move into Max Gate, a house on the outskirts of Dorchester, which was designed by Hardy and built by his brother.

Hardy went on to write The Mayor of Casterbridge, Wessex Tales and Tess of the D´Urbervilles.

Hardy's later years

In 1905 Hardy met Florence Emily Dugdale, his future second wife, when she became his secretary. 7 years later, Emma Hardy suddenly dies, leading to feelings of intense remorse in Hardy. 

On his 80th birthday, Hardy received messages of congratulations from King George V and the Prime Minister, and was visited at Max Gate by a deputation from the Incorporated Society of Authors.

Thomas Hardy died on 11 January 1928. His heart was removed and buried in Emma Hardy's grave at Stinsford Churchyard. His body was cremated and the ashes buried in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey.

His last volume of poetry, Winter Words, was published posthumously.

Follow the Hardy Trail

You can read more about Thomas Hardy's life in Dorset and even visit the locations which inspired his novels by following the Hardy Trail. Or you can delve even deeper and find out more in the Dorset Authors Collection.

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