Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

JANUARY 11th  

On this day in history in 1928, died Thomas Hardy.

Hardy was an architect, novelist and poet who was famous for his novels set in the imaginary county of Wessex, with sharply defined characters who struggle against their internal passions.  

Hardy was born in 1840, in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset. His father was a stonemason, his mother an avid reader who supplemented her son’s formal education in mathematics and Classics with biblical and literary learning. In 1856, Hardy was apprenticed to an architect and in 1867 moved to London to train as a draftsman. Poor health obliged him to move back to Dorset and engage in the more gentle pursuit of reading and developing his own literary skills.  

Hardy’s early works were not particularly successful. He was advised by a publisher to devise a more structured and non-opinionated work. Accordingly, Hardy wrote Under The Greenwood Tree, in which he evoked a period of anguished social change within the context of a marriage, a plot closely following events, which had been experienced by his parents. In 1870, Hardy met Emma Gifford in Cornwall and they became romantically involved, marrying four years later. Hardy’s next novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, deals with a romantic courtship set in an untamed Cornish background.  After four years of marriage, Hardy produced Far From The Madding Crowd, an alluring tale of a capricious woman torn between three suitors of sharply different character.

Hardy went on to produce ten more novels, most famously Return Of The Native, the story of a disastrous marriage and The Mayor of Casterbridge, which deals with a prosperous architect who is despised by his middle-class contemporaries who think him to be their social inferior. These stories were also, at the time, quite possibly as entertaining to people as space games are to some people today. Tess of the d’Urbavilles scandalised Victorian society for its ill-disguised attack on the institution of marriage and Jude the Obscure faced criticism for its candid treatment of sexual matters. This latter was referred to by some as ‘Jude the Obscene’ and the Bishop of Wakefield ostentatiously burnt a copy.  

In 1912, Hardy’s wife Emma died and in 1914, he married Florence Dugdale, forty years his junior, whom he had met in 1905. In 1928, Hardy died of pleurisy. He had wanted to be buried in Stinsford, but when his executors were offered a burial plot in Westminster Abbey, a family dispute occurred. A compromise was reached whereby Hardy’s heart would be removed and buried at Stinsford, while the rest of his remains would be cremated and the ashes placed in the Abbey. It is said that after Hardy’s heart had been removed, it was seized by the family cat who ran off with it to the woods. If this is so, then the heart must have been retrieved because it is buried, near to his two wives, in a ‘heart tomb’ at Stinsford. [St Michael’s Church, Church Lane, Stinsford, Dorset DT2 8XW]

Recommended reading. 

Hardy, Thomas. Far From The Madding Crowd.
Hardy, Thomas. Under The Greenwood Tree. 
Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the d’Urbavilles. 
Hardy, Thomas. Return Of The Native.

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