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MonkeyNotes-Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

THOMAS HARDY

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, at Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester. Both his father and grandfather were master stonemasons. Hardy first attended a local school and then a school in Dorchester. From his father, Thomas Hardy, he inherited a love of music, and from his mother, Jemima Hand, a literary bent of mind. Between 1856 and 1861, he was apprenticed to a Dorchester architect, John Hicks. During his apprenticeship, he studied Latin and Greek and began writing verse. Later he worked in London for the architect Arthur Blowfeld, at which time he read widely and studied painting in the National Gallery. He also practiced architecture independently and was an art critic.

His first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady was written in 1868, but was never published. In 1871, he published his first novel Desperate Remedies. In 1874, Hardy married Emma Lavinia Gifford. In the same year, he published Far from the Madding Crowd; this novel brought him enough success that he could permanently retire from architecture and devote his time to writing full-time. He wrote Return of the Native between 1876 and 1878. The Mayor of Casterbridge was published in 1886. The publication of Tess of the D'Urbervilles in 1891created a general furor, and Jude the Obscure in 1892 caused a scandal. AS a result, Hardy decided to give up writing novels altogether. Instead, he turned his attention to writing lyric poetry. In 1898, he published his "Wessex Poems" and followed this work with "Poems of the Past and Present" in 1902. He also published "Satires of Circumstance" and his longest and greatest poetic work, "The Dynasts," which is an epic drama of the Napoleonic wars in Europe.


By the 1890s Hardy's relationship with his wife had become unhappy and strained. Jude the Obscure, in its twin attacks on marriage and the church, was a double blow to Emma. She took it both as a public attack on herself and, as a devout Christian, she felt that her deepest beliefs had been insulted. The relationship between the couple never healed. In November of 1912, Mrs. Hardy died of gallstones, after suffering for a long time from the lingering and painful disease. In 1914, Hardy married Florence Dugdale, a much younger woman who had been working as his secretary and had helped him with research on the "Dynasts."

Thomas Hardy was recognized as an outstanding writer during his lifetime and received several literary honors. He also received an honorary degree from Oxford. The author died on January 11, 1928. Burial in the poet's corner in Westminster Abbey was offered. It was felt, however, that an author whose heart lay in Wessex should not have it buried elsewhere. Therefore, his heart was buried in the grave of his first wife at Stinsford, and his ashes were deposited next to those of Charles Dickens in Westminster Abbey.

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