Thomas Hardy

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Thomas Hardy (June 2, 1840 - January 11, 1928) was an English novelist and poet. Typically, his stories take place in the fictional, pastoral county of Wessex (roughly corresponding to Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire), and feature themes such as tragedy, passion, fortune, death, religion and social status. Wessex first featured in Far From the Madding Crowd, his first major literary success. Further literary classics include The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure.

Despite becoming a celebrity in his own time, Hardy was disheartened by the negative criticisms of the themes and characters in his novels. Having always preferred writing poetry, he unofficially retired from novel writing to focus on the art up until his death. Hardy's poetry is somewhat more eclectic in tone, often featuring darker humour than seen in his novels. Though more famous for his novels, Hardy's poems have since become greatly respected.


Hardy's novels address a number of social issues of the time. Class is most prevalent, with characters regularly suffering due to the financial and social restrictions of their specific class. This is most apparent in the "fallen woman" archetypes that are regularly featured.

The "wheel of fortune" is another recurring tragic feature. Characters will often transition from a low social position to a higher one, or vice versa. This is often catalysed by the introduction of an "outsider", who will appear towards the beginning of the story and upset the established social order. This social and technological transition reflects the great changes brought about by the Industrial revolution. Also, there are the themes of religion. Though a practising Anglican, Hardy would often question his faith and the church through his novels and poetry. He would often portray representatives of religious institutions negatively, portrayed as dogmatic, callous, and at odds with the kinder, meek faith of the protagonists. This caused some degree of controversy for the time, with religious figures condemning their negative portrayal, as well as Hardy's attempts to portray "fallen women" in a sympathetic light. Finally, Hardy was an animal lover, and many of his poems focussed on his beloved cats.

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