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Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, and was assumed dead until a nurse said, “Stop a minute,” and noticed he was still alive. A sickly child, he suffered a number of incapacitating ailments throughout his life. During his convalescence from a bout of internal bleeding, he dictated much of his novel A Laodicean, which was serialized in Harper’s in 1881 and 1882, to his second wife, Florence Dugdale Hardy. He died of pleurisy on January 11, 1928.
Hardy’s first and last literary efforts were in poetry, but during his lifetime his novels garnered more attention. Scandalous for their depictions of embattled British classes, sexual and spiritual desire, and the oppression of women, they were deemed by the British press to be “titanically bad,” “like one prolonged scolding from beginning to end,” and “a desperate remedy for an emaciated purse.”
In 1874, Far from the Madding Crowd was published; a novel about a farm owner in rural England and her three suitors, it contains passages on murder, illegitimacy, mass sheep death by cliff jumping, and the relevance of love to marriage. Hardy later attempted to sell serialization rights for his novel The Trumpet-Major (1880) to Blackwood’s by assuring the magazine’s publisher that it was “above all things a cheerful story, without views or opinions.” Tess of the d’Urbervilles was published in 1891, receiving, like most of his work, extreme condemnation and approbation.
Jude the Obscure (1895) was serialized in Harper’s from 1894 to 1895, in a version in which Jude Fawley and Sue Bridehead do not consummate their relationship. Two months before the revised novel went to print, Hardy danced for the last time, under a full moon at Larmer Tree, which, according to his de facto autobiography, “left him stiff in the knees for some succeeding days.” When the novel was published the following year, the Bishop of Wakefield tossed his copy into the fire, and Hardy regularly received envelopes containing ashes from other readers. He decided never to write another novel again.
For the rest of his life Hardy focused on his poetry, which would prove foundational to the work of Philip Larkin and The Movement, among others. He produced eleven volumes in the thirty years between the publication of Wessex Poems (1898) and the posthumously published Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres (1928). He wished to be buried in Stinsford, southwest England, where he was born, with the graves of his ancestors and first wife; but Florence Dugdale Hardy attested to a compromise “found between this definite personal wish and the nation’s claim to the ashes of a great poet”: his heart was removed from his body and placed inside a casket in a Stinsford churchyard, while the rest of his body was cremated and buried in Westminster Abbey.
By Thomas Hardy
By Thomas Hardy
By Thomas Hardy
Inventor of the “perpendicular” style of Gothic architecture
By Thomas Hardy
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”