Between the Pages: Thomas Hardy’s Life (part II)

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Between the Pages is a new, weekly blog series which explores the life, times and creative works of well-known authors. I plan to run the blog series until the end of 2015, focusing on one author per month. New posts every Tuesday, plus occasional bonus posts.

The first post in the series is a brief biography of the author, the second looks at the historical period of the author, and the third post discusses their creative works. Finally, the last post includes selected quotations and short excerpts by the author.


There’s a slight change of schedule this week — today, we’re following up Hardy’s personal life before we move on to discussing his era. My post about Hardy’s era is in progress — I’ll publish that in a few days and then the series will be back on track! 🙂

Thomas Hardy, circa 1910 - 1915. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas Hardy, circa 1910 – 1915.
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

At the end of my last post about Thomas Hardy’s life, I mentioned that he had a difficult personal life. He married his first wife, Emma, in 1874 and for a few years, they were quite happy. But they began to have disagreements and it led to a growing distance between them, most likely prompted by a combination of factors including their childless marriage and Hardy’s growing success.

Emma disapproved of some of the subjects of his novels — Tess of the d’Urbervilles shocked the Victorian audience with its implicit criticism of Victorian conventions and morals, and Jude the Obscure offered an even bleaker outlook on the society of the time. And she must have felt hurt by the attention that her husband paid to young women who were artists or novelists, although it is difficult to gain insights as Emma burned most of her letters.

Towards the end of her life, she became a recluse and the couple were still estranged when she died in 1912. Tomalin’s biography describes his guilt and remorse and how, after his wife died, he had her coffin brought to stand at the end of his bed for three days until the funeral.

Two years later, Hardy married his young secretary, Florence Dugdale. She was 35, he was 74: a 39 year age gap.

Florence Hardy at the seaside, 1915 Public domain image sourced from Wikimedia Commons

Florence Hardy at the seaside, 1915
Public domain image sourced from Wikimedia Commons

However, his problematic first marriage continued to haunt Hardy and he wrote many poems which express his regrets, his reminiscences and nostalgia about the past. These poems are intense expressions of feeling and he continued writing them even after his marriage to Florence, who must have felt the shadow of his first wife.

“In them he speaks to her [Emma], he gives her a voice, he conjures her up” (Tomalin, 2007).

THE VOICE

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

      Thus I; faltering forward,
      Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
      And the woman calling.

Hardy died in 1928, after a life filled with prolific writing which has incredible power and a personal life which was marred by depression and his troubled marriage.

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3 thoughts on “Between the Pages: Thomas Hardy’s Life (part II)

  1. Pingback: Between the Pages: Thomas Hardy’s Times | Cultural Life

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