Between the Pages: Thomas Hardy’s Times


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.

In Tuesday’s post (Thomas Hardy’s Life (part II), we discussed his difficult personal life. This post moves on to explore his historical era and the context for his writing, using examples from one of his novels.

The Victorian era was characterised by a stark divide between the social classes — the haves and the have-nots. It was the age of the Industrial Revolution, with thick smog, factories belching smoke and workers who toiled long hours from a young age. One of Hardy’s contemporaries, Charles Dickens, is well-known for his portrayal of the dismal lives of the urban poor.

While Hardy’s novels are mostly set in small country towns and villages, there were hardships nonetheless. In an essay, ‘The Dorsetshire Labourer‘, which Hardy published in 1883, he wrote about the plight of rural dwellers:

Drudgery in the slums and alleys of a city, too long pursued, and accompanied as it too often is by indifferent health, may induce a mood of despondency which is well-nigh permanent; but the same degree of drudgery in the fields results at worst in a mood of painless passivity.

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