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Hardy, Thomas

Thomas Hardy was born in Stinsford on 2nd June 1840. He was born into a working-class family, where his father worked as a stonemason and builder. Thomas’ mother, Jemima, was a keen reader, and used her knowledge to educate her son until he started school at the age of eight. His rural upbringing was one of the major influences on his later writing.

At school, Hardy demonstrated a keen ability in Mathematics and Latin. However, due to the family’s lack of wealth, he was unable to continue his education after leaving school. In 1856 he was apprenticed to John Hicks to work as an architect, a profession in which he continued until 1870.

It was during the same year that Thomas Hardy met Emma Lavinia Gifford, during a project to restore a parish church in Cornwall. Emma was the daughter-in-law of the rector there, and it was not long before Hardy fell in love with her. The couple were happily married in 1874, and in the same year Hardy’s first major literary success, Far from the Madding Crowd, was published. The novel was the final product of 11 monthly instalments in Tinsley’s Magazine. At this point he was able to give up his architectural work and pursue his dream of writing as a career.

In 1883, with the help of his brother, Hardy began constructing his own house in Dorchester. He and Emma moved into the house in 1885, naming it Max Gate. The following year he published his first major novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge. Four years later, he published Tess of the d’Urbervilles. These two novels are widely considered among his greatest works as a writer.

Emma Hardy died in 1912, causing a period of grief that Thomas never truly recovered from – despite his remarriage to Florence Dugdale in 1914. The writer’s grief was reflected in much of his poetry during this period.

After struggling with pleurisy (a severe lung infection), Thomas Hardy himself died on 11th January 1928.

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1840

Born

Thomas Hardy was born on 2nd June 1840, in the hamlet of Stinsford in Dorset. His father, after whom he was named, was a stonemason and local builder. His mother was Jemima Hardy.
1849

Started school

Thomas was home-educated until the age of eight, when he started at Mr Last’s Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dorchester. He completed his formal education at the age of 16.
1856–1870

Worked as an architect

Hardy was apprenticed to local architect John Hicks in 1856, and continued to work in the industry for the next 14 years.
1870

Met Emma Lavinia Gifford

He met Emma while on a work assignment to repair the parish church at St Juliot, Cornwall, and immediately fell in love with her.
1874

Married Emma; published Far from the Madding Crowd

The couple were married in Kensington in the autumn. The success of Far from the Madding Crowd meant that Thomas Hardy could give up architecture altogether and devote himself to pursuing a literary career.
1883

Moved back to Dorchester

Having lived for a period in London, Thomas moved back to Dorchester with Emma, and, with the help of his brother, built a house of his own design called Max Gate. The couple moved into the house in 1885.
1886

Published The Mayor of Casterbridge

It was at Max Gate that Thomas wrote The Mayor of Casterbridge, one of his most famous and critically acclaimed novels.
1891

Published Tess of the d’Urbervilles

At the time of its production, the book created major controversy, due to its presentation of a 'fallen' woman and the sympathy with which she seemed to be portrayed. Now, however, the book is highly popular and frequently studied.
1912

Emma died

Emma’s death had a profound effect upon the writer; his collection Poems 1912–13 offered a reflection upon his loss.
1914

Remarried to Florence Dugdale

Dugdale was Hardy’s secretary, and was 39 years younger than him. The marriage did little to alleviate his grief for Emma.
1928

Died

Thomas Hardy died on 11th January 1928, after a battle with pleurisy (an infection of the lungs).