Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset, England in 1840 and went on to become a world renowned novelist and poet. He left school at the age of 16 and worked as an architect’s apprentice. He moved to London in 1862 to further his career and continued to write and study; he returned home in 1867 after an illness. He married Emma Gifford in 1874 against the wishes of both families and after her death in 1912 he married Florence Dugdale (who was 38 years his junior) in 1914.
After having his poetry rejected initially, he went on to find fame with his novels. His first was the little known Desperate Remedies (1871) and this was followed by works such as Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891). Jude the Obscure (1896) marks the end of his novel writing and the beginning of his greater focus on poetry. Many of his works are set in Wessex (which is the name he uses for a conglomeration of counties in the South-West of England) and his oeuvre is known for its perceived pessimism or, depending on one’s point of view, for its refusal to be idealistic. Novels such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure sharply challenged the received notions of pubic morality of the time and were criticised in some quarters for this. Such criticisms are thought to have led to Hardy’s return to poetry.
He died in 1928 and his funeral is remarkable in that his heart was buried in Stinsford churchyard, according to his wishes, whilst his ashes were interned in Westminster Abbey.