The son of a master mason, Thomas Hardy was born in Upper Bockhampton, Dorset. He was apprenticed to an architect in Dorchester when he was 16, and his mother encouraged him to go on studying. His career in letters notwithstanding, Hardy retained an interest in stonework and architecture all his life.
It was his profession as an architect that took him to London in 1862, about the time when he first began to write. In this he received encouragement from his friend, Horace Moule, a university-trained scholar. The friendship was a valuable stimulus to the young Hardy; Moule was eight years his senior and had a classical background. (Moule committed suicide in 1873, believing himself a failure. His death affected Hardy deeply, and some of his characters-notably Jude-have more than a suggestion of his friend in them.)
Hardy stayed in London, about which he had definite reservations, until 1867, reading incessantly, attending performances of Shakespeare and visiting the opera. He went back in Dorset to assist in church restoration and at the same time began to write a novel containing some verse. This, called “The Poor Man and the Lady”, was never published, but comments from one reader, George Meredith for Chapman & Hall, contained good advice and Hardy’s next novel, “Desperate Remedies”, was published in 1871. It was not well received, but “Under the Greenwood Tree” (1872) was also accepted, and did better, being praised for the author’s delicate evocation of Dorset life. “A Pair of Blue Eyes” followed, appearing as a serial in “Tinley’s Magazine” and then in volume form in 1873. J.I.M. Stewart says it “may be regarded as a last apprentice piece” and certainly his next book, “Far from the Madding Crowd” (1874), demonstrated Thomas Hardy’s mastery of his form. He felt assured and successful enough to embark on marriage with Emma Gifford.
His confidence in himself was justified; he was now being asked for his work. “The Hand of Ethalberta”(1876), however, to some degree disappointed his admirers. His was because the early instalments of “Far from the Madding Crowd” had been likened to the work of George Eliot and Hardy was determined to write something completely different. “The Return of the Native” followed in 1878, written at the Hardys’ first home in Sturminster Newton.
The Hardys returned to London in 1878.Hardy, as well as researching the background for “The Trumpet-Major” (1880), was also taking his place among well-known writers; he met Tennyson and Browning and began his life-long friendship with Edmund Goose. He wa taken ill in the autumn of 1880, but succeeded in completing “A Laodicean” (1881), mostly by dictation, and the Hardys went back to Dorset in the late spring of 1881.
The next novel was a romance, ”Two on a Tower”(1882) while “The Mayor of Casterbridge”(1886) and “The Woodlanders”(1887) were already in his mind. In 1885 the Hardys moved into their house “Max Gate”, the building of which Hardy had superintended, and welcomed their first visitor, Robert Louis Stevenson. Hardy’s next major work was “Tess of the D’Urbevilles”(1891), but meanwhile there were a number of short stories, including two notable collections, “Wessex Tales” (1888) and “A Group of Noble Dames” (1891).
Hardy was by now chafing more and more at the restraints that convention was placing on truth in his fiction. Publishing so much in serial form, he was often obliged to savage his work to make it “acceptable”. He resented having to do it for Tess when he was called on to do the same thing for “Jude the Obscure” (1896) his disillusion was nearly complete. Both Tess and Jude in volume form, were the complete texts and, predictably, they were severely criticized. The marital scene, too, was becoming strained, and this was hardly helped by Emma Hardy’s overestimation of her own contribution, and by her opposition to Jude. Apart from the light “The Well-Beloved” (1987), “Jude the Obscure” was Thomas Hardy’s last novel. What should be mentioned here, before turning to his poetry, are the series of short stories that are an important part of his fiction. Apart from the volumes already mentioned there was “Life’s Little Ironies” (1894) and the collection called “A Changed Man”, “The Waiting Supper and Other Tales”, which was published in 1913 and Other Tales”, which was published in 1913. A story for children, “Our Exploits at West Poley” (1892), was first published in an American magazine, Household, and did not appear in England until 1952.
Hardy had written poetry from the outset of his career, but his first published volume, “Wessex Poems and Other Verses”, with illustrations by Hardy himself, did not appear until 1898. It was indifferently received, but he continued: “Poems of the Past and the Present” came out in 1904, the first part of “The Dynasts”, a verse drama of the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The completed work brought him immense acclaim. From then on he was an honoured man of letters, revered through England, an honorary D.Litt. four times over, received by the king, and awarded the Order of Merit and the RSL Gold Medal. Another volume of poems, “Time’s Laughing stocks”, was published in 1909.
Emma Hardy died in 1912, and the poems that followed, in Satires of Circumstance (1914), reflect his feeling of both loss and guilt-he deeply regretted the strained relations of the last years. By then he married Florence Dugdale and World War I begun. His Next book of verse, ”Moments of Vision” (1917), contained the patriotic verse, which he and other English poets had felt called upon to write. “Late Lyrics and Earlier” was published in 1922; the Prince of Wales called on Thomas Hardy at “Max Gate” on 1923, and “The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall”, a verse drama about Tristan and Iseult, was published at the end of the year. “Human Shows” (1925) was the last book of poems published during his lifetime. Thomas Hardy died on 10 January 1928, at the age of 87, and was honoured with a tomb at Westminster Abbey. His last volume of poems, “Winter Words”, was published in the October of that year.
Hardy’s work seems to divide his admirers: some prefer the great storyteller, some the poet; others admire “The Dynasts” and nothing else. The greater number accept him complete and it is a tribute to him that he has so much to offer those who do not. Even those who are cool about his novels will admit to finding memorable things in his short stories. His greatest strength no doubt lies in the deeply rooted Wessex character which informs most of his work; Hardy was a country-man without sentimentality and a fatalist. He knew perfectly that a way of life was disappearing, but this was not, to him, something to deplore; life was in many ways going to be better, with wider horizons. But the tension of being between two worlds lends great poignancy to much of his work and is at the heart of some of his novels. What he truly deplored was the rigid code of behaviour, which existed in his time, and the inflexibility imposed by tradition and routine which was the enemy of truth.
His poetry had to wait for his feeling that he could say no more in fiction; poetry was his first love and now he felt ready to be heard. After a slow beginning he was listened to with great attention and with increasing appreciation for his imaginative vision and his undeluded mind.
In his glorious, witty, yet disarmingly down-to-earth novel of the passionate fortunes of Miss Anna Garland, Hardy brings his childhood fascination with the Napoleonic era stunningly to life. By turns comic and tragic, The Trumpet-Major is a marvelously heartfelt emotional adventure, a wonderful insight into a rural community under threat, and an agonizing drama of unrequited love.
Anne and her widowed mother live quietly in a portion of the mill owned by Miller Loveday, until their peace is shattered by the sudden blaze of color and activity brought by a local encampment of several army regiments. As they prepare to defend the country from the expected invasion by Napoleon, Anne quickly builds her own defences against a private army of suitors. She must apparently chose between the headstrong and rude Festus Derriman who, in place of any manners at all, nevertheless possesses good prospects, and the reflective and honest trumpet-major, John Loveday, who does not. And there is a third, Anne’s childhood sweetheart and John’s sailor brother, Robert, whose sudden arrival with an unknown wife-to-be, throws the whole affair in a thorough confusion.
Far from the Madding Crowd
A thoughtless joke of Bathsheba Everdene, the heroine, makes her the object of Boldwood’s affections, but she is dazzled by Sergeant Troy, whom she soon marries. Farmer Gabriel Oak, the first one who had asked for her hand. After loosing his flock of sheep, his only fortune, he gets a job in Bathsheba’s farm, inherited from an uncle. His constant love and priceless friendship (he was her only true friend and became her personal advisor)is finally rewarded: Troy is killed by the jealous Boldwood, who goes alone in prison and Oak marries Bathsheba.
Ariadna Petri 10 M1
National College “Mihai Viteazul” Ploiesti
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