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Thomas Hardy

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English Literature

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was an English writer and poet. Many of Hardy's works were known to challenge society's norms and customs, and in particular to sympathise with the hardships faced by women and those of the working class. Hardy did not fight in the First World War, though many of his poems contain anti-war sentiments.

Thomas Hardy: biography

Let's take a look at Hardy's life and death, poetry, and books.

Thomas Hardy: early life

Thomas Hardy was born on 2nd June 1840 in Dorset (England) to parents Thomas and Jemima. Hardy had three siblings, and his upbringing in the rural countryside influenced many of his works later in life. Thomas Hardy was educated at a private school in Dorchester (England), and chose not to go on to study at university. Hardy worked as an architect, while also writing poetry.

Thomas Hardy: later life

Thomas Hardy went on to write many successful novels such as Far from the Madding Crowd in 1874. Hardy also wrote poetry, and many of Hardy's works were known to challenge society's norms and customs. Hardy did not join the First World War, but many of his poems contain anti-war sentiments. Hardy married Emma Gifford in 1874, and the two remained married until her death in 1912. Hardy remarried Florence Dugdale in 1914. Hardy did not have any children with either of his wives.

Thomas Hardy: cause of death

Thomas Hardy died from cardiovascular syncope and old age on the 11th of January 1928. Hardy's ashes are buried in Westminster Abbey in Poets Corner, with the exception of his heart which is buried in St Michael's churchyard in Dorset (England).

Thomas Hardy: poems

Hardy wrote many well-known works of poetry. Let's have a look at some.

'The Ruined Maid'

Hardy's poem 'The Ruined Maid', written in 1886, is about two women who encounter each other, and discuss what has changed in their lives since they last saw each other. Hardy uses the poem to highlight the constraints imposed on women by society regarding their sexuality. Women were expected to be chaste and pure, whilst men did not really have expectations placed on them regarding their romantic or sexual lives.

Hardy's 'The Ruined Maid' is a witty critique of these double standards - one of the women in the poem has been supposedly 'ruined' after having sexual relations outside of marriage. Hardy then shows, however, that she appears to be anything but ruined, as the man she had these relations with is rather wealthy and she now lives a life of luxury. To prove Hardy's point, the other woman, in contrast, is still living in poverty, although living up to society's ideals of her being a pure and virtuous woman.

— "You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,

And you'd sigh, and you'd sock; but at present you seem

To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!" —

"True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said she. (l.17-20)

'In Tenebris'

'In Tenebris', which is Latin for 'in the darkness', is a poem that was written by Thomas Hardy between 1895 and 1896. Hardy draws a correlation between the speaker's depiction of the state of the natural landscape and the speaker's thoughts and feelings. Hardy does this by illustrating the desolate environment, which is destroyed by winter, and the speaker feels rather bleak and bereft of life.

Hardy shows, however, that the speaker does not seem overly affected by the sight of this desolation. Instead, Hardy's speaker expresses the depression and sadness that they are internally experiencing. For the speaker, Hardy evokes the feelings of being trapped and despairing, without any hope in sight.

Black is night's cope;

But death will not appal

One who, past doubtings all,

Waits in unhope. (l.21-24)

'The Man He Killed'

Hardy's poem 'The Man He Killed', written in 1902, is a dramatic monologue in which a soldier recalls having killed a man during war. In this poem, Hardy's anti-war sentiments are clear. The speaker recognises that the enemy soldier he shot was also a fellow man, who the speaker could have even been friendly with under different circumstances.

Hardy uses this poem to highlight the futility of war. The speaker notes how similar he and the enemy soldier were, as he tries to justify having killed him. Hardy uses this experience to shed light on the waste of human life in war, as well as how soldiers were often manipulated into believing that the end justifies the means – in other words – war justifies violence and bloodshed.

A dramatic monologue is a poem that has been written in the form of a single character's speech

Had he and I but met

By some old ancient inn,

We should have sat us down to wet

Right many a nipperkin!

But ranged as infantry,

And staring face to face,

I shot at him as he at me,

And killed him in his place. (l.1-8)

'In Time of The Breaking Nations'

Written in 1915, Thomas Hardy's poem 'In Time of The Breaking Nations' is an elegy on the First World War – the phrase 'breaking nations' meaning war itself. Hardy's poem alludes to the idea that war has always existed, but that in the face of nature and love, will soon be forgotten. Hardy contrasts the harsh realities of war with simple, rural life, and uses this comparison to express the idea that memories of war will be one day be lost, whilst nature, and love, will stand the test of time.

An elegy is a reflective and solemn poem, lamenting someone's death.

Yonder a maid and her wight

Come whispering by:

War’s annals will cloud into night

Ere their story die. (l.9-12)

Thomas Hardy: books

Hardy is best known for his novels.

Far from the Madding Crowd

Published in 1874, Thomas Hardy's novel Far from the Madding Crowd follows the journey of protagonist Gabriel Oak, a bailiff, as well as farmer and shepherd. The protagonist falls in love with a woman named Bathsheba Everdene, who does not return his affections.

You overrate my capacity of love. I don't possess half the warmth of nature you believe me to have. An unprotected childhood in a cold world has beaten gentleness out of me1 (ch.31)

The Mayor of Casterbridge

Published in 1886, The Mayor of Casterbridge is the tale of protagonist Michael Henchard, who sells his wife and daughter at an auction while drunk. The narrative follows Michael Henchard's seemingly intertwined bad luck and good fortune, which follows him throughout the novel in many of his encounters.

Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain2 (ch.45)

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Published in 1891, Tess of the D'Urbervilles follows the protagonist Tess Durbeyfield and her financially poor family. Her father John discovers that his family are in fact descendants of a noble and wealthy family – the D'Urbervilles – and Tess is sent to them to claim that they are related, in an attempt to alleviate her family's impoverished state.

Sometimes I feel I don't want to know anything more about it than I know already ... what's the use of learning that I am one of a long row only - finding out that there is set down in some old book somebody just like me, and to know that I shall only act her part; making me sad, that's all3 (ch.19)

Thomas Hardy: Key takeaways

  • Thomas Hardy was born on the 2nd of June 1840 in Dorset (England)
  • Thomas Hardy was educated at a private school in Dorchester (England), but did not attend university
  • Thomas Hardy was known for his novels and poems, and many of his works sympathised with the hardships that were faced by women and those of the working class.
  • Thomas Hardy did not join the First World War, but many of his poems contain anti-war sentiments
  • Hardy died from cardiovascular syncope and old age on the 11th of January 1928
  • Thomas Hardy's ashes are buried in Westminster Abbey in Poets Corner, with the exception of his heart which is buried in St Michael's churchyard in Dorset (England).

1. Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd, 2008

2. Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge, 2003

3. Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, 2003

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy was an English writer and poet

Thomas Hardy died from cardiovascular syncope and old age 

Thomas Hardy was known for his novels and poems, and many of his works sympathised with the hardships that were faced by women and those of the working class

Thomas Hardy died on the 11th of January 1928 

Thomas Hardy did not join the First World War, but many of his poems contain anti-war sentiments 

Final Thomas Hardy Quiz

Question

Who was Thomas Hardy?

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Answer

Thomas Hardy was an English writer and poet 

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Question

How did Thomas Hardy die?

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Answer

Thomas Hardy died from cardiovascular syncope and old age  

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Question

What was Thomas Hardy famous for?

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Answer

Thomas Hardy was known for his novels and poems, and many of his works sympathised with the hardships that were faced by women and those of the working class 

Show question

Question

When did Thomas Hardy die?

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Answer

Thomas Hardy died on the 11th of January 1928  

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Question

Did Thomas Hardy go to war?

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Answer

Thomas Hardy did not join the First World War, but many of his poems contain anti-war sentiments  

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Question

When was Thomas Hardy born?

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Answer

Thomas Hardy was born on the 2nd of June 1840 

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Question

Where was Thomas Hardy born?

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Answer

Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset (England) 

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Question

Which poem are the following lines taken from?


— "You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream, 

And you'd sigh, and you'd sock; but at present you seem 

To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!" — 

"True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said she. (l.17-20)

Show answer

Answer

'The Ruined Maid' 

Show question

Question

Which poem are the following lines taken from?


Black is night's cope; 

But death will not appal 

One who, past doubtings all, 

Waits in unhope. (l.21-24)

Show answer

Answer

'In Tenebris' 

Show question

Question

Which poem are the following lines taken from?


Had he and I but met 

By some old ancient inn, 

We should have sat us down to wet 

Right many a nipperkin! 


But ranged as infantry, 

And staring face to face, 

I shot at him as he at me, 

And killed him in his place. (l.1-8)


Show answer

Answer

'The Man He Killed' 

Show question

Question

Which poem are the following lines taken from?


Yonder a maid and her wight 

Come whispering by: 

War’s annals will cloud into night 

Ere their story die. (l.9-12)


Show answer

Answer

'In Time of The Breaking Nations' 

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Question

What are some of Thomas Hardy's most well known novels?

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Answer

Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Tess of the D'Urbervilles 

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Question

What is a dramatic monologue?

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Answer

A dramatic monologue is a poem that has been written in the form of a single character's speech 

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Question

What is an elegy?

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Answer

An elegy is a reflective and solemn poem, lamenting someone's death

Show question

Question

Did Thomas Hardy attend university?

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Answer

Thomas Hardy was educated at a private school in Dorchester (England), but did not attend university 

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Question

Who wrote 'The Ruined Maid'?

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Answer

Thomas Hardy wrote 'The Ruined Maid'.

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Question

What meter is used in 'The Ruined Maid'?

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Answer

'The Ruined Maid' makes use of tow contrasting meters, iamb and anapestic trimeter.

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Question

Which is the correct 'beat' of stressed and unstressesd syllables for an anapestic trimeter?

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Answer

dadaDUM

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Question

Which part of the opening line is an imab?

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Answer

Who could have supposed I should meet you in town? '

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Question

What are the themes in 'The Ruined Maid'?

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Answer

Themes in 'The Ruined Maid' include gender inequalities, social mobility, and the realities of working life in the country.

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Question

How does Thomas Hardy portray Amelia that is different to other Victorian era depictions of prostitutes.

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Answer

Hardy portrays Amelia as an unrepentant prostitute. He does this without any obvious condemnation of her choice, situation, or attitude.

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Question

What literary or poetic devices does Thomas Hardy use to create contrast in his poem, 'The Ruined Maid'?

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Answer

Juxtaposition

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Question

What type of poem is 'The Ruined Maid'?

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Answer

'The Ruined Maid' is a satirical poem.

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Question

What is the price Amelia pays for her more comfortable lifestyle?

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Answer

The price Amelia pays is 'ruin'.

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Question

What words would you use to describe Amelia?

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Answer

Unrepentant

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