Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Thomas Hardy by Claire Tomalin

If you read Thomas Hardy’s life you will know how the prose overshadows verse. Thomas Hardy’s first love was poetry and he had taken to novel writing only to earn a living. But most of us know him as a novelist, existence of several poetry collections to his credit notwithstanding. Of all the biographies of writers I have read or those I know about Thomas Hardy comes from a most unlikely background for a novelist. 

Claire Tomalin’s Thomas Hardy “The Time Torn Man “ traces the life of the famous British Victorian writer his birth onwards going a little further back in time, in fact, for a snapshot of his parents’ life and their circumstances through his finding of literary fame, his love affairs (most of them one-sided) and the trials and tribulations Hardy had to go through to establish himself as a writer.

Thomas Hardy was born to poor parents in English countryside, in Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester. His mother, Jemima, was a domestic maid with literary inclinations. She had access to the libraries of the educated and read some classics.  She had modest ambitions beyond her station but never achieved them. Understandably, Hardy took his first steps towards literature holding his mother’s hand. Hardy’s father was a stonemason and local builder.

Hardy married the woman he loved and it was a steady marriage, although they didn’t have any kids and despite Hardy’s life-long mental philandering where he had romantic feelings for women both older and younger than him and most of them much married even as he remained loyal to his wife avoiding any mutually acknowledged romantic or physical relationship with any other woman, although failing to hide his mental infidelities from his wife, who, understandably, bitterly detested it but also silently suffered it. Hardy married twice; the second time when he was in his 70s and his wife, mid 20s.

Hardy extended this Jackal and Hyde character to his attitude towards religion. He had fallen off Christian faith as a young man but maintained the outwardly signs of devoutness (he visited church regularly), so that upon his death the local cleric told that Hardy had lived life like a true Christian. Several times his beliefs revealed residues of Christian beliefs.   

It was not until slightly later in life, when he was in early 20s, that Hardy started taking interest in writing, unlike those who wake up to their literary call as children. There is no denying the fact that, though, the seeds were sowed much earlier, only that they took time to sprout up and be seen. The sprouting happened when Hardy worked in London as an architect, a profession he was initiated into by his father and a craft he was not too bad at.

His days in London exposed him to a larger world and a wider range of experience and became a canvas to compare his rural life with. He wrote a book based on this experience but didn’t get a publisher. A few publishers showed some interest only to back out later. Thomas Hardy’s first book, serialized like many others’ in his days and before, was Under the Greenwood Tree.

Among his novels, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, much ahead of its time in terms of the values it dealt with, was closest to Hardy’s heart.

Like the other famous writers of his time, Hardy’s novels were serialized. But unlike his contemporaries and they are equally mammoth-like figures in literature, like Henry James, EM Foster (a little junior to Hardy), Rudyard Kipling etc, Thomas Hardy specialized in rural England,  fact which in proximity to Dickens; both dealt with poverty, one with rural, the other with urban.  The people surrounded by whom Hardy grew up became his characters; the rural scene he had grown up amidst became the landscape of his novels.

Gradually fame came to him and he came to be recognized as a great. Claire Tomalin has said Hardy had a melancholic personality (confirmed by many who saw the writer) but hasn’t drawn any connection between his personality and the melancholic nature of his novels.


Ellen said...

Hi Indra,

I haven't had the chance to read any of his books. Yet you write about his work like it would be really worth it to do so. Now you have me curious and interested.

Crossing my fingers that I find his books here in my favorite local book store. :-)

Wishing you a great day. Blessings!

indrablog said...

Hi Elen,
You can try out Thomas Hardy - his books should not be hard to get - he is among the most famous English authors.

Love to have you here.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...