domingo, 27 de noviembre de 2022

Paul Bowles / The Outsider

Paul Bowles

(1910 - 1999)

Paul Bowles was born in New York in 1910. When he was 17, the Paris based avant-garde magazine transition published some of his poems. He went to Paris where he met Gertrude Stein, who advised him to go to Morocco. Bowles altered his plans and went to Tangier. "As a result of this arbitrary action my life was permanently altered, he recalled."

Bowles studied composition with Aaron Copeland in New York and Berlin, and with Virgil Thomson in Paris. His opera, "The Wind Remains," was performed in New York in 1943, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. During the thirties and forties, Bowles composed theatre music for Broadway plays, including Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.

In 1938 he married the writer Jane Auer. They lived in Mexico and New York, where they shared a house with W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten. After World War II, he and Jane settled in Tangier, Morocco. Jane Bowles died in 1973. Bowles combined various talents: novelist, translator, poet, composer and short story writer. While other writers esteemed his work he has become something of a cult figure and has not received wider public attention.

Paul Bowles's novels include The Sheltering Sky [1960], Let It Come Down [1962], and The Spider's House [1965]. His short story collections include The Delicate Prey and Other Stories [1960], Things Gone and Things Still Here [1977], A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard [1972], Three Tales [1975], The Time of Friendship [1975], The Collected Stories of Paul Bowles [1976], Unwelcome Words [1988], and A Thousand Days of Mohktar [1989]. He has written several books about Morocco, travel essays, journals, poems, and translated works by several Moroccan writers.

The dilemma of the outsider in an alien society is a recurrent theme of Bowles' writings. Paul Gray, in his review of Collected Stories, wrote in Time magazine that, "he writes from a sensibility that is foreign or at least remote from the American ordinary - a sensibility that identifies with nature, natural forces and spirit of place. The essential Bowles plot charts a clash between two cultures, one usually Western and the other primitive. Visitors come to feast on the picturesque and take one step off the beaten path. Sometimes their fate is terrible."

Gore Vidal has commented that Bowles' stories are "immediately recognized as being unlike anything else in our literature. . .as a short story, Paul Bowles has had few equals in the second half of the twentieth century." Paul Bowles continued to live in Morocco until his death in 1999.

In selecting the 1991 winner, the Rea Award Jurors, Joel Conarroe, Francine du Plessix Gray and Joyce Carol Oates gave the following citation:

"Paul Bowles is a storyteller of the utmost purity and integrity. He writes of a world before God became man; a world in which men and women in extremis are seen as components in a larger, more elemental drama. His prose is crystalline and his voice unique. Among American masters of the short story, Paul Bowles is sui generis." 

Paul Bowles


In 1985 he published his translated version of one short story "The Circular Ruins" of Jorge Luis Borges which was published in a book of sixteen story translations (all by Bowles) called "She Woke Me Up So I Killed Her". This Borges story had already been translated and published by the three main Borges translators: Anthony Kerrigan, Anthony Bonner and James E. Irby and it is interesting to note the difference of styles amongst these four different translations. Bowles's version is in typical Bowles prose style and is readily distinguishable from the other three, which have a more conservative idiomatic form of translation.

Paul Bowles: Profile

Barry Miles celebrates the surreal, ecstatic life of the writer 
and composer Paul Bowles, a friend of Gertrude Stein, 
Orson Welles and Gertrude Stein
By Barry Miles
6:30AM BST 02 Jul 2010

Paul Bowles’s life is the story of 20th-century American modernism. He knew everyone from Gertrude Stein and Marcel Duchamp to Francis Bacon and James Baldwin; pre-war expatriates in New York, Paris and Berlin and the post-war Beat Generation in Tangier. His life divides into two distinct halves: 1910 until 1947, during which he was primarily a composer, writing music for Broadway plays for Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, William Saroyan and other incidental music, travelling extensively and engaging in a frenetic social life with a largely gay group of writers and composers. And from 1947 until his death in 1999, when he settled in Tangier and concentrated on writing four full-length novels and many collections of short stories, poems and translations. Travels: Collected Writings, 1950-93 has just been published in his centenary year.

Born on December 30 1910, Paul Frederic Bowles grew up in Jamaica, Long Island. His upbringing was very strict; he was not allowed to speak to or play with other children, and instead retreated into his own world of drawing and writing: he could read at the age of two and wrote his first two-page story when he was three. His mother taught him how to empty his mind in order to enter a blank state. This was how she shut out the outside world and her authoritarian husband and how Bowles developed his internal life.

Jane Bowles and Paul
New York, 1944

The emotional distance Bowles set up between himself and his parents persisted throughout his life in his relations with other people. Reserve, dissociation and isolation are the underlying subjects of most of his work. His characters are frequently detached, unable to express their emotions or connect with other people. Like Bowles, they are passive, their actions determined by fate.

By the time he was nine years old Bowles had written a number of small piano pieces. He had his own column in the school magazine, the Oracle, and between 1926 and 1928 he published more than 40 pieces there, including several translations from French. He was very attracted to Modernism and Surrealism and practised automatic writing. He sent the results to Transition, which published several of his poems. He was just 17 years old and already sharing pages with James Joyce, Stein and André Breton.

In 1929, Aaron Copland became his music teacher. Copland was notorious for seducing his young male students. They became lovers and Bowles travelled with him to Berlin where Christopher Isherwood used his name for Sally Bowles in Goodbye to Berlin, which later becameCabaret. They visited Stein who said that he and Copland should go to Tangier, which they did.

Bowles married the writer Jane Auer in 1938 and they travelled in Central America and France. Friends were puzzled by the match because although Paul had taken both male and female lovers, Jane had been exclusively lesbian all her life. Paul and Jane were great friends, always joking and chattering together. However, they usually chose sexual partners with whom little communication was possible: Jane’s longest relationship was with Cherifa, a woman from the market in Tangier who spoke only Moghrebi, and Paul’s post-war lovers were illiterate Arab boys.

After travels in Central America, Bowles translated Sartre’s No Exit, the first of a long series of translations from French, Spanish and Moghrebi, which continued for the rest of his life. He became the music critic for the New York Herald Tribune and began publishing short stories.

Paul was diffident and removed in the extreme, often appearing callous towards his wife. Jane, a spoiled rich girl who never had to work, was forever causing scenes and having tantrums, and fretting over her work, which came very slowly. Her novel Two Serious Ladies, published in 1943, inspired Bowles to also write a novel.

The memory of Tangier haunted him. In 1947, with an advance for a novel, “I got on a Fifth Avenue bus one day to go uptown. By the time we had arrived at Madison Square I knew what would be in the novel and what I would call it… It would take place in the Sahara, where there was only the sky, and so it would be The Sheltering Sky.” By the time he reached midtown, he had made all the important decisions about this, his most celebrated book. Bernardo Bertolucci’s Bafta award-winning film ofThe Sheltering Sky was released in 1989, and featured Bowles himself as the narrator.

He left for Morocco, travelling with his boyfriend. Jane followed seven months later with her girlfriend. In Tangier they had separate apartments in the same building. Paul liked majoun, a form of hashish candy, and kif, and stayed up late, stoned, smoking with friends. Jane could not stand any form of cannabis, but was a heavy drinker; the probable cause of her stroke in 1957. When faced with the tricky prospect of describing the death of his protagonist, as a confirmed Surrealist, Bowles handed the problem over to his subconscious and took a large amount of majoun: “The majoun provided a solution totally unlike whatever I should have found without it.”

Bowles’s dedication to his third book, The Delicate Prey, read: “For my mother, who first read me the stories of Poe.” There is a sense of dread in his writing, that something terrible is about to happen, there is no safety anywhere, no security, each of us is essentially alone. Tennessee Williams, visiting Tangier at a time of political unrest, said: “It wasn’t the Arabs I was afraid of while I was in Tangier, it was Paul Bowles, whose chilling stories filled me with horror.”

Most of his characters were thinly veiled portraits. The Arab boy in The Spider’s House is based on Ahmed Yacoubi, Bowles's lover for a decade. Bowles: “As much as I was capable of loving anyone, I loved Yacoubi with an intense passion heretofore unknown to me. With Yacoubi, it was never ‘just sex’.” What constituted “just sex” for Bowles he never made clear, but he did speak of his love of being beaten. At school he goaded his fellow pupils into fighting with him. He always took punishment “stoically and ecstatically”. This became a feature of his adult relationships: “Being beaten,” he wrote to a friend, “[is] a vice. But how enjoyable. How exquisite. Biding myself with the pain, all the more enjoyable than misbehaving with some girl or man.”

Based largely on the publication of A Hundred Camels in the Courtyardand M’Hashish, Bowles found that his writing on the use of kif and majoun had made him a cult figure in the Sixties counter-culture. Hippies turned up at his door.

On May 4 1973, Jane Bowles died after years of ill health and rumours spread around Tangier that her lover Cherifa had poisoned her. Bowles himself was criticised for not getting better medical advice. He had been very passive, simply doing what the doctor advised without getting other medical opinions.

His fame grew. The Rolling Stones visited and he became an essential stop on the tour of north Africa. Film crews arrived from Sweden and France, Germany and Holland – as well as from the United States and Britain. Then in 1997 his health began to fail. He died following a heart attack on November 18 1999.

Paul Bowles,1975
Photo by Dora Carringdon



1931 – Sonata for Oboe and Clarinet
1936 – Horse Eats Hat, play
1936 – Who Fights This Battle, play
1937 – Doctor Faustus, play
1937 – Yankee Clipper, ballet
1938 – Music for a Farce
1938 – Too Much Johnson, play
1938 – Huapango – Cafe Sin Nombre – Huapango-El Sol, Latin American folk
1939 – Denmark Vesey, opera
1939 – My Heart's in the Highlands, play
1940 – Loves Old Sweet Song, play
1940 – Twelfth Night, play
1941 – Liberty Jones, play
1941 – Watch on the Rhine, play
1941 – Love Like Wildfire, play
1941 – Pastorela, ballet
1942 – In Another Five Years Or So, opera
1943 – South Pacific, play
1943 – Sonata for Flute and Piano and Two Mexican Dances
1943 – 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, play 
1944 – The Glass Managerie, play
1944 – Jacobowsky and the Colonel, play
1944 – Sentimental Colloquy, ballet
1945 – Ondine, play
1945 – Three, words by Tennessee Williams
1945 – Three Pastoral Songs
1946 – Night Without Sleep, words by Charles Henri Ford
1946 – Cyrano de Bergerac, play
1946 – The Dancer, play
1946 – Land's End, play
1946 – On Whitman Avenue, play
1946 – Twilight Bar, play
1946 – Blue Mountain Ballads [Heavenly Grass, Lonesome Man, Cabin, Sugar in the Cane ], words by Tennessee Williams, music by Paul Bowles.
1946 – Concerto for Two Pianos
1947 – Sonata for Two Pianos
1947 – Pastorela: First Suite, a ballet/opera in one act
1947 – The Glass Menagerie, words by Tennessee Williams, two songs by Bowles
1948 – Concerto for Two Pianos, Winds and Percussion
1948 – Summer and Smoke, play 
1949 – Night Waltz
1953 – A Picnic Cantata
1953 – In the Summer House, play
1955 – Yerma, opera
1958 – Edwin Booth, play
1959 – Sweet Bird of Youth, play
1962 – The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, play
1966 – Oedipus (Sophocles), play
1967 – The Garden, play
1969 – The Bacchae(Euripides), play
1976 - Cross Country
1978 – Orestes, play
1978 – Caligula (Camus), play
1984 – Camp Cataract, play
1984 – A Quarreling Pair, play
1992 – Hippolytos, play
1992 – Black Star at the Point of Darkness
1993 – Salome, play


1949 – The Sheltering Sky
1952 – Let It Come Down
1955 – The Spider's House
1966 – Up Above the World
1991 – Too Far From Home (novella)
1992 – Too Far From Home (with Miquel Barceló: 28 watercolors)
1994 – Too Far From Home (with Maguerite McBey)
Short stories (collections)
1950 – A Little Stone
1950 – The Delicate Prey and Other Stories
1959 – The Hours after Noon
1962 – A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard
1967 – The Time of Friendship
1968 – Pages from Cold Point and Other Stories
1975 – Three Tales
1977 – Things Gone & Things Still Here
1979 – Collected Stories, 1939–1976
1981 – In the Red Room
1982 – Points in Time
1985 – Midnight Mass
1988 – Unwelcome Words: Seven Stories
1988 – A Distant Episode
1988 – Call at Corazon
1989 – A Thousand Days for Mokhtar
1995 – The Time of Friendship Paul Bowles & Vittorio Santoro
1933 – Two Poems
1968 – Scenes
1972 – The Thicket of Spring
1981 – Next to Nothing: Collected Poems, 1926–1977
1997 – No Eye Looked Out from Any Crevice


1946 – No Exit, by Jean-Paul Sartre
1952 – The Lost Trail of the Sahara, by Guy Frison-Roche
1964 – A Life Full Of Holes, by Driss Ben Hamed Charhadi (Larbi Layachi)
1967 – Love With A Few Hairs, by Mohammed Mrabet
1969 – The Lemon, by Mohammed Mrabet
1969 – M'Hashish, by Mohammed Mrabet
1973 – For Bread Alone, by Mohamed Choukri
1973 – Jean Genet in Tangier, by Mohamed Choukri
1974 – The Boy Who Set the Fire, by Mohammed Mrabet
1975 – Hadidan Aharam, by Mohammed Mrabet
1975 – The Oblivion Seekers, by Isabelle Eberhardt
1976 – Look & Move On, by Mohammed Mrabet
1976 – Harmless Poisons, Blameless Sins, by Mohammed Mrabet
1977 – The Big Mirror, by Mohammed Mrabet
1979 – Tennessee Williams in Tangier, by Mohamed Choukri
1979 – Five Eyes, by Abdeslam Boulaich, "Sheheriar and Sheherazade" Mohamed Choukri, "The Half Brothers" Larbi Layachi,
"The Lute" Mohammed Mrabet, and "The Night Before Thinking" Ahmed Yacoubi
1980 – The Beach Café & The Voice, by Mohammed Mrabet
1982 – The Path Doubles Back, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
1983 – The Chest, by Mohammed Mrabet
1983 – Allal, by Pociao
1984 – The River Bed, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, (a short story)
1985 – She Woke Me Up So I Killed Her, [16 authors' short stories from various languages]
1986 – Marriage With Papers, by Mohammed Mrabet
1986 – Paul Bowles: Translations from the Moghrebi, by various authors
1988 – The Beggar's Knife, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
1989 – Dust on Her Tongue, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
1990 – The Storyteller and the Fisherman, CD by Mohammed Mrabet
1991 – The Pelcari Project, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
1991 – Tanger: Vues Choisies", by Jellel Gasteli
1992 – Chocolate Creams and Dollars, by various authors
2004 – Collected Stories, by Mohammed Mrabet


1957 – Yallah, text by Paul Bowles, photos by Peter W. Haeberlin (travel)
1963 – Their Heads are Green and Their Hands Are Blue (travel)
1972 – Without stopping (autobiography)
1990 – Two Years Beside The Strait (autobiography)
1991 – Days: Tangier Journal (autobiography)
1993 – 17, Quai Voltaire (autobiography of Paris, 1931,1932)
1994 – Photographs – "How Could I Send a Picture into the Desert?" (Paul Bowles & Simon Bischoff)
1995 – In Touch – The Letters of Paul Bowles (edited by Jeffrey Miller)


martes, 15 de noviembre de 2022

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy


One of the most renowned poets and novelists in English literary history, Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in the English village of Higher Bockhampton in the county of Dorset. He died in 1928 at Max Gate, a house he built for himself and his first wife, Emma Lavinia Gifford, in Dorchester, a few miles from his birthplace. Hardy’s youth was influenced by the musicality of his father, a stonemason and fiddler, and his mother, Jemima Hand Hardy, often described as the real guiding star of Hardy’s early life. Though he was an architectural apprentice in London, and spent time there each year until his late 70s, Dorset provided Hardy with material for his fiction and poetry. One of the poorest and most backward of the counties, rural life in Dorset had changed little in hundreds of years, which Hardy explored through the rustic characters in many of his novels. Strongly identifying himself and his work with Dorset, Hardy saw himself as a successor to the Dorset dialect poet William Barnes, who had been a friend and mentor. Moreover, Hardy called his novels the Wessex Novels, after one of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon Britain. He provided a map of the area, with the names of the villages and towns he coined to represent actual places.

But other features of southern England also influenced Hardy, especially as a poet. Stonehenge was only the most famous of the many remains of the past scattered throughout the English south. There Hardy could explore and contemplate Druid and Roman, ancient and medieval ruins, a fascination which also found expression in later poems like “The Shadow on the Stone.” Hardy’s interest in history also extended to the Napoleonic Wars, which he considered one of the great events of the historical past; Dorset tradition told of the fear of Bonaparte’s invasion of England. Hardy’s epic, poetical drama The Dynasts (1908) reflects a lifetime of involvement with this historical material, including interviews he conducted with elderly soldiers who had fought in the Napoleonic campaigns. Hardy also visited the field of the battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon’s forces were defeated.

Alive to the past, as a writer Hardy was also sensitive to the future; scores of younger authors, including William Butler YeatsSiegfried Sassoon, and Virginia Woolf, visited him, and he discussed poetry with Ezra Pound. Furthermore, Hardy’s well-known war poems spoke eloquently against some of the horrors of his present, notably the Boer War and World War I. In such works as “Drummer Hodge” and “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations,” Hardy addressed the conflicts in visceral imagery, often using colloquial speech and the viewpoint of ordinary soldiers. His work had a profound influence on other war poets such as Rupert Brooke and Sassoon.

Hardy’s long career spanned the Victorian and the modern eras. He described himself in “In Tenebris II” as a poet “who holds that if way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst” and during his nearly 88 years he lived through too many upheavals—including World War I—to have become optimistic with age. Nor did he seem by nature to be cheerful: much of the criticism around his work concerns its existentially bleak outlook, and, especially during Hardy’s own time, sexual themes. Incredibly prolific, Hardy wrote fourteen novels, three volumes of short stories, and several poems between the years 1871 and 1897. Hardy’s great novels, including Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895), were all published during this period. They both received negative reviews, which may have led Hardy to abandoning fiction to write poetry.

From 1898 until his death in 1928 Hardy published eight volumes of poetry; about one thousand poems were published in his lifetime. Moreover, between 1903 and 1908 Hardy published The Dynasts—a huge poetic drama in 3 parts, 19 acts, and 130 scenes. Using the Napoleonic wars to dramatize his evolving philosophy, Hardy also pioneered a new kind of verse. According to John Wain’s introduction to the 1965 St. Martin’s Press edition of the dramatic poem, in composing The Dynasts Hardy took “one of those sudden jumps which characterize the man of genius. ... He wrote his huge work in accordance with conventions of an art that had not yet been invented: the art of cinema.” The Dynasts, following this view, is “neither a poem, nor a play, nor a story. It is a shooting-script.” Though little read today, The Dynasts presents Hardy’s idea of “evolutionary meliorism,” the hope that human action could make life better. The length and scope of The Dynasts, which was published in three parts over five years, engendered varied, and sometimes bewildered, responses. But by 1908, with the publication of the third part, most reviewers were enthusiastic.

However, Hardy’s lyric poetry is by far his best known, and most widely read. Incredibly influential for poets such as Robert FrostW.H. AudenPhilip Larkin, and Donald Hall, Hardy forged a modern style that nonetheless hewed closely to poetic convention and tradition. Innovative in his use of stanza and voice, Hardy’s poetry, like his fiction, is characterized by a pervasive fatalism. In the words of biographer Claire Tomalin, the poems illuminate “the contradictions always present in Hardy, between the vulnerable, doomstruck man and the serene inhabitant of the natural world.” Hardy’s lyrics are intimately and directly connected to his life: the great poems of 1912 to 1913 were written after the death of Emma on November 27, 1912. Some of these works are dated as early as December 1912, a month after her death, and others were composed in March of the following year, after Hardy had visited St. Juliot, Cornwall, where he first met Emma. Tomalin described Emma’s death as “the moment when Thomas Hardy became a great poet,” a view shared by other recent critics. Hardy’s Emma poems, Tomalin goes on to point out, are some the “finest and strangest celebrations of the dead in English poetry.” Hardy was notorious for his relationships with younger women throughout his life, and he married Florence Dugdale, a woman almost 40 years his junior, shortly after Emma’s death. Hardy’s Emma poems, then, according to Thomas Mallon in the New York Times, are “racked with guilt and wonder.” They are poems in which he attempts to come to terms with the loss of both his wife and his love for her, many years earlier.

Though frequently described as gloomy and bitter, Hardy’s poems pay attention to the transcendent possibilities of sound, line, and breath—the musical aspects of language. As Irving Howe noted in Thomas Hardy, any “critic can, and often does, see all that is wrong with Hardy’s poetry but whatever it was that makes for his strange greatness is hard to describe.” Hardy’s poetry, perhaps even more so than his novels, has found new audiences and appreciation as contemporary scholars and critics attempt to understand his work in the context of Modernism. But Hardy has always presented scholars and critics with a contradictory body of work; as Jean Brooks suggests in Thomas Hardy: The Poetic Structure, because Hardy’s “place in literature has always been controversial, constant reassessment is essential to keep the balance between modern and historical perspective.” Virginia Woolf, a visitor to Max Gate, noted some of Hardy’s enduring power as a writer: “Thus it is no mere transcript of life at a certain time and place that Hardy has given us. It is a vision of the world and of man’s lot as they revealed themselves to a powerful imagination, a profound and poetic genius, a gentle and humane soul.”

When Hardy died in 1928, his ashes were deposited in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey and his heart, having been removed before cremation, was interred in the graveyard at Stinsford Church where his parents, grandparents, and his first wife were buried.


Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy Time line Biography.

1840: Thomas Hardy was born on June 2nd, in Higher Bockhampton.
1848 -1856: Hardy was attending school.
1856: Hardy was involved in architect school met and studied with Horace Moule.
1862: Hardy travelled to London and worked with Arthur Blomfield. It was in London that he attended an Exhibiton and started writing poetry.
1865: Hardy published his first article, “How I Built Myself a House.”
1867: Hardy returned to Dorset and wrote The Poor Man and the Lady a novel that was never published.
1870: Was the year Hardy met Emma Lavinia Gifford.
1871-1873: Desperate RemediesUnder the Greenwood Tree, and A Pair of Blue Eyes published respectively.
1873: Hardy left architecture to become full-time writer.
1874-76: The year Hardy married Emma and The Hand of Ethelberta was published.
1878: The Return of the Native published and was among successful novels that made Hardy celebrity
1880-83: The Trumpet-Major, A Laodicean and Two on a Tower published respectively a year apart.
1886: Hardy moved into Max Gate. The Mayor of Casterbridge published.
1887-88: The Woodlanders and Wessex Tales short stories published
1891: Noble Dames and Tess of the d’Urbervilles published
1892: Hardy’s father passed away. He begun serialization The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved.
1893: Meets Florence Henniker.
1894-97: Life’s Little Ironies was published and The Well-Beloved appeared in volume form.
1898: Hardy’s first volume of poems, Wessex Poems, appears in an edition of only 500 copies. He stopped writing novels.
1902: Poems of the Past and Present, Hardy’s second volume as a poet, is published.
1903:- 96: Hardy worked on The Dynasts (epic trilogy).
1910: Hardy receives the Order of Merit and the Freedom of Dorchester.
1912: Emma Hardy’s wife dies.
1913: A Changed Man was published. Hardy makes a pilgrimage to the sites of his first wife Emma.
1914: Satires of Circumstance are published. It contains the “Poems of 1912-13,” written in memory of Emma.
1914: Hardy marries Florence Dugdale. World War I broke up, contributing to Hardy’s pessimism.
1917-23: Moments of Vision, Late Lyrics and Earlier, and The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall published.
1925: Hardy is said to have been working on his autobiography, published posthumously under Florence’s name.
1928: Hardy dies. His ashes are buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, and his heart is buried in Emma’s grave. Winter Words and Hardy’s autobiography is published posthumously.


Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

by Ben Johnson

Thomas Hardy was an immensely shy person, who surrounded his house, Max Gate in Dorchester, with a dense curtain of trees, shunned publicity and investigative reporters, and when visitors arrived unexpectedly, slipped quietly out of the back door of his house in order to avoid them. So that no one should penetrate this mask of shyness, Hardy kept a rigid control over what aspects of his life were to be divulged and what were not.

His first wife, Emma, behaved in a similar way, at least as far as her and her husband’s letters to one another were concerned: she burnt all that she could lay her hands upon. As for Hardy, following Emma’s death he burnt, page by page, a book-length manuscript of hers entitled What I Think of My Husband, together with most, but not all, of her diaries. When Hardy’s second wife, Florence, wrote a so-called ‘biography’ of him, he retained control by dictating to her virtually the whole of the manuscript. When Hardy himself died in 1928, Florence destroyed a great deal more of his and Emma’s personal papers. This begs the question, did Hardy have something to hide, a secret of some kind; and if so, is it possible, eight decades after his death, to discover what this secret was?

At first, this appears to be an impossible task, bearing in mind the vast quantity of ‘evidence’ which was deliberately destroyed by Hardy and his wives and others during their lifetimes. Also, when Florence died in 1937, her executor, Irene Cooper Willis, destroyed ‘a mass of the first Mrs Hardy’s incoming correspondence that had sat undisturbed in her former attic retreat at Max Gate ever since her own death twenty-five years earlier’. However, for a diligent researcher with an open mind, who is alive to the various clues to the conundrum which Hardy left behind, the task is not an impossible one.

Florence Hardy WKPD

Florence Hardy, Thomas’ second wife, 1915

For much of his adult life, Hardy laboured under a terrible burden of grief, the details of which he kept very much to himself. He required an outlet for this grief, a means of expressing his inner torment, and this outlet came through his writings. Hardy once told his friend, Edward Clodd, in respect of his novels, that “every superstition, custom, etc., described therein may be depended on as true records of the same — and not inventions of mine”.

What he did not tell Clodd, and what only very few of his contemporaries managed to discern, was the phenomenal extent to which his own personal life was reflected both in his novels and in his poems. However, even in this he was hamstrung, in that he could not afford to be explicit – at least while Emma was alive – for fear of offending her.

Hardy's birthplace
Thomas Hardy’s cottage at Higher Bockhampton

The journey into Hardy’s life is a fascinating one. It leads to Hardy’s former haunts, including his family home at Higher Bockhampton (pictured to the right – he disliked it being called a cottage, preferring it to be called a house); to St Juliot in Cornwall, where he met and courted Emma, and to Dorchester County Museum, where many important artefacts associated with him – including the contents of his study – are to be found. It also leads, surprisingly, to various mental hospitals, known in those days as ‘lunatic asylums’, located in such places as LondonOxford and Cornwall.

The genius of Thomas Hardy is multi-faceted; each facet reflecting his brilliance as a diamond reflects the light. His literary and classical allusions are drawn from his immense mental ‘data-base’ of knowledge, laid down in his mind after years of sustained and devoted study. Stories collected by him on his journey through life, from personal observation, newspaper articles and conversations with others — whether amusing or macabre – were stored away, to be woven (sometimes years later) into the tapestry of his novels, and retold with all the rustic wit and wisdom of the true countryman. His prose is exquisite. His empathy with underprivileged people is universally recognised, and millions identify with the struggles of the characters in his novels.

During the lifetime of Thomas Hardy, publisher Vere H. Collins was one of the very few people to suspect, and have the fact confirmed by Hardy himself, that some of Hardy’s writings — notably his poem The Interloper — contained coded messages which revealed insights into his personal life. Nevertheless, neither Collins nor those who have studied the life of Hardy since his death have realised the full extent to which this is true.

Thomas Hardy

The challenge has been to discover the hidden meanings contained in the works of this shy and secretive man. One may imagine him sitting in his study at Max Gate after the great schism when he decided to live a separate life from Emma, albeit under the same roof. By now, all his romantic dreams have been irrevocably shattered, and he is experiencing all the symptoms of a bereaved person: denial, numbness and unreality, followed by extreme sadness, anxiety and loneliness.

However, because of his shyness he tends to keep his thoughts to himself, rather than to confide in others. But he must have some outlet for his emotions, so he chooses to express himself in the best way that he knows – on paper, where he simply cannot resist alluding to his increasingly problematical relationship with Emma. This is a catharsis for him. And not only that, it provides him with a motivation to portray scenes in which his characters experience and wrestle with the same problems as he does.

Hardy’s writings reveal the immense torment and grief which attends one whose life is a living hell, on account of the fact that his spouse is mentally deranged. And this, of course, explains why his latter novels and poems are so sad and introspective, while his early writings are full of joy, humour and romance

In his writings, Hardy reveals how Emma’s delusions manifested themselves. They also reveal how he himself was largely in denial about Emma (although he did go so far as to admit that she suffered from delusions); he preferred stubbornly to cling to the original image which he had formed in his mind of her, instead of recognising the reality of the situation. Hardy’s works show that he wrestled with his problems in vain, and failed to find an answer as to why Emma, this beautiful woman whom he once adored, failed to reciprocate his feelings, and, in particular, why she refused to consummate the sexual side of their relationship (even though, at least in the early years of their marriage, she was prepared to be a friend to him)…

Thomas Hardy, author of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure and Far From The Madding Crowd. Portrait photograph by W. & D. Downey.

Thomas Hardy by W & D Downey, British Library

Thomas Hardy

The poet and novelist Thomas Hardy is perhaps most famous for his powerfully visual novels, concerned with the inexorability of human destiny. His works unfold against a rural background drawn as an elegy for vanishing country ways, but which also provides much-needed comic relief.

Thomas Hardy was born in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset - and the fictitious Wessex where he sets most of his novels is clearly inspired by south-west England. Son of a stonemason, and trained as an architect, he wrote in his spare time until the success of Far From The Madding Crowd (1874). He could then give up architecture for writing, and marry Emma Gifford, whom he had met in Cornwall in 1870.

Between 1874 and 1895, he wrote over a dozen novels and collections of stories, including The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) and Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891). After the adverse reception of the savagely bleak Jude the Obscure (1895) he turned to poetry, which he continued to write and publish throughout the rest of his life.

By the end of the 19th century, he had gained an international reputation and a wide circle of literary friends. His changed circumstances led his and Emma’s interests to diverge; in many of his novels, impulsive passion leads to disaster. Their rift was increased by Emma’s objection to the unremitting gloom of Jude the Obscure, and its pessimistic view of marriage. However, after her death in 1912, Hardy suffered deep remorse; a visit to the Cornish coast where he had met Emma produced a stream of magnificent poems in her memory, published as Poems of 1912-13. In 1914 he married his much younger secretary, Florence Dugdale. He died at Max Gate on 11 January, 1928, the house in Dorchester that he had designed himself over four decades previously.


Thomas Hardy

A Study of Author Thomas Hardy

First of all, literature makes variety kind of concept to understand and to come out with new idea that one must be learning of and make impact on the society. Here is genius writer Thomas Hardy, who expanded the Victorian era and showed the realistic picture of it. To study the writer one has to study all the elements which writer is writing in his work. He uses make kind of concepts like pessimism, an overwhelming feeling of irony, naturalism, feminism. These all makes impact on the writing part and other things like Thomas Hardy is showing is about fate and chance, dignity of the person. Thomas Hardy portrays woman characters in a contrasting way. One cannot identify that Hardy is with the women character or he is showing the harshness and punishing women on the targeting on Victorian period. Thomas Hardy’s masterpieces of novel is Under the Greenwood Tree 1872, A Pair of Blue Eyes 1873, Far from the Madding Crowd 1874, The Return of the Native 1878, The Mayor of Casterbridge 1886, Tess of the D’Urbervilles 1891, Jude the Obscure 1896In 1898 Hardy published his first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems, a collection of poems written over 30 years. Hardy claimed poetry as his first love, and after a great amount of negative criticism erupted from the publication of his novel Jude The Obscure, Hardy decided to give up writing novels permanently and to focus his literary efforts on writing poetry. All the facts show that Thomas Hardy gives major elements in his works and shows realness of the time. 

Thomas Hardy’s technique of writing:
He is writing in such a way that reader finds lots of description and information about particular work. His using of memories, future techniques like “what will be?” that excitement gives his charm of writing. He is using situations in right place right time that can make effort to observe. He writes in specific location that also shows his novel’s location and that is Wessex area. Thomas Hardy’s harmonious plot makes reader more comfortable with it and it gives spark to read Thomas Hardy.

Major themes of his writing:
Thomas Hardy is using various kinds of themes like man’s importance against greater forces of nature, of society, of his impulses and targeting on the desire of love. One can also find out themes like Pessimism, sadness, waste and frustration, naturalism, use of irony etc. like many of these themes we find in Hardy’s Far From The Medding Crowd and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

“Pessimism in Thomas Hardy’s Novel”
In the early 1860s, after the appearance Darwin's Origin of Species (1859), Thomas Hardy bravely challenged many of the sexual and religious conventions of the Victorian age, but he soon adopted the mechanical-determinist view of universe's cruelty, reflected in the inevitably tragic and self-destructive fates of his characters. In his poems Hardy depicted rural life without sentimentality? his mood was often stoically hopeless. Fate plays a major role in many of Hardy's novels; both Tess of the D'Urbervilles and The Mayor of Casterbridge contain various instances where its effects are readily apparent. Moreover, Hardy's novels reflect a pessimistic view where fate, or chance, is responsible for a character's ruin. The center of his novels was the rather isolated and history-freighted countryside around Dorchester. Hardy's writing novels of “Wessex,” the historical, Anglo-Saxon name he gave in fiction to his native Dorset, from this time until 1895. Thomas hardy gives element of pessimistic approach that how Bathsheba Everdene meets three shooters and how her thoughts get effected with all three person and herself as well. But one remarkable comment over pessimist approach that; R.A. Scott James observes: “Hardy did not set out to give us a pessimistic philosophy.. Hardy is pessimistic about the governance of the Universe, but not about human beings.”

Fear and Fascination in Thomas Hardy’s novels:
It was the end of the Victorian era, and Hardy was torn between his desire to portray women as capable and intelligent, while preserving his own essentialist ideas. Through his novels, Hardy offered his women a voice reflecting the anxiety and ambiguity of their changing role in society. One of his most successful heroines, Bathsheba Everdene, best articulates women’s difficulty in expressing themselves. In her effort to dissuade Farmer Boldwood from his marriage proposition as a business transaction, Bathsheba exclaims, “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs”. This point suggests tragic outcome of most of his fictional female characters, harshly punishing woman for their open defiance of Victorian society. Hardy throws the picture of realness with harsh reality premarital sex, rape, illegitimate children, adultery, and divorce.

Gender in Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd:
Thomas Hardy represents female gender which women were seen as ‘the weaker sex’. Because these opinions were considered the norm, oftentimes they shone through in an author’s writing. The question comes that how Hardy really felt about woman?. If we look at Bathsheba’s character, does Hardy sympathize with her? Or is he using her to show what a Victorian woman should not be? The young Bathsheba Everdene exhibits unusual qualities for a female character in a Victorian novel written by a male author. She is, more or less, the protagonist of the story. Emily Constable says, “The salvation of a discouraged, ruined, or crippled man by the female heroine appears in several Victorian novels written by women.”    


These all the aspects suggest his mind map of writing and giving the realistic picture of Victorian time. And he has done that with greater effect. It is also rightly observed that many people view Thomas Hardy to be a feminist writer because of his strong female characters. Bathsheba Everdene, the female protagonist in Far From the Madding Crowd, is no exception; however, there are some instances where the reader may question how Hardy considers women and their privileges. Victorian England was not exactly rational when it came to the female gender. It is fair to say that these opinions most likely influenced Hardy’s writing, along with many other writers of his time. Hardy could have written Bathsheba as a rebellion to the Victorian opinion of the woman, but he also could have written her to show how deceiving and destructive a woman could have been at that time.

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Thomas Hardy

Remembering Thomas Hardy and his Brilliant Literary Legacy

Thomas Hardy was a renowned English novelist born on 2ND June, 1840. He was one of the classic writers of all times. His work is revered even today and is read worldwide. He spent most of his childhood where he gained immense knowledge of culture and his roots. He credits his upliftment and success to his mother who was the guiding light of his life. He had an apprentice in architecture in London but his heart and soul lies in poetry and loved weaving stories through verses and words. Dorset specifically aided him in writing down his reveries. Many of his characters are rustic and resonated with Dorset’s aura. Hardy’s works are intellectual and meticulous to read and ponder upon.

There’s a mysterious story about the death and burial of Hardy’s body. Hardy immensely wished that he should be buried at Stinsford. However, after his death his burial was questioned and few authorities emphasized on the fact that his body should be buried near Poet’s corner. But his second wife, Florence was adamant on fulfilling his late husband’s wish. Later, after contemplations, it was decided that his heart would be buried at Stinsford and ashes in the Abbeys.

Thomas Hardy Books

Here, I am, recommending some of the best works by him which are read even today and deserve all the recognition and praise.

  1. Tess of the d’ Urbervilles (1891)

This book staunchly represents women’s status in 19th century. It is a feel-good book which is beautifully composed. There are moments when it may turn bleak and heart breaking but eventually, you’d love it. There are various controversies presented of those time and Hardy has been successful to etch the correct essence. This novel talks about the aspect of timing and how it is important in everyone’s lives. It is one of the classics and you as a literature devotee should definitely.

  1. Far from Madding Crowd

Bathsheba, the lady protagonist is portrayed fiercely sweeping us all from our feet. This book is little orthodox in nature but the intense ending and strong dialogues hold us on our seats till we don’t complete it. The emotions are  subtly passed on but we can relate to it. Hardy’s books are precious and this one tops the list in it.  The characterization in this book is perfect and the storyline is gripping too. You would regret missing out on this one.

  1. The Mayor of Casterbridge

This novel is a beauty; sheer beauty. This book is so well constructed that all the readers are left in the awe of it. The craft is well presented and the storyline is one of a kind. The language is understandable and has no loose ends. I personally worship this book for its perfection. Hardy has once again proved that he and his work are different and unique. He wins us over through his impeccable verses and strong story building.

  1. The Well Beloved

This was one of the remarkable novels in Thomas’s journey. It gave  a totally different perspective to the notion of love and reading this book would make you experience that kind of love too. He has very well explored human nature and societal expectations. The setting of the novel is great and the language is pretty understandable too. It is spooky in a way (no spoilers).

  1. The Return of the Native

This one is a radical book perfectly resonating with the thinking pattern of that era. This book discusses the harms of misunderstandings and presumptions. It can lead to a havoc you would not even realise. This book is a blessing and would keep you hooked throughout. It is crafted according to the atmosphere of that era and is a delightful read.

  1. Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure runs parallel to Hardy’s life and critics consider Jude Fawley as his own reflection. When it was published, critics scrutinized it for a plethora of moral reasons. This led Hardy to quit writing novels. Some prominent themes were religion, education, incest and marriage. He turned to poetry after calling Jude the Obscure his last novel. His most famous collection of poems is Wessex Poems.

Thomas Hardy was gem of a writer and his books had the power of spreading wisdom and literary knowledge. One should atleast read one of Hardy’s works to understand him and the world of his time. He lived his era through his books and meticulously pointed everything happening around him in the pages of his novels. He is worshipped even today by literature devotees

Hope you all like my recommendations. Try reading him next, you’d fall more in love with literature.

- Prapti Shah