Few things attract more attention than controversy, and no other author knows that better than Thomas Hardy. During the late 19th, and early 20th centuries, Hardy’s work shocked the public and threw the critics into an uproar. And yet, he managed to change the face of literature for the better. Mr. Hardy’s work was filled with controversial topics, and his influence is evident in many different aspects of literature.
As the child of a professional stonemason, Thomas Hardy was taught to love reading and writing by his mother. From a very early age, Hardy’s mother tried to persuade him to get an education and escape their low social standing (May, p.1496-97). Understandably, since, being members of the lower class, they had little money or opportunity for advancement in society. Due to his mothers influence, "as a boy he learned to play the fiddle and was bookish" (Cambridge Biographical Dictionary, p.667). This inspired his love of reading, and lead to his further education as an architect.
As was the custom on those days, Hardy was apprenticed at a young age to learn a specific trade. "For the first thirty years of his life, he was educated and became an architects assistant" (Sledd, p.96). Leaving his beloved home of Dorchester (which was later to be the backdrop for his most successful novels and poems under it’s old name of Wessex), at age 22 Hardy moved to London. It was in London that he found his love of writing, and his "first fictional effort, The Poor Man and the Lady was written, and failed. It went unpublished" (May, p.1497). Disappointed, though relatively unscathed, he followed the advice of fellow novelist George Merideth, who advised him to write fiction with more plot. "The result of that advice, Desperate Measures, was published in 1871, starting his long career" (Angyal, p.1213).
Desperate Remedies did act as a jump-start to his literary career, but it was fairly passive in comparison to his later novels, both in terms of controversial content, and in the public’s and critic’s reaction. An author of great talent, Hardy wrote in many styles, though not as successfully as he may have wanted. "Hardy’s novels are uneven in skill. When he was writing melodrama such as Desperate Measures, social comedy such as The Hand of Ethleberta (1876), or novels of consciousness such as A Laodicean (1881), he could be both trivial and banal" (Discovering Biography, p.1). Though he was not always widely accepted as a conventional author, Hardy’s novels flourished from 1872-1895, releasing 5 separate novels, as well as plays and poetry. During those twenty years, Hardy’s better known novels are released, including The Return of the Native (1878), Tess of D’Urbervilles (1891), and perhaps his most controversial novel, Jude the Obscure (1895) (Kunitz p.276).
Although a wonderful novelist, Thomas Hardy was ultimately forced out of writing novels due to the heavy criticism they brought upon him. Especially in his final two novels, Hardy explores a side of human sexuality and non-Christian behavior unheard of in the late Victorian period. "Hardy’s treatment of sexuality and marriage in Tess and Jude cause such and outrage among the puritanical Victorian public that he decided to write no more fiction, and return to his artistic love, poetry" (Discovering Biography, p.1). His major source of support during this hard time was his wife, Emma. However, she fell ill in the early 1900’s, and was a further inspiration to his poetry.
His poems may be better known than his novels, simply for the fact that they are more accessible, and often times, a shorter amount of his pessimism and the gloomy nature of his writing is all a person could handle. In addition to that, he has received much more positive criticism with his poetry as opposed to his novels. One of his most successful, and yet most controversial poetry collections, ironic in comparison to his novelist career, was his first. "The appearance of Hardy’s first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems & Other Verses, was greeted by the critics with scarcely more understanding than Jude the Obscure (Angyal, p.1218). Even before his career as a poet, Mr. Hardy was very dedicated to his writing. Poetry was actually his first writing medium, and though is novels were successful at the beginning of