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Biography of Thomas Hardy

Photo of Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy was a nineteenth century writer famed for his Wessex novels.

When and Where was he Born?

2nd June 1840. Upper Bockhampton, Dorset, England.

Family Background:

Thomas Hardy was the son of a builder and master mason, Thomas Hardy and Jemima Hand. Eldest of four children.


Village school at Bockhampton, under the patronage of Julia Augusta Martin, Lady of the Manor and one of the founders of the new school. Nonconformist School at Dorchester, Dorset, where he is taught by Isaac Last.

Timeline of Thomas Hardy:

1849: Hardy visits London for the first time with his mother en route to visit an aunt in Hertfordshire.

1853: He moves with Isaac Last to his newly created independent academy in Dorchester.

1856: He is apprenticed to the Architect John Hicks in Dorchester. He continues his studies at home and begins to learn Greek. His first published work is accepted by the Dorset County Chronicle newspaper.

1857: Death of Mary his grandmother who has lived with the family since his birth.

1858: Hardy begins writing poetry.

1860: He finishes his apprenticeship at Hick’s office and is kept on as a paid employee.

1862: Hardy moves to London and takes up employment with the architect Arthur Blomfield and lives in Kilburn.

1863: He becomes engaged to Eliza Nicholls. He wins prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectural Association. He becomes interested in art and is a frequent visitor to the National Gallery.

1865: Arthur Blomfield gives the task of exhuming bodies from old St Pancras churchyard to Hardy in order to preparing the way for the new Midland Railway. Hardy writes some of his earliest surviving poems.

St Pancras Old Church
St Pancras Old Church where Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin were married. The church has stood here since the eleventh century. 
The West Tower was demolished in the mid nineteenth Century 
and a new bell tower was erected on the side.  (copyright Anthony Blagg)
Hardy Tree, St Pancras
The so called Hardy tree in Old St Pancras Churchyard. 
This Ash tree was planted at the time with all 
the old gravestones arranged around it’s trunk. 
The railway which now carries the Eurostar can be seen in the background. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1866: His relationship with Eliza Nicholls finishes.

1867: Hardy leaves London and resumes working for Hicks in Dorchester. He begins his first novel “The Poor Man and the Lady”.

1869: The publishers Chapman and Hall reject his novel in February. In April he moves to the practice of G. R. Crickmay in Weymouth and settles in lodgings. “The Poor Man” is rejected by two other publishers but he starts on “Desperate Remedies”.

1870: In February he moves back to his parents home but continues to work for Crickmay. In March he goes to St. Juliot in Cornwall on architectural business and falls in love with Emma Lavinina Gifford. He moves back to Weymouth in April. “Desperate Remedies is rejected by the publishers Macmillan but Tinsley Brother’s agree to publish it at Hardy’s own expense. In May he gives up his job with Crickmay and leaves for London. He spends a three week holiday in Cornwall during August and spends much of the time with Emma.

1871: Publication of “Desperate Remedies”. He resumes working for Crickmay in Weymouth. “Under the Greenwood Tree” is completed by early in the summer, but is rejected by Macmillan.

1872: Hardy moves to London and works for T. Roger Smith on architectural plans for schools. He sells the copyright of “Under the Greenwood Tree” to Tinsley’s and it is published with a slight success. Emma’s father refuses his request to marry her. Serialisation of “A Pair of Blue Eyes” begins in September. In November he is invited by Leslie Stephen (the father of Virginia Woolf) to contribute to the Cornhill Magazine.

1873: “A Pair of Blue Eyes” is published as a single volume.

1874: Serialisation of “Far from the Madding Crowd” begins. Emma and Hardy now married to Emma Lavinina Gifford spend their honeymoon in France during September. They finally settle in a house in Paddington, London.  “Far from the Madding Crowd” is published as a single volume  in November and is his first major success.

1875: The couple move to Swanage in Dorset where he works on “The Hand of Ethelberta” which is serialised in July.

1876: In March the couple move to Yeovil in Somerset. He visits Holland and Germany during May and in July they move to Riverside Villa in Sturminster Newton in Dorset.

1877: “The Return of the Native ” is rejected by two publishers including Leslie Stephen.

1878: Hardy moves to London, settling in Wandsworth. He begins researching in the British Museum for “The Trumpet Major”. “The Return of the Native ” is finally published in single volume form in November.

1880: He becomes seriously ill in October and has to dictate “A Laodicean” to his wife.

1881: In April he is allowed to leave the house for the first time since his illness. They settle in Wimbourne in Dorset in June.

1882: They take a holiday in Paris.

1883: Hardy and his wife move to Dorchester where they begin to build Max Gate.

1884: He works on the “Mayor of Casterbridge”

1885: The couple move into the completed Max Gate.

1887: They holiday in Italy.

1889: He works on “Tess of the D’Urbervilless”, which is rejected by a number of magazines for serialisation including Macmillan’s Magazine.

1891: Hardy is elected as a member of the Athenaeum Club in London. He visits Scotland during September. “Tess” finally appears in single volume form in December.

1892: Death of his father.

1893: He visits Dublin in May. In August he begins “Jude the Obscure”.

1895: The first volume of his collected works appears.

1896: He takes an extended in holiday in England and on the continent and visits the site of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium.

1897: Hardy visits Switzerland.

1898: The “Wessex Poems” appears, being a collection of most of his poetry to date.

1901: “Poems Past and Present” is published which includes some of his poetry in response to the Boer War.

1902: Macmillan’s become Hardy’s publishers.

1904: Death of his mother. He researches “The Dynasts” in the library of the British Museum.

1905: He receives an honorary degree from the University of Aberdeen. In September he visits Aldeburgh in Suffolk to attend the 150 year celebrations of the birth of George Crabbe. First meeting with Florence Dugdale.

1909: He has a growing friendship with Florence Dugdale.

1910: Hardy is awarded the Order of Merit by King George the Fifth in July. He receives the Freedom of the Borough of Dorchester in November.

1911: Emma Hardy completes “Some Recollections”.

1912: Wessex Editions of his work appear. He visits his friend Edward Clodd in Aldebrugh during May and sees Florence Dugdale. In June he receives the Gold Medal from the Royal Society of Literature. Death of Emma Hardy on 7th November.

1913: In March Hardy visits Cornwall to revisit places linked with Emma. Florence Dugdale moves into Max Gate. He receives an Honorary Degree from Cambridge University in June and in July he becomes an Honorary Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

1914: He marries Florence Emily Dugdale, at St. Andrew’s Church Enfield in Middlesex on 19th February.

1915: Death of his sister Mary.

1916: Publication of the “Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy”.

1917: Hardy begins work on his autobiography which is to be published after his death in his wife’s name. Publication of “Moments of Vision”.

1919: Publication of “Collected Poems”.

1920: Last visit to London during April. Many congratulations are received on his 80th birthday, including those from King George the Fifth.

1922: He receives an Honorary Degree from the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland and an Honorary Fellowship from Queen’s College, Oxford.

1923: The Prince of Wales, visits Hardy at Max Gate on 20th July.

1925: Publication of “Human Shows”.

1927: Onset of Thomas Hardy’s final illness of pleurisy on 11th December.

1928: On 11th January he dictates his final verses to Florence.

When and Where did he Die?

12th January 1928. Max Gate, Dorchester, Dorset England, of a heart attack (“cardiac syncope” as recorded on the death certificate). The Pallbearers at his funeral were J.M.Barrie, G.B.Shaw, John Galsworthy, Rudyard Kipling, A.E. Housman, Stanley Baldwin and Ramsey MacDonald.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

(by date of publication)

1871: “Desperate Remedies”.
1872: “Under the Greenwood Tree”.
1873: “A Pair of Blue Eyes”.
1874: “Far From the Madding Crowd”.
1876: “The Hand of Ethelberta”.
1878: “The Return of the Native”.
1880: “The Trumpet Major”.
1881: “A Laodicean”.
1882: “Two on a Tower”.
1886: “The Mayor of Casterbridge”.
1887: “The Woodlanders”.
1888: “Wessex Tales”.
1891: “A Group of Noble Dames”. “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”.
1894: “Life’s Little Ironies”.
1895: “Jude the Obscure”.
1897: “The Well Beloved”.
1898: “Wessex Poems”.
1901: “Poems of the Past and Present”.
1904: “The Dynasts”.
1906: “The Dynasts, Part 2”.
1908: “The Dynasts, Part 3”.
1914: “Satires of Circumstance”.
1919: “Collected Poems”.
1922: “Late Lyrics and Earlier”.
1925: “Human Shows”.


1. 17th September 1874 to Emma Lavinia Gifford at St. Peter’s Church, Paddington. The couple had first met at St. Juliot’s Church, Cornwall where he had gone to draw up a plan for its restoration. (died 1912).
2. 10th February 1914 to Florence Emily Dugdale, at St. Andrew’s Church Enfield in Middlesex.

Site of Grave:

Ashes: Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, London, England. Heart: St. Michael’s Church, Stinsford, Dorset, England.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London
(copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Birthplace Cottage, Upper Bockhampton.
Max Gate, Alington Avenue, Dorchester.
Lulworth Cove, (Scene of Sergeant Troy’s Drowning).
Dorset County Museum, Dorchester has a recreation of his study.
Corfe Castle appears in “Desperate Remedies”.
Portland Museum appears in “The Well Beloved”.


British Museum Reading Room.


Dunster Castle, appears in the “Laodicean”.
Gaulden House, Lydeard St. Laurence, is the seat of the Turberville Family.

Further Information:

Thomas Hardy Society, Sue Brockham, PO Box 1438, Dorchester, DT1 1YH.