Thomas Hardy, selected poems: context links Contents
Later life and output
Returning to poetry
In reaction to the negative reception of his later novels, Hardy decided to give up novel writing. He claimed that poetry had always been his first love, but that he had had to write fiction to earn money. Certainly Jude earned him a lot of money, if only because of the scandal surrounding it. However the harsh reviews and, more importantly, the cooling of certain friendships, affected him deeply.
So, from 1897 onwards, Hardy focussed on poetry. His poems In Tenebris and On Wessex Heights were written that year and clearly depict his state of mind. The next year, his first major volume of verse appeared, Wessex Poems and Other Verses.
Most of Hardy’s poetry is personal and lyrical, based on memories. It covers the same sort of subject matter as the novels: love, especially lost love; death, growing old, and memories of happier days. Though often pessimistic, his simple poetic style and diction kept the poetry accessible to a wide audience.
His prolific output also included one long, philosophic poem called The Dynasts, a sort of Napoleonic epic which includes his ancestors, the Hardys.
Though Hardy never attained the same fame for his poetry as he did as a novelist, his poems are regarded as finely crafted personal and philosophical works.
The effect of bereavement
Emma died on 27 November, 1912. Although they had been almost estranged by the time of her death, Hardy was profoundly affected and expressed regret at his exclusion of her. Some of Hardy’s best poems were written shortly afterwards, as he remembered their earlier, happy times. Examples are Beeny Cliff and At Castle Boterel.
Re-marriage and later years
In February 1914, Hardy married Florence Dugdale, who had been acting as his secretary for some years. Before that, she had been one of his lady friends, until Emma also befriended her and approved of the secretarial relationship. It is in her name that Hardy's first biography (really an autobiography) was written.
Hardy and Florence were married for fourteen years and Hardy remained an active poet until his death on January 11, 1928. He was given a London funeral and his ashes were buried in the poets’ corner of Westminster Abbey, in recognition of his contribution to English literature. However, he chose to have his heart buried next to Emma's in Stinsford parish church.
Florence died in 1937, whilst Hardy's sister, Katharine, lived on until 1940.
Scan and go
Scan on your mobile for direct link.