Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was an English novelist and poet of the Victorian Era. Hardy’s novels tended to focus on rural England, especially Wessex, a region he semi-fictionalized, yet he remained critical of Victorian society.
Hardy was born near Dorset, eventually training as an architect before moving to London in 1862, where he enrolled in King’s College. Hardy was never comfortable living in London, but he did encounter the works of John Stuart Mill, which turned him towards ideas of social reform.
Hardy completed his first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, in 1867, but it failed to find a publisher and he later destroyed the manuscript. Desperate Remedies (1871) and Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) were the published anonymously. In 1873, A Pair of Blue Eyes was the first novel to appear under his name.
1874’s Far From the Maddening Crowd was the first of his works to be set in Wessex, the western region of England. Hardy used the name of the ancient Saxon kingdom ruled by Alfred the Great. Other famous Wessex novels include The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) and Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891).
Hardy’s last novel was Jude the Obscure, which, when published in 1895, was met with heavy Victorian criticism due to its frank discussion of sex. Hardy then abandoned writing novels and turned to composing poetry instead.