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Thomas Hardy by Claire Tomalin | Waterstones
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The Greatest Alternative Singles of the '80s: Part 1: - The 15 Best Tom Waits Songs. Jackie Chan's 10 Best Films. The Greatest Alternative Singles of the '90s - Part 1 - Lucky enough to secure a place with Arthur Blomfield, "one of the most successful architects in London," Hardy nonetheless began seriously to pursue his ambition of becoming a novelist. Finding something to say about the manners, economics and morality of his society was hard enough work; convincing himself that he had the right to say it - at a time when his lack of property meant he was not entitled to vote - must have been an even taller order.
Class was the vise in which he lived his early life, and Tomalin makes her readers feel the squeeze, as Hardy manages his slow rise into the middle class and then toward the upper echelons of authorship. This new biography makes its subject a fascinating case study in mid-Victorian literary sociology. Hardy struggles - with an industriousness befitting the age - against editorial rejection, rapacious contract terms and enforced prudery.
Leslie Stephen, known chiefly to the 21st century as Virginia Woolf's father, edited his magazine, The Cornhill, under the watchful, prissy eyes of so many others that he sometimes made "few suggestions beyond bowdlerizations" when working on Hardy's copy.
Serialization often forced the author "to pack in far too much plot" and thereby throw novels like "The Mayor of Casterbridge" significantly off-kilter. Finally, there were reviewers to contend with; Hardy remained overly sensitive to all they had to say. Tomalin herself examines the novels with the confident judgments of a critic, not the hedged and sometimes overawed appraisals of a scholar.
Appreciative of Hardy's genius, she still finds his body of fiction "exceptionally uneven. In a fine example of biography's usefulness to criticism, Tomalin notes that what Hardy called Tess's "invincible instinct towards self-delight" was a quality the novelist "himself possessed in very small measure," and thus, perhaps, judged all the more laudable in his heroine.
omoritig.ml It was Job retold for a godless world that offers no final consolation or redress. Having secured his place among the English novelists, he had 30 years left to write nothing but verse.
View all New York Times newsletters. Hardy tended toward second thoughts and withdrawn behavior, as well as toward the sense of himself as a kind of living ghost: "Even when I enter into a room to pay a simple morning call I have unconsciously the habit of regarding the scene as if I were a spectre not solid enough to influence my environment. But Tomalin quotes an astonishing letter of condolence that he wrote when Henry Rider Haggard, the adventure writer, lost his year-old son: "To be candid, I think the death of a child is never really to be regretted, when one reflects on what he has escaped.
Hardy's long - and childless - marriage to Emma Gifford was marked by ever increasing estrangement and what Tomalin calls "mutual incomprehension. Annoyed by her habit of referring to "our books," Hardy worked hard at being both loyal and oblivious to her. In the s, two decades after he "set out to become a Londoner," he decided to return home to Dorset for good and build the house he called Max Gate; he took up residence and even served as a local justice of the peace.
Emma did not favor the move but put up with it, as she put up with Hardy's attraction to the married Florence Henniker, a published novelist and the daughter of a lord, whose desire for friendship but not sex with Hardy helped inform his portrait of the neurotic Sue Bridehead in "Jude. She thoroughly insinuated herself into the Max Gate household and became the second Mrs. Hardy following Emma's death in And yet, any humiliation from this would come to her, not Emma, when Hardy began to produce an extended series of questioning, penitential elegies for his first wife, the whole set of them racked with guilt and wonder.
Tomalin calls the Emma poems "one of the finest and strangest celebrations of the dead in English poetry," shrewdly observing of their author: "The more risks he takes the less he falters. What she sees as "the contradictions always present in Hardy, between the vulnerable, doomstruck man and the serene inhabitant of the natural world" may actually have been better conveyed by verse, which allows the clashing elements a lyric near—simultaneity, something unachievable in the slower alternations of narrative fiction. Surely, at points in writing this biography, Tomalin must have pined for the subject of her previous one, Samuel Pepys, whose whole exuberant existence derived from an "instinct towards self-delight" such as even Tess never knew.