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Thomas Hardy was an English author of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best remembered for his pessimistic novels of the Naturalist school, including Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895), though he turned his attentions to poetry later in his career. Thomas Hardy set many of his novels in the semi-fictional Wessex, representing south and southwest England, and used his work to address many of the social ills of his era. Though much of it was controversial at the time of publication, Hardy's work now has a place among the classics of Victorian literature.
Thomas Hardy was born on 2 June 1840 near Dorchester in Dorset, England, a town he would later immortalize in his fiction as "Casterbridge." Hardy's father was a stonemason, while his mother ensured that he had a good education. At the age of 16, Thomas Hardy began an apprenticeship with a local architect. He gained success as an architect, working in Dorset and London, before turning to a full-time literary career in 1874.
Thomas Hardy wrote his first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, in 1867, though he was unable to find a publisher and later destroyed the manuscript. His next two novels were published anonymously in 1871 and 1872. Thomas Hardy met the woman who would become his wife, Emma Lavinia Gifford, in 1870, and wrote about their courtship in his 1873 novel A Pair of Blue Eyes, the first published under his name.
Thomas Hardy finally gained acclaim as a writer in 1874 with Far from the Madding Crowd, allowing him to give up his career in architecture for one in literature. Hardy began increasingly to criticize what he saw as the hypocrisy of his day, shocking Victorian morality. Tess of the D'Urbervilles dealt with a "fallen woman" who became pregnant out of wedlock, while Jude the Obscure, his final novel, dealt with a couple who chose not to marry, though they lived together and had children -- with ultimately tragic consequences.
After Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy gave up novel writing and turned instead to poetry, publishing several volumes over the remainder of his life. He was deeply affected by the death of his wife in 1912, and many of his poems of that year deal with his feelings of grief. In 1914, Thomas Hardy married his secretary, Florence Dugdale.
Thomas Hardy died on 11 January 1928 of pleurisy. His heart was buried at the grave of his first wife, while his ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner. Unfortunately, Hardy's unpublished manuscripts and letters were burned by his executors after his death. Hardy posthumously received much more acclaim than he ever did during his lifetime, inspiring later writers and earning a place in the literary canon.