Thomas Hardy, By Claire Tomalin
When English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy wed Emma Gifford, the
rosy-cheeked young woman he'd met in Cornwall, he was unquestionably
marrying for love. But the union ultimately soured, and 38 years
later, at the time of her death in 1912, Mrs. Hardy was a neglected
wife and rather pathetic figure.
Almost from the moment of her passing, however, her husband found
himself engulfed in grief and regret, suddenly awash in memories of
his early passion for her. For the rest of Hardy's life, despite his
remarriage to an attractive younger woman with whom he had been
involved while Emma still lived, Emma remained his muse, inspiring
poetry that some consider to be Hardy's best work.
Hardy's yearning memories of Emma were "a fiction," his second
wife complained bitterly, "but a fiction in which their author has
now come to believe!"
In order to understand such behavior, says Claire Tomalin in her
insightful new biography ~~b~~Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man~~/
b~~, one must grasp "the width of the gap between [Hardy's]
imaginative life and the day-to-day events going on around him."
Apparently for Hardy it was ever so. As a sensitive young boy
growing up in southern England, he internalized the sights and
sounds of rural life while setting his heart on a far grander
future. Later, he immersed himself in literature even as he trained
to be an architect.
Hardy was a relatively young man when "Far from the Madding
Crowd" was published in 1874, assuring him fame and financial
security for the rest of his days.
Yet even as he went on to enjoy the trappings of middle-class
affluence and respectability, he churned out dark novels reflecting
a belief in a hostile universe - a worldview seemingly at odds with
Hardy's comfortable bourgeois existence. Hardy's personal favorite,
"The Return of the Native" (1878) repelled both critics and the
public when it was first published, and a horrified Robert Louis
Stevenson wrote of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" (1891) that it was
"not alive, not true ... not even honest." Some critics renamed his
late masterpiece "Jude the Obscure" (1895) "Jude the Obscene."
Tomalin, an acclaimed literary biographer ("Jane Austen: A Life,"
"Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self") offers an intelligent and
thorough examination of Hardy, a worthy read for all curious about
the richly imaginative world created by a man for whom, as Tomalin
makes clear, the inner life was all.
~~b~~ - Marjorie Kehe~~/b~~
By a Monitor writer
Robert Klose has long been a favorite with readers of the Home
Forum page of The Christian Science Monitor. His essays chronicle
everything from nostalgia for the quirky charm of his urban New
Jersey childhood to the more rural delights of daily life in Maine
to the peculiar challenges and rewards of teaching biology to
college students. Perhaps his most memorable pieces, however, have
been those about his adoptions, as a single man, of first Alyosha
(from Russia) and later Anton (from Ukraine.) Klose turned the story
of Alyosha's adoption into a book titled "Adopting Alyosha: A Single
Man Finds a Son in Russia."
More recently, the University of Missouri has published a
collection of Klose's essays called ~~b~~Small Worlds: Adopted Sons,
Pet Piranhas, and Other Mortal Concerns~~/b~~. …