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Hardy, Thomas

Entry updated 8 May 2023. Tagged: Author, Theatre.

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(1840-1928) UK poet and author, a writer whose greatness is manifest throughout his extremely extensive oeuvre; initially most famous for the novels of his early career, beginning with Desperate Remedies (1871 3vols) and concluding with Jude the Obscure (1896), most of them set in the imaginary county of Wessex (roughly corresponding to Dorset). None of them contain explicit narrative elements of the fantastic, though as Brian W Aldiss argued in Billion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (1973), Hardy's dramaturgical unpackings of the spectacle of Evolution over the aeons imparts a sensation of Time Abyss; and the expositional narration of galaxies "burning out like candles" in Two on a Tower: A Romance (1882 3vols) is a highly conscious evocation of what would eventually be called the Sense of Wonder. In the frame of a domestic nineteenth-century novel, this can be horripilating, which seems to be the author's intention.

Hardy's later fame increasingly depended on his extremely extensive poetry, much of it deeply distinguished and (in retrospect) transgressive. Most of the thousand individual poems are nonfantastic, though some of the descriptions of the world created by World War One have a proleptic gravity. Several of his short stories are fantasy, and have been usefully assembled, most completely as The Supernatural Tales of Thomas Hardy (coll 1988) edited by Peter Haining. He came closer to sf in a vast epic, The Dynasts, published in three volumes as The Dynasts: A Drama of the Napoleonic Wars, in Three Parts, Nineteen Acts, & One Hundred and Thirty Scenes (1904; 1906; 1908). The disquisitional narrative views from an immense distance the historical drama from which examples and narrative episodes are extracted for analysis; the voices conferring over the fate of Homo sapiens embody various principles, including Creative Evolution in bodily form, the whole comprising a symposium on the nature of history, and of the future.. The outlook for the human species is not ungrim. [JC]

Thomas Hardy

born Stinsford, Dorset: 2 June 1840

died Dorchester, Dorset: 11 January 1928

works (highly selected)


collections and stories


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