Thomas Hardy


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The Guarded Life

Ralph Pite

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A major new biography of one of the giants of early modern fiction and poetry

Internationally renowned as the author of Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, Wessex Poems and Other Verses, and Winter Words, Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) nonetheless remains an elusive and enigmatic figure. His own diligent efforts to guard his privacy—making bonfires of his papers, ghost-writing his own biography to be published after his death—have obscured many aspects of the author’s personal life. This book, the first major biography of Hardy in decades, draws on new and extensive archival research to present a more complex picture of Hardy than has been possible to date. Author Ralph Pite investigates the validity of long-accepted views of the author: Was his early life devoted to his preparation for becoming a writer? Did his first wife, Emma, trick him into an unwanted marriage? Was his poetry far dearer to his heart than the novels? And was Florence, his second wife, as conflicted and passionate as caricatures have suggested? Pite examines the relationships and contexts that shaped Hardy most—the women in his life, his friends and mentors, social and family pressures, career structures of his day, the Devonshire landscape—and offers new insight into the man who, until now, was hidden behind an opaque public image he helped to create.

Ralph Pite is professor of English at Cardiff University, Wales. His previous books include The Circle of Our Vision: Dante’s Presence in English Romantic Poetry, and Hardy’s Geography: Wessex and the Regional Novel.

 “Pite challenges old verities about Hardy’s life and refuses to pigeon-hole his subject. A very full and thoughtful account.”—Tim Kendall, Professor of English, University of Exeter

“Pite bases this revisionist biography of Hardy on his reinterpretation of the novelist’s autobiographical Life. . . . Through careful research and close readings of Hardy’s work, Pite recovers the psychological confusion that Hardy sought—with astonishing success—to keep out of the public eye. . . . A valuable complement to Tomalin’s 2006 life of Hardy . . . [with] Pite plumbing the long-hidden tempests of the younger soul.”—Booklist (Starred review)

"Pite draws on new archival research to integrate Hardy's personal life, including his marriages and the changing social scene, with his novels and poetry. . . . Pite's treatment, while not ignoring the writer's flaws, offers [an] admirable portrait."—Library Journal

"Marked by rigorous detail, playful speculation, and psychological evocation, Pite's contribution to Hardy biography . . . argues that Hardy's struggle to straddle urban and rural worlds and to mediate aspirations for success and fears of failure reveals a side of him that is more dynamic, vibrant, unpredictable, and human than Hardy's own Hardy. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice (Editor's pick for October)

Selected as a 2008 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
ISBN: 9780300123371
Publication Date: April 28, 2007
544 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4

Sales Restrictions: For sale in the U.S. and its territories and dependencies only