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MS 684

Reference code

MS 684


Thomas Hardy collection



Administrative / Biographical history

Hardy, Thomas, 1840-1928

Thomas Hardy, OM, was an English novelist and poet. He was born on 2nd June 1840 in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, and had three younger siblings; Mary, Henry and Katharine (Kate). At sixteen, he was apprenticed to a local architect called John Hicks. Hardy remained in Hick's office for six years. In April 1862, Hardy left Dorchester for London where he found work as a draughtsman. At the same time, he continued his private studies of Greek, Latin, French and art history. He returned to Higher Bockhampton in 1867 due to ill health and wrote his first, unpublished novel 'The Poor Man and the Lady'. His first published novel, 'Desperate Remedies' was published anonymously by Tinsley Brothers in 1871. It received mixed reviews, but Tinsley also published 'Under the Greenwood Tree' in 1872. Success truly came when Hardy was commissioned to write 'A Pair of Blue Eyes' as a serial, with his name on the title page. Hardy met Emma Lavinia Gifford (1840-1912) in March 1870 and their wedding took place in London on 17 September 1874. 'Far from the Madding Crowd' was the first of Hardy's major novels, and the one that made him famous. It was serialised in 1874, followed by 'The Hand of Ethelberta' in 1875 and 'The Return of the Native' in 1878. His next three novels were considerably lighter in tone: 'The Trumpet Major' in 1880, 'A Laodicean' in 1881 and 'Two on a Tower' in 1882. The Hardys returned to Dorchester in 1883. Hardy's father and brother built a house for them called Max Gate, according to Hardy's own design. Hardy wrote 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and 'The Woodlanders' there in 1886, followed by the controversial 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' in 1891 and 'Jude the Obscure' in 1895 (dated 1896). Emma Hardy died in November 1912, inspiring Hardy's sequence of love poems later published as 'Poems of 1912-13'. This return to poetry, Hardy's first literary love, had already started with the publication of 'Wessex Poems' in 1898 and would continue late into his life. After Emma's death, Florence Dugdale, whom the Hardys had met in 1910, took over the running of Max Gate. Hardy eventually married Florence on 10 February 1914. Florence gradually took over the ever-increasing amounts of Max Gate correspondence, typing up and signing letters that Hardy had drafted. Despite maintaining his good health well into his eighties, Hardy succumbed to a sudden tiredness in December 1927 and died on 11 January 1927 from a heart attack. Hardy left instructions for his burial at Stinsford, Dorset, but Cockerell (co-literary executor with Florence) insisted that Hardy was too national a figure to be buried anywhere other than in Westminster Abbey. Dorset opinion, however, was outraged at the thought of Hardy not lying in his 'own' county. Florence was eventually persuaded to accept the suggestion that his heart may be removed before cremation and given a separate Stinsford burial. On 16 January 1928, therefore, two events took place simultaneously; the national funeral in the abbey and the heart burial at Stinsford. Florence Hardy died of cancer in October 1937 and the contents of Max Gate, including the bulk of Hardy's library, were dispersed at auction. Max Gate was also auctioned but purchased by Hardy's sister Kate, who then bequeathed it to the National Trust.


Late 19th century - 20th century

Extent & medium

30 items, 8 boxes, 5 folders

Content description

The Thomas Hardy collection consists of manuscript, printed and visual material by or relating to Thomas Hardy and his works. The Hardy autograph manuscripts are poetry drafts and some revised proofs. There are facsimile versions of the autograph manuscripts of 'Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Verses' and 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles'. The collection also contains autograph and typed manuscripts of adaptations of Hardy's works. The correspondence of Thomas and Florence Hardy forms a large proportion of the archive. There are autograph letters and some typed from Hardy to Sir George Douglas, J. F. Jeune, Walter de la Mare, John Read, Siegfried Sassoon, the Sparks family, Louise and Macleod Yearsley and other acquaintances and friends. There are also autograph letters from Florence Hardy to John Drinkwater, Siegfried Sassoon and other acquaintances. There are additionally Christmas cards sent by the Hardys, invitations to Hardy's funeral, autograph letters from Mary and Kate (Hardy's sisters), and Kate's postcard collection. The collection of correspondence and manuscript material about Hardy is significant. The correspondence ranges from autograph letters by Hardy's contemporaries including Siegfried Sassoon, J. M. Barrie and John Lane to a file of autograph letters to C. J. P. Beatty assisting him with his Thomas Hardy research. These letters are predominantly from Dorothy Allhusen and Clive Holland, but there are others from those who knew Hardy personally. The manuscript material contains more first-hand recollections of Hardy, papers relating to the Hardys' literary estate and drafts and proofs of published material. Also in the collection are photographs and postcards. These are either of Hardy (some signed) or of places related to him or his works. There are etchings of Max Gate and an oil painting of his memorial in Dorchester. The archive additionally contains printed ephemera relating to Hardy's life and works, audio-visual material and papers relating to the archive or items within it.

Finding aids

Individual autograph letters from Thomas and Florence Hardy that are only catalogued to file-level are inventoried individually on an Excel Spreadsheet. Also inventoried is the collection of letters to C. J. P. Beatty about Hardy.
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