Hardy: A Biography

Martin Seymour-Smith, Author St. Martin's Press $35 (886p) ISBN 978-0-312-11819-8
Most biographers portray novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) as an awkward rustic who rose above his class. In this dense, overwritten but important biography, Seymour-Smith, by contrast, presents Hardy as a determined, confident literary man, a deep thinker who drew inspiration from Arthur Schopenhauer, Edmund Burke and Charles Fourier. Quoting liberally from poems, diaries and letters, Seymour-Smith (Guide to Modern World Literature) demolishes the image of Hardy as a sexually impotent misogynist fostered by biographers Michael Millgate and Robert Gittings. Hardy's first marriage, to Emma Gifford, was ``much less disastrous'' than is commonly believed, the author argues. He further maintains that Hardy loved both his wives and that, contrary to his previous biographers, Emma did not become insane after their breakup. Providing detailed critiques of the novels and of Hardy's epic Napoleonic drama The Dynasts (1901-1908), Seymour-Smith gives us a multifaceted Hardy-a novelist of feminist and comic sensibilities, anti-imperialist war poet, animal lover and pessimist-whose concept of a flawed Creator-God has parallels in gnosticism. Photos. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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