Catherine Peters

Epitaph on a Pessimist

Thomas Hardy: The Guarded Life

By

Picador 741pp £25 order from our bookshop

He had grown up in a house where nothing was said about what really mattered – where history filled the silence and annals of the parish supplanted personal lives. He grew used to secrets; he absorbed habitual strategies of self-control.

Ralph Pite’s new biography explores Hardy through his famous reticence, which Pite sees as his way of resisting definition and entrapment; a strategy learned so early in life that it became an inescapable part of his nature. Writing became Hardy’s substitute for personal relationships. His first wife Emma wrote bitterly, ‘he understands only the women he invents – the others not at all’. By his middle years Hardy was so entrenched behind these self-imposed barriers, that any intimacy threatened him. A passionate man who was subject to recurrent, unconsummated infatuations with much younger women, he would retreat into disillusionment before things could get out of hand. A guarded life indeed. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,