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Thomas Hardy Poetry & Novels

About the Author

All Things Hardy on the Victorian Web is a bit convoluted, but deep and rich.

Thomas Hardy Society includes an annual essay contest, resources, links to full texts, photographs, maps, and guides to walks in Hardy country.

A Timeline includes all major events.


Hardy’s Cottage and Birthplace includes a virtual tour.

New York Times Travel Article on Hardy Country

“God’s Undertaker: How Thomas Hardy Became Everyone’s Favorite Misanthrope” by Adam Kirsch, 15 January 2007 New Yorker.


Find a Grave: On 16 January 1928 the ashes of Thomas Hardy were buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, immediately to the north of the grave of Charles Dickens, but his heart is buried at Stinsford in Dorset, where his parents lie.

Thomas Hardy Powerpoint

It may take some digging to find the exact material you want, but Dr. Florence Boos has excellent study guides for each novel (and many others), broken down chapter-by-chapter.



Poetry Foundation includes a short biography and 38 poems. Poem Guide for “The Shadow on the Stone.”

Poets.org includes 32 poems.

Thomas Hardy Society Commentaries -- 36 poems as downloadable documents, each of which includes annotations, commentary and background.

Thomas Hardy Poems offers analyses of more than twenty Hardy poems, written by Peter Cash.

Individual Poem Questions by Dr. Florence Boos.


Personal favorite “The Ruined Maid.” More than a little ironic. Interesting Atlantic article on the context of this poem.

Poetry & Prose AP Lit Prompts

In 2002, “The Convergence of the Twain” was the poem chosen for the Poetry Essay prompt. Prompt, samples, scoring guide, and comments, no longer available on the College Board website.

In 2008, an exerpt from Tess of the D’Urbervilles was used on the Sample exam as the Prose Prompt. Prompt and Scoring Guide available.

In 2016, the Prose Prompt used an exerpt from The Mayor of Casterbridge. Prompt, scoring guidelines, sample student essays (three), and comments, also available on the College Board website. Full set of Range-finders -- prompt, scoring guidelines, samples, and comments.


Far from the Madding Crowd

The first of Hardy’s novels to be set in his fictional county of  Wessex, in rural southwest Englnd, deals in themes of love, honour and betrayal, against a backdrop of the seemingly idyllic, but often harsh, realities of a Victorian farming community. In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.

spacerYou remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In the story a beautiful young woman has to choose between three men: one is too boring and creepy, one is too sexy and sleazy and one is juuuuuuuuust right.
spacerOh, wait. Sorry. That’s Far from the Madding Crowd we’re talking about. In this novel by Thomas Hardy, we have not a love triangle but a love rectangle, where three different men vie for the love of super-pretty Bathsheba. This all goes down in the English countryside, which is supposed to be all birdies chirping and little lambs frolicking, but because of this insane foursome, devolves into insanity, dead babies, faked deaths and jealous lovers shooting people in the chest.


1967One advantage to teaching this novel is that it has several film versions. The 1967 version starring Julie Chritie is the better known version, and is available on DVD. Trailer.1998




PBS Masterpiece Theater released an in-depth mini-series version in 1998, which many prefer, though it is hard to find in an appropriate DVD version (beware UK versions). VHS.


The 2015 version may appeal more to current students, but it should be previewed for appropriateness. Trailer #1 and Trailer #2. Guardian film review. New York Times film review.




All Hardy novels are challenging, but this ocartoonne...

  • My Discussion Questions -- two dozen for the whole novel
  • Professor Boos’s Chapter-by-Chapter Questions -- pages and pages.
  • Costume Day -- Research dress worn in the novel and wear your own interpretations of period dress.
  • Obituary -- Write an obituary for one of the characters in the novel (whether the character dies or not in the story).
  • Food and Drink -- Research on the food and drink described in the narrative and recreate one of these dishes for class. Set aside a day for a Victorian pot-luck.
  • News Clipping -- Find an article that involves some aspect of the novel and present it in front of the class, explaining how it relates to the novel.



Return of the Native (1878)

eustaciaReddleman Diggory Venn drives slowly across Egdon Heath, carrying a hidden passenger in the back of his van. When darkness falls, the country folk light bonfires on the hills, emphasizing the pagan spirit of the heath and its denizens. Misfits and superstitions abound. Sexual politics, thwarted desire, and the conflicting demands of nature and society make this a truly modern novel.

spacerIt’s easy to come away from this novel with a superficial impression of it. The Return of the Native comes off a bit like survivalist guide crossed with a love advice column, plus a large portion of National Geographic stirred into the mix. And what sort of wisdom do we get with this book? Well, we learn about pool safety, the perils of hasty elopements, hiking safety, and the fact that you really can’t “change” your love interest (sorry, Grease).
spacer So why care about this novel? Well, it’s worth reading because it actually shows us how connected the Man vs. Wild survival guide and the romantic advice column really are. In this novel, human relationships aren't divorced from the realities of the natural world. We often ignore nature and the wider world around us, and we often have the luxury of doing so. But Hardy makes us acutely aware of how things like nature, history, and communities have a direct impact on individuals.


Gustav Holt’s Musical Homage to Egdon Heath.
All about Egdon Heath -- student projects.


This 1994 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie has tried-and-true actors, stunning scenery, and a haunting score by Carl Davis. Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Eustacia Vye is rather Scarlett O'Hara-esque: willful, restless, and reckless, with both the cool confidence and smoldering beauty to make her bewitching. Accurate costuming and compelling folk songs give an authentic look at rural life in the mid-1800s. Trailer. Full movie available on YouTube.

The Mayor of Casterbridge


In a drunken and disheartened state, Michael Henchard sells his wife and child at a fair. When he becomes sober again, he realises what he has done, and though unable to find his wife and child, changes his ways. He becomes the mayor of the town. Nearly twenty years later his past comes back to haunt him.



1978 Miniseries and 2003 British Made-for-TV movie are both a bit dull and plodding.

stonehengeTess of the D’Urbervilles

Tess, a free-spirited yet naive country girl who will be the victim, the prey, and sometimes the lover of many men, without ever quite understanding what it is that those men want of her.

Reading Check Questions-- 100 Recall and Comprehension Questions, organized by chapters.

Professor Boos’s Chapter-by-Chapter Questions -- pages and pages.

Study Questions -- Thirty challenging analysis questions from several sources.

spacerWelcome to Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the world’s most jacked-up novel about a girl who gets raped and impregnated by her fake cousin, buries her illegitimate baby semi-illegally, gets spurned by her new husband because she tells him she was raped (nice dude, eh?), stabs the guy who raped her…and gets arrested at Stonehenge. Oh yeah, and then gets hanged.
spacer No, we’re not joking. No, we're not embellishing. Yes, this is by far the most metal-as-%@*$ synopsis of a Victorian novel ever.
You might imagine that a stab-happy chick who hangs out evading the fuzz at Stonehenge would be leather-clad, have a side business as a bounty hunter, or at least would be a total dirtbag. You’d be wrong. The titular Tess is a total sweetie who has very bad luck.




Silent 1924 version is almost impossible to find.


Roman Polanski’s 1979 version is surprisingly delicate. My favorite. Trailer. Unit for film.



1998 British TV Movie is a two-part series. Scene.




2008 4-hour BBC Mini-series is thorough, but a bit tedious. Trailer.




photoTess the Musical -- Lots of buzz, but not yet performed. Trailer. Three songs available.
“I Always Get My Way”
“In My Hand”
“One Look of Love”


NortonJude the Obscure

In 1895 Hardy’s final novel sent shockwaves of indignation rolling across Victorian England. Hardy had dared to write frankly about sexuality and to indict the institutions of marriage, education, and religion. But he had, in fact, created a deeply moral work. The stonemason Jude Fawley is a dreamer; his is a tragedy of unfulfilled aims. With his tantalizing cousin Sue Bridehead, the last and most extraordinary of Hardy’s heroines, Jude takes on the world and discovers, tragically, its brutal indifference. And Arabella is a whole other kind of woman!

If you get ONLY one Norton Critical edition, get this one. Perfect for a controlled research paper.

The British Library’s overview is a good introduction to the novel and its values.

Literary Contexts in Novels can establish more specific contexts.

References are my own “footnotes” for the book, with a focus on motifs and allusions.


spacerWe all make plans for how things are supposed to go. Maybe we have a particular job we want to do, a place we want to travel, a special someone we want to stay with forever. But in a lot of cases, what’s supposed to happen is precisely the opposite of what does happen. And sometimes—maybe even most of the time—in real life, what does actually happen has some value. Failure can teach us a lot about how to bounce back from our bad luck and from our mistakes.
spacer But Thomas Hardy isn’t so interested in stories about the redeeming value of making things work against all odds. He’s more of a glass-half-empty kind of guy. For characters in Jude the Obscure, when life gives them lemons, they make poison. One of the amazing things about reading this novel is that, whenever something can go wrong in this book, it really, really goes off the rails.


Chapter One -- Use this as a passage for analysis, writing MC questions, a prose prompt, vocabularty, annotation -- maybe even months before assigning the book. Use this to teach them how to read Hardy!

Exerpt -- description of Christminister as a city of light. Another useful passage.

Professor Boos’s Chapter-by-Chapter Questions

Questions for Discussion -- all six parts.

Book as a Whole -- fifteen topics for analysis.

TES Unit -- Best ever, from the UK, nearly forty pages of activities.


Stagy in terms of acting and production, this 1971 serial nevertheless manages to retain some of the power--and often unrecognized dark comedy--of Hardy’s novel.  Jude the Obscure was televised in America as part of the first season of the now-legendary Masterpiece Theatre. Trailer.


The cumulative picture of a dank, disapproving late-Victorian world that's ceasing to believe in itself, a world of making ends meet and struggling to escape the abysses of poverty and unrespectability, is unbearably, but believably, grim. 1996 Film with Kate Winslet is out-of-print in the US. Really hard to find. Trailer. Full video (for now). In 11 parts.

Just for Funcartoon

Abridged Classics -- Five minutes?

The Ladies Books and Tackle Society -- Just because the book club name is so danged cute. Book Club discussion.









If you download or print anything from this site, please consider making at least a $10.00 donation through PayPal.
I can maintain and expand this website only with your help.

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Updated 1 August 2021.

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