I just finished reading A.S. Byatt’s novel, Possession, again for about the fourth time. It has been several years since I last read it, and I have to...moreI just finished reading A.S. Byatt’s novel, Possession, again for about the fourth time. It has been several years since I last read it, and I have to say that I saw it in a completely new light. It is a literary masterpiece that is exquisitely plotted and written.
This time around I very carefully studied the epigraphs leading off most of the chapters and all of the beautiful poetry included in the text. I don’t know that I gave much more than a cursory glance to the poetry during previous reads. This time though, I focused on Byatt’s poetry and discovered just how much it enriched and influenced the novel’s dual plots.
Regarding the epigraphs, I recommend that the reader carefully study each epigraph before reading the chapter; and then upon finishing the chapter, go back and read it again and see if you correctly figured out the true meaning of it. There are little puzzles and clues throughout the entire novel, most of them residing within the poetry sections.
This is a beautiful love story, achieving a level of romantic passion, emotion, and anguish like that of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but with the Byronic or Gothic touches of the Bronte sisters. It is clear, to me, why Byatt was awarded the Booker Prize for Possession in 1990; and that this novel is clearly destined to be a classic work of literature.(less)
Of all of the poets of the Victorian Era, it is my humble opinion that Christina Georgina Rossetti is arguably one of the very best. In fact, I believ...moreOf all of the poets of the Victorian Era, it is my humble opinion that Christina Georgina Rossetti is arguably one of the very best. In fact, I believe her only rival to be Emily Dickinson. I have spent the last two months carefully reading and studying Christina Rossetti's poetry, and am amazed at her ability to craft a poem full of visual imagery, emotion, and so much meaning. She does not hide her feelings or her thoughts on subjects such as life, death, spirituality, love, betrayal, lust, jealousy, childhood, nature, and so forth. It is all right there, in each line, and each stanza. This Penguin Classics edition contains all of her known works, and a prolific body of work it is too. The notes are well done and provide both a historical and biographical context for the poems, as well as providing background information to make the poem even more accessible to modern readers. In my opinion, with the exception of Ms. R.W. Crump's three-volume scholarly edition of Rossetti's works (1979-1990), this is the definitive edition of Christina Rossetti's poetry, and should be on every serious reader's bookshelf.(less)
I have just finished re-reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. These books, while they may have originally been writt...moreI have just finished re-reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. These books, while they may have originally been written for young Alice Liddell and other children, almost seem to be parables on what it means to be a child, and warn against not ‘growing up’ too fast. For example, it was interesting to notice that Alice quite innocently does not respond to the concept of the ‘abhorrence of death’ the same way an adult would (i.e., when the Duchess is under sentence of death at the croquet party). Also, Alice notices, time and time again, that the creatures of Wonderland are easily offended, or quick to argue (or defend) their point. Alice is always pointing out, “It’s no business of mine!” Further, she mentions several times that “Everybody says, ‘Come on!’ here” and that she “…never was so ordered about before, in all my life, never!” All in all though, Alice is a kind-hearted and thoughtful girl, who tries to mind her manners and be respectful of those she encounters.
Maybe the real message here is that no matter what one encounters in life, all will end well if one is respectful, optimistic, uses even a modicum of common-sense, and manages to maintain an almost child-like insatiable curiosity. I think it might be useful for all of us to make a point of re-reading these two books every few years; just to reacquaint ourselves with our own childhoods and innocence. Finally, I think it is wonderful that the protagonist is a vivacious and precocious little girl; it fits with the topsy-turvey world that Carroll has created, and it also seems important that a young female is the representative human in both books.
I also think that these delightful books really illustrate Lewis Carroll’s love of all things linguistic, mathematical and logical, as well as his fabulous word-play (e.g., puns, palindromes, anagrams, repetitions, and just plain crazy-cool made-up words). There are circular arguments throughout in many of the conversations between the creatures of Wonderland and Alice. The use of numbers is prominent throughout the books. There are interesting numbered sequences of events, or counted items, all over the place.
From a literary perspective, Lewis Carroll parodies or alludes to many of the popular poets of the day, including; Tennyson, Robert Southey, Thomas Hood , and Thomas Moore. To me, it seems pretty clear that Carroll loved poetry, and that he loved to tinker with writing poetry himself. Obviously, he was quite adept at parody as well.
In conclusion, I have thoroughly enjoyed my re-reading of these two books. It had been well over forty years since I last read these books from start to finish. I was absolutely amazed at how many expressions we use, almost daily, that have their origins in these books. Most folks may not realize it, but these two books have left an indelible mark on all of us, and will continue to do so for generations to come. What a treasure they are!
“Children yet, the tale to hear, Eager eye and willing ear, Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summers die.
Ever drifting down the stream— Lingering in the golden gleam— Life, what is it but a dream?”
This little volume of Christina Rossetti's poetry is simply sublime! While it is not a complete collection of her beautiful poetry, it does contain so...moreThis little volume of Christina Rossetti's poetry is simply sublime! While it is not a complete collection of her beautiful poetry, it does contain some examples of her finest work. Of course it contains the thought-provoking epic poem, "Goblin Market." Some of my other personal favorites include: "An Echo from Willowwood," "Song," "After Death," "The Ghost's Petition;" and one of her very best, in my opinion, "The Convent Threshold."
Christina Rossetti was the younger sister of the talented Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In comparing their poetry though, it is my learned opinion that Christina was far-and-away the master. In fact, of all the great Victorian Era poets, I think a case can be made that she was only equaled by some of the poetic works of Tennyson, the Brownings, and Dickinson in America . I highly recommend this volume of Christina Rossetti's poetry. You will find yourself returning to it time and again.(less)
This collection of the best poetry of the English language is superb. All of the poems were selected by Professor Harold Bloom, and are truly represen...moreThis collection of the best poetry of the English language is superb. All of the poems were selected by Professor Harold Bloom, and are truly representative of the best poets over the past 400+ years. Professor Bloom provides some historical and literary content to the poets and most of the poems. Also, his introductory essay, "The Art of Reading Poetry," is worth the price of the book alone. This a must-have-book for any reader interested in poetry, and is perfect to sit down with and just kill an hour or two visiting old friends, and meeting new ones. (less)
As soon as I found this hardbound edition in the bookstore, I snapped it up. This 350-page book contains J.R.R. Tolkien's interpretation of the two an...moreAs soon as I found this hardbound edition in the bookstore, I snapped it up. This 350-page book contains J.R.R. Tolkien's interpretation of the two ancient epic poems from the Poetic Edda of the Icelandic peoples. Tolkien's son, Christopher has compiled and edited his father's work on the "Lay of the Volsungs" and the "Lay of Gudrun." This is earthy and spare poetry; rich in story and tradition; and provides a tangible connection to our ancestors and their mythology more than a thousand years ago. This is a book to read, re-read, and study; and, I have to say, it somehow feels canonical, as "Beowulf" is considered to be. Christopher Tolkien's notes and comments on his father's work help place these poems in their proper context. Finally, I see that some of the ideas and concepts developed in Tolkien's fiction are the direct result of his life-long fascination and study of the Poetic Edda. I highly recommend this book; it is real a treasure!(less)
This was incredible! First of all, the story was told in the spare, sparse, and gritty language of Seamus Heaney's bilingual translation of the Anglo-...moreThis was incredible! First of all, the story was told in the spare, sparse, and gritty language of Seamus Heaney's bilingual translation of the Anglo-Saxon original. Second, the plot of this elegiac poem was absolutely epic. The horror of Grendel and his Dam was palpable; and the heroism of Beowulf and his spear-fellows timeless. Finally, the ability to carefully study Heaney's translation, alliteration, and interpretation and then compare it to the Anglo-Saxon was almost surrealistic. It was an amazing experience to have the ability to look at and study the root language of modern English.
My younger brother recommended the Heaney translation to me, and now I know why. This has become a poem I intend to visit, and revisit, many, many times in the years to come. From the perspective of my personal enjoyment of poetry, reading Beowulf has been transformative. Reading Beowulf has led me to go back and reinvestigate the ancient Icelandic poetry of the Poetic Edda (or "Elder Edda"), including the Volsungasaga. From epics like Beowulf and the Poetic Edda, it is abundantly clear what a profound influence these early writings have had on the literature of the English language.
In conclusion, I cannot believe that it has taken me this long to actually sit down and read this beautiful poem. All I can say is "Bravo!" "Bravo!" to the original eighth or ninth century poet, and to Seamus Heaney for his beautiful new presentation of this early treasure of the English language.(less)
I have just finished reading Jan Marsh’s monumental biography of the Victorian poet, Christina Georgina Rossetti, entitled, “Christina Rossetti: A Lit...moreI have just finished reading Jan Marsh’s monumental biography of the Victorian poet, Christina Georgina Rossetti, entitled, “Christina Rossetti: A Literary Biography,” and all I can say is “Bravo!” This extremely well written biography leads the reader through Christina’s interesting and complicated family life, as well as providing significant insight into the development of her poetic craft, and the intellectual stimulus behind much of her work. Christina, born in 1830, was the youngest of four children, and wrote her first poem as a birthday present for her mother when she was eleven. Her elder siblings, Maria, Dante Gabriel, and William were also accomplished writers; and in Dante’s case, he was an incredibly talented artist as well.
I read Marsh’s biography of Christina concurrently, in a side-by-side fashion, with the Penguin Classics edition of “Christina Rossetti: The Complete Poems,” and it made the experience ever so much richer. It would be easy to pigeon-hole Christina Rossetti as simply a religious poet, but that would be very short-sighted. Yes, she was very pious, and was incredibly devoted to her faith and the High Anglican church she was raised in. Her poetry though, while complex, lyrical, and imaginative, reflects the trials and tribulations of a young woman’s feelings whilst growing up in Victorian England. Over the course of her life, Christina wrote more than 1,000 poems that weave together her fantasies, experiences, feelings, moral upbringing, social conventions, and her deep and abiding faith together in a body of work that is virtually unparalleled among poets, including those that preceded or followed her.
It was also interesting to learn just how involved she was with Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s creation, in 1848, with his friends, of the avant-garde artistic movement that became the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB). This initial group included William Holman Hunt, James Collinson, John Everett Millais, and Christina’s other brother William Michael Rossetti. Several of the artists, including Dante, also wrote and published poetry, and Christina was invited to publish her early poetry in the PRB periodical, “The Germ.” The young Christina also sat as a studio model in several of Dante’s beautiful paintings. More importantly, while Christina did not always approve of the life-styles and activities of many of the members of the PRB, she was intellectually challenged and stimulated by the round-the-clock philosophical and artistic discussions that the members engaged in. Both of her brothers, especially Dante Gabriel, were fully committed and active supporters and promoters of her poetry and provided extensive literary and critical advice over the course of her career.
I found it fascinating to learn that during Christina’s lifetime, because of her own talents, and the literary connections of her family, Christina met and spent time with Robert Browning, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Jean Ingelow, Adelaide Proctor, Charles Dodgson (“Lewis Carroll”), and a whole host of other poets and writers. The biography also includes several photographic family portraits taken by Charles Dodgson, as well as numerous sketches and paintings of Christina and other family members by her brother, Dante. She was known to be a prolific reader and letter writer, and wrote scores of short stories and essays, both secular and religious; and Ms. Marsh has drawn upon much of this prose and correspondence in fleshing out the details of Christina’s life.
Ms. Marsh’s biography provides one of the most detailed looks into the day-to-day life of women in Victorian London, and the dependence that many single or widowed women had on the men in their family for their support. After the death of Christina’s father in 1854, her brother William essentially became responsible for the care of his mother and his two unmarried sisters. Christina, over the course of her life, rejected two serious proposals of marriage; the first from James Collinson, of the PRB; and the second from Charles Bagout Cayley. It appears that the reasons for these rejections were that neither man shared the same religious beliefs that she adhered to. While both of her brothers had complicated relationships with women and did eventually marry; neither Christina, nor her older sister, Maria, ever married. That lack of a long-term romantic love is a topic that Christina’s poetry returns to time and time again.
As Christina’s poetic voice matured, she began to submit her works for publication. Her first substantial book-length publication was “Goblin Market and Other Poems” in 1862. “Goblin Market” was immensely popular and well-received by the critics, and seems to have established her as a poet of some note in both Britain and the United States. This brought her wide-spread fame and allowed her to contribute to the Rossetti household income and support her charity work. In fact, upon the death of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1861, Christina became the natural successor to the informal title of 'female laureate.' Over the course of Christina’s literary career she was able to have published several books of collected poems; including “Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book” for children, a delightful collection of short poems and riddles that recalled her days as a little girl in the rambunctious Rossetti family.
Ms. Marsh’s biography does a terrific job of illuminating the personality and character traits of this woman, her interactions with her immediate family, and the wide network of friends that she had. Marsh also sheds insight on Christina’s many years of charity work at the St. Mary Magdalene Penitentiary in Highgate. While it was not a prison, but a ‘home’ with a fairly structured routine, she worked with women who had had children out of wedlock, or had been abandoned, or were active prostitutes coming off of the streets of London. Again, much of her poetry seems to reflect many of the life experiences that she would have become aware of during the course of her work with these women. Finally, in middle-age her declining health became much more of an issue for her. For years she battled ‘Graves Disease’ (a thyroid condition); and later, the breast cancer that ultimately claimed her life in 1894 at the age of 64.
The most important aspect of Jan Marsh’s biography is that the reader comes away with an understanding behind Christina’s most powerful works -- the muse behind the words. The reader has a better sense of the role that her life experiences and her faith played in the development of her major poetic works. In that vein, I really want to recommend some of my very favorite poems of Christina’s that really illustrate what a technically and lyrically accomplished poet she was, including the following: “Goblin Market,” “The Convent Threshold,” "The Prince’s Progress,” “The Ghost’s Petition,” “The Months/A Pageant,” “Monna Innominata” (a sequence of 14 sonnets), “An Echo from Willowwood,” “The Dead City,” “Ruin,” and “In an Artist’s Studio.”
In conclusion, Jan Marsh’s many years of researching and writing about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and the women associated with that movement (she also wrote a book entitled, “Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood”) has eminently prepared her to write this superb biography of one of the greatest poets of the Victorian Era – Christina Georgina Rossetti. In many respects, the book reads like a novel, is well illustrated, and includes a prodigious amount of Christina’s eloquent poetry that reinforces the connections, and relationships that Ms. Marsh believes motivated Christina’s poetic muse. This was an important book for me, and has caused me to appreciate Miss Rossetti’s poetry all the more. (less)
While I own the Penguin Classics edition of "The Complete Poems of John Keats," this is a marvelous compilation of the beautiful letters that John Kea...moreWhile I own the Penguin Classics edition of "The Complete Poems of John Keats," this is a marvelous compilation of the beautiful letters that John Keats wrote to Fanny Brawne, the young woman that he fell head-over-heels in love with in the last years of his short life. These letters provide such a beautiful window into the heart and soul of one of mankind's greatest poets. Ms. Jane Campion, the director of the recently released film about Keats's love affair with Fanny Brawne, has collected Keats's letters and poetry he wrote inspired by his relationship with Fanny into a wonderful little volume. The letters are presented first, in chronological order; followed by Keats's poetry. It is an incredibly moving and emotional presentation, and made me realize just how intensely heartfelt Keats's feelings for Fanny were.
The next time you take a road-trip or vacation with the love-of-your-life, take this little book along and read it aloud. It is a beautiful testament to love, and a tribute to one of the finest poets in the English language. If you love poetry, this little volume belongs on your shelf.(less)
I found this very well-written and interesting book the other day on the bargain table at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Christopher Benfey’s...moreI found this very well-written and interesting book the other day on the bargain table at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Christopher Benfey’s A Summer of Hummingbirds, while just a touch over 250 pages in length, is a fascinating look at a series of seemingly unconnected historical events involving a group of prominent literary, theological, scientific, and artistic Americans during the late-1860s through the 1880s. Interestingly, what seems to link these persons together was their unmitigated passion for hummingbirds!
As Dr. Benfey writes, “they wrote poems and stories about hummingbirds; they painted pictures of hummingbirds; they tamed wild hummingbirds and collected stuffed hummingbirds; they set music to the humming of hummingbirds; they waited impatiently through the winter months for the hummingbirds’ return.” Dr. Benfey puts forward the proposition that this fascination was one result of the great tragic, but ultimately liberating, experience of the American Civil War. Benfey believes that “Americans during and after the Civil War gradually left behind a static view of existence, a trust in fixed arrangements and hierarchies. In science and in art, in religion and in love, they came to see a new dynamism and movement in their lives, a brave new world of instability and evanescence. This dynamism, in all aspects of life, found perfect expression in the hummingbird.”
The book kicks off with Thomas Wentworth Higginson and his black Union soldiers near Jacksonville, Florida, during the American Civil War. Before his military service began, Higginson wrote an essay entitled, The Life of Birds, that was published in The Atlantic in 1862. He began the essay with a long look at hummingbirds which, in his words, were “an image of airy motion,” and wondered if “gems turn to flowers, flowers to feathers, in that long-past dynasty of the humming-birds?” A fanciful nod to Darwinism, perhaps.
Higginson, during the war years, was already corresponding with Emily Dickinson, the shy and reclusive brilliant poet of Amherst, Massachusetts. In fact, in 1862, Dickinson sent three poems to Higginson for his opinion and asked if they had the potential for publication. Dickinson, it seems, was inspired by Higginson’s nature essays to begin writing poems about hummingbirds, including this example:
“Within my Garden, rides a Bird Upon a single Wheel— Whose spokes a dizzy Music make As ‘twere a traveling Mill—
He never stops, but slackens Above the Ripest Rose— Partakes without alighting And praises as he goes”
I learned some interesting new things about Emily Dickinson, Henry Ward Beecher, his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe (the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin), Mabel Loomis Todd, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. To me though, I was most intrigued with Martin Johnson Heade. Heade was an artist, largely a landscape painter, of the American mid-19th century “Hudson River School;” that also produced artists like Thomas Cole, Thomas Moran, and Albert Bierstadt. Heade loved painting nature and the wildlife that lived in it. It appears that he also had a bit of wanderlust in him as he traveled all over the globe in pursuit of practicing his art. He particularly loved to paint hummingbirds in their natural habitats, and visited Central and South America in pursuit of these little flying jewels. Many prominent Americans, including Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) ownws paintings by Heade.
Generally, the book gives a wonderful overview of each of these amazing people and what made them important in their own time. The real point of the book though, in my opinion, is Dr. Benfey’s contention that there was a convergence, of sorts, of most of these people in and around Amherst, Massachusetts from the mid-1870s to the mid-1880s, for a variety of reasons. I really don’t want to give anything away, but there are some really interesting and juicy tid-bits concerning Henry Ward Beecher, Austin Dickinson, the beautiful and talented artist Mabel Loomis Todd, Martin Johnson Heade, and Emily Dickinson.
Benfey’s book then, in a sense, is really a ‘string-of-pearls’ of connected, or quasi-connected, relationships among the book’s principals. These relationships occur over the twenty-year period following the Civil War, the so-called 'great American Golden Age,' and culminate with Henry Flagler’s promotion and development of Florida as a winter travel destination. As I mentioned above, the book starts in Florida with Higginson; it goes full-circle and ends in Florida with Flagler and Heade and Flagler's fabulous resort hotel in St. Augustine, Florida.
This was a very thought-provoking and fun book to read. I have to say that learning more about Emily Dickinson, the person and woman, has increased my appreciation of the brilliance and genius of her amazing poetry. Getting to know her brother Austin, and sister-in-law, Susan, and her friends David and Mabel Todd was an added bonus. Discovering Martin Johnson Heade’s life and paintings was fantastic, as I am a huge fan of the Hudson River School, landscape art in general, and especially paintings of birds. Finally, the book includes an excellent collection of end-notes and a superb index. This is a fast read and will make a wonderful addition to anyone’s American literature bookshelf. I highly recommend Dr. Benfey’s A Summer of Hummingbirds.(less)
I just completed the variorum edition of Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems, edited by James Gibson (Palgrave, 2001). I actually read every single poem...moreI just completed the variorum edition of Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems, edited by James Gibson (Palgrave, 2001). I actually read every single poem in this massive tome, and all I can say is that it is breathtakingly amazing. I have only read the complete poetic works of two other poets--Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti; and Thomas Hardy is certainly their equal, not only in output, but in quality, and Voice.
Hardy's poetry spans a period of time from the 1860s to his death in 1928. It is somewhat paradoxical, but Hardy is considered a great novelist of the Victorian period, but probably didn't really hit his stride with his poetry until into the 20th century. I loved his story-telling poems, and they are quite numerous. According to Hardy biographers, he made a point of collecting the folktales and ballads that he heard as a child. He then spun this raw material into some of the finest lyrical poems that I've ever read.
Hardy is truly a master at delving into the raw human emotions associated with birth, growing up, life, Love, marriage, and even death. Throughout his poetry, Hardy's poetic voice speaks to the human connection with the Nature of his beloved 'Wessex' countryside; as well as the human suffering that occurs as a result of injustice and intolerance. I was also frankly surprised that there isn't a sense of Hardy 'preaching' in any of his poems; like his fiction, Hardy just tells the story with his poem, and he leaves it to the reader to draw their own conclusions.
Here's one brief example of the power, pathos and drama of Hardy's poetry--
By the Barrows NOT far from Mellstock--so tradition saith-- Where barrows, bulging as they bosoms were Of Multimammia stretched supinely there, Catch night and noon the tempest's wanton breath,
A battle, desperate doubtless unto death, Was one time fought. The outlook, lone and bare, The towering hawk and passing raven share, And all the upland round is called 'The He'th'.
Here once a woman, in our modern age, Fought singlehandedly to shield a child-- One not her own--from a man's senseless rage. And to my mind no patriots' bones there piled So consecrate the silence as her deed Of stoic and devoted self-unheed.
For many reasons, this sonnet always reminds me of Hardy's beautiful novel, The Return of the Native. Read it aloud to yourself, and experience the full beauty and power of the rhyming and metre of the poem. It is safe to say that I will be revisiting this wonderful volume of Hardy's poetry frequently for the rest of my days.(less)
Claire Tomalin's biography of Thomas Hardy is simply superb! I believe that I enjoyed the book even more because I recently read (or re-read) all of h...moreClaire Tomalin's biography of Thomas Hardy is simply superb! I believe that I enjoyed the book even more because I recently read (or re-read) all of his major novels, many of his short stories, and much of his poetry. It was simply delightful to be able to immediately relate to the points she made. It was also fascinating to see how much of Hardy's own personal life, as well as that of his Dorset family and friends, influenced his fiction and poetry.
As Tomalin points out and discusses in some detail, one of the great paradoxes is that while Hardy was certainly one of the great Victorian novelists, he was also one of the great poets of the 20th century! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reading Hardy's poetry if you are truly looking to fully understand this brilliant man. Tomalin's biography makes a point of lacing the text liberally with hundreds of examples of Hardy's poetry illuminating the various points and events of his 87 years of life. And what a life it was!
This very well-written and very readable biography should be on every Hardy enthusiast's bookshelf. Could it have been longer, and even more detailed? Sure, it probably could have, but then Tomalin would have been plowing ground already planted by Michael Millgate in his scholarly works of 1985 and 2004. In my opinion, this is a perfect addition for the general reader and scholar if you are looking to learn more about the man that gave the world some of its greatest novels and beautiful, soulful poetry.(less)
I just finished reading Michael Millgate's biography of Thomas Hardy. Interestingly, I read this immediately after finishing Claire Tomalin's more rec...moreI just finished reading Michael Millgate's biography of Thomas Hardy. Interestingly, I read this immediately after finishing Claire Tomalin's more recent Hardy biography, Thomas Hardy. Millgate's biography is superb--scholarly and very detailed. I enjoyed it very much, but if I had to choose my favorite, I'd probably go with Tomalin's. Why? I loved the way that Tomalin integrated Hardy's poetry so seamlessly into the narrative of his interesting life. It was her great reliance and use of his poetry, from my perspective, that so fully fleshed out the man and the ideas behind those wonderful novels of his. Millgate, on the other hand, tells the full, complicated, and rich story of Hardy's life; and while Millgate features Hardy's poetry throughout the book too, it is but a part of the larger story of the man and his life. Both books are worthy and quite complementary, they are just different from one another.
In summation, if you are a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Thomas Hardy's fiction and poetry, I say that you should have both of these biographies on your bookshelf. They really are the definitive Hardy biographies, and both are quite readable. Finally, to fully round out your Hardy library, I would also recommend the addition of Rosemarie Morgan's brilliant little volume, Women and Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy.(less)
Sarah Bird Wright has done an awesome job compiling and organizing all of this information about Thomas Hardy--his life, his loves, his novels, his wo...moreSarah Bird Wright has done an awesome job compiling and organizing all of this information about Thomas Hardy--his life, his loves, his novels, his world of 'Wessex,' and especially all of his poetry (of nearly 1,000 Hardy poems, Ms. Wright discusses 216!). This is the 'Hardy Encyclopedia' that every Hardyphile should have on their bookshelf. It is also just great fun to simply sit down, open it up, and randomly begin reading. I highly recommend this book!(less)