karen's Reviews > Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy by Claire Tomalin
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Nov 14, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: nonfictions

when thomas hardy died, he wanted to be buried in stinsford. pretty much everyone else wanted him to be buried in westminster abbey. so a compromise - they take out his heart and put it in a tin and bury that in stinsford and the rest of him is to be cremated and buried in westminster abbey. but then a cat comes along and eats the heart so they have to kill the cat and bury that instead.

that, my friends, is a 'pastoral legend' which i grew up believing and which this book killed for me. the whole cat part is untrue, the dual-burial is very true. but i think that the story emerged because thomas hardy's life was pretty...boring. his creative life and output is amazing, but to achieve that he mostly had to sit around, writing. no complicated entanglements, no flipping over the christmas table, no drugged-out suicide attempts. thomas hardy stayed in an unsuitable marriage for years upon years, quietly writing and grasping for fame and social betterment. staid and english. tea and dogs. the best hardy quote from the book is his own:

There is not that regular gradation among womankind that there is among men. You may meet with 999 exactly alike, and then the thousandth - not a little better, but far above them. Practically therefore, it is useless for a man to seek after this thousandth to make her his.

sheesh. this concept of settling for average rather than going out and chasing that mythical thousandth woman may have been what led to his unhappy marriage. but it did lead him to create some of the more memorable women in fiction. (although i will never care about tess, and she was apparently his favorite) as for the rest of it, i didn't really know that much about hardy, having only read his poems and novels. it is a good book to get the chronology straight, it explains some of the thematic progressions. and ms. tomalin has this great quote (which i know alfonso will disagree with): reading jude is like being hit in the face over and over again. i could not have said it any better myself. it is truly unfortunate that the critical reaction to jude made him give up writing novels, because i would have loved to have seen what would have been his next stage in envelope-pushing. but this bio is a pretty good book, just not the most exciting thing i have ever read.

and yes, i am one of those thousandth women...
92 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Thomas Hardy.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Such a dull man for such undull books!

karen even his last words were "eva, what is this?," which is either very chilling or very boring and conversational, depending on your mood.

message 3: by Dave (new)

Dave Russell Had he just been thrown a pig's penis when he said it?

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio karen wrote: "even his last words were "eva, what is this?," which is either very chilling or very boring and conversational, depending on your mood."

Good point. Famous last words are interesting:


I also found a list of last words of people being executed via the death penalty...searching...here:


"Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel."

-George Appel, d. 1928, Executed in electric chair in New York

message 5: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Nov 14, 2009 11:20AM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio "How about this for a headline for tomorrow's paper? French fries."

-James French, d. 1966, Executed in electric chair in Oklahoma

"Hurrah for anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life."

-George Engel, Last words on the gallows

message 6: by Stephen (new)

Stephen MFSO does astounding research

message 7: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! I knew someone who held to the view that 'there's someone better out there.' I disagree with that completely. What new 'better' person can match inside jokes, pet names, the millions of intimacies that build between two people? Maybe Mr. Hardy and Mrs. Hardy stayed in their own separate parlors? He should've tried sneaking up on his wife and snapping her corset.

"...flipping over the christmas table,...." doesn't sound like an example pulled from the air. :o) Did this once happen in a Christmas past?

message 8: by Jen (new)

Jen oh, flipping the yuletide table is more tradition than the elf of the shelf, surely.

karen hahaha no its a reference to ed harris as jackson pollock - it was thanksgiving in the movie, but its something i feel like ive referenced so many times here on goodreads.com that i thought by changing the holiday, i would sound less like a broken record. but i got called out anyway.

karen Dave wrote: "Had he just been thrown a pig's penis when he said it?"

ha! what a fantastic image.

karen it's just the way i roll, i guess. i am a lazy and poor typist, and it is easier for me to just cluster here in the center of the keyboard without streeeeetching all the way over there for that lousy shift key.

plus, i look like e.e. cummings, right?

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

You do. It is very puddle wonderful.

I am sad the cat did not eat the heart.

karen i know!!

it's like finding out about santa claus. for nerds.

message 14: by Bill (new) - added it

Bill i just got a copy of this book.

message 15: by Rudie (new)

Rudie :D

message 16: by H.D. (new)

H.D. Knightley So glad I read this review! I consider myself a huge fan of Hardy, in the I-loved-that-book-Tess-back-thirty-years-ago-but-please-don't- ask-me-what-or-even-why sort of way and I'm glad to have this little refresher. Saves me the trouble of having to re-read them all and then the biography, Because who has the time. Loved Tess though. I think.

message 17: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul I regularly pass a house where he lived and wrote one of his books:

karen oooh, maybe they would let me live there!i will wave to you as you pass by!

and h.d. - check out jude! surely you have time for that!

back to top