Thomas Hardy

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Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons!

Thomas Hardy OM (June 2 1840January 11 1928) was an English novelist, short story writer and poet.


I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though Dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War's annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.

  • These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
    Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.
    • Hap" (1866), lines 13-14, from Wessex Poems (1898)
  • When I set out for Lyonnesse,
    A hundred miles away,
    The rime was on the spray,
    And starlight lit my lonesomeness.
  • To discover evil in a new friend is to most people only an additional experience
  • With all, the beautiful things of the earth become more dear as they elude pursuit; but with some natures utter elusion is the one special event which will make a passing love permanent for ever.
    • Desperate Remedies (1871), ch. 1
  • It is commonly said that no man was ever converted by argument, but there is a single one which will make any Laodicean in England, let him be once love-sick, wear prayer-books and become a zealous Episcopalian – the argument that his sweetheart can be seen from his pew.
    • Desperate Remedies (1871), vol. 2, ch. 4
  • To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature. At the passing of the breeze the fir-trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock; the holly whistles as it battles with itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings; the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise and fall.
  • Good, but not religious-good.
    • Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), ch. 2
  • For of all the miseries attaching to miserable love, the worst is the misery of thinking that the passion which is the cause of them all may cease.
  • Of course poets have morals and manners of their own, and custom is no argument with them.
    • The Hand of Ethelberta (1876), ch. 2
  • Like the British Constitution, she owes her success in practice to her inconsistencies in principle.
    • The Hand of Ethelberta (1876), ch. 9
  • A lover without indiscretion is no lover at all. Circumspection and devotion are a contradiction in terms.
    • The Hand of Ethelberta (1876), ch. 20
  • You calculated how to be uncalculating, and are natural by art!
    • The Hand of Ethelberta (1876), ch. 20
  • I have seldom known a man cunning with his brush who was not simple with his tongue; or, indeed, any skill in particular that was not allied to general stupidity.
    • The Hand of Ethelberta (1876), ch. 20
  • If you are cheerful, and wish to remain so, leave the study of astronomy alone. Of all the sciences, it alone deserves the character of the terrible.
    • Two on a Tower (1882), vol 1, ch. 4 (Swithin St Cleeve speaking to Viviette Constantine)
  • See what deceits love sows in honest minds!
    • Two on a Tower (1882), vol 2, ch. 1 (Viviette Constantine speaking to Swithin St Cleeve)
  • To find beauty in ugliness is the province of the poet.
    • Statement (5 August 1888), as quoted in The life of Thomas Hardy 1840-1928 (1962) by Florence Emily Hardy
  • William Dewy, Tranter Reuben, Farmer Ledlow late at plough,
    Robert's kin, and John's, and Ned's,
    And the Squire, and Lady Susan, lie in Mellstock churchyard now!
  • They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
    Uncoffined — just as found:
    His landmark is a kopje-crest
    That breaks the veldt around;
    And foreign constellations west
    Each night above his mound.

    Young Hodge the Drummer never knew —
    Fresh from his Wessex home —
    The meaning of the broad Karoo,
    The Bush, the dusty loam,
    And why uprose to nightly view
    Strange stars amid the gloam.

    Yet portion of that unknown plain
    Will Hodge forever be;
    His homely Northern breast and brain
    Grow to some Southern tree,
    And strange-eyed constellations reign
    His stars eternally.

    • "Drummer Hodge" (1899), lines 1-18, from Poems of the Past and Present (1901)
  • Whence comes solace? Not from seeing,
    What is doing, suffering, being;
    Not from noting Life’s conditions,
    Not from heeding Time’s monitions;
    But in cleaving to the Dream
    And in gazing at the Gleam
    Whereby gray things golden seem.
  • Is your heart far away,
    Or with mine beating?
    When false things are brought low,
    And swift things have grown slow,
    Feigning like froth shall go,
    Faith be for aye.
  • I leant upon a coppice gate
    When Frost was spectre-gray,
    And Winter’s dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day
    The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
    And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.
  • An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
    Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

    So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
    Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
    That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
    Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.

    • "The Darkling Thrush", lines 21-32
  • The Earth, say'st thou? The Human race?
    By Me created? Sad its lot?
    Nay: I have no remembrance of such place:
    Such world I fashioned not.
    • "God-Forgotten", lines 4-8, from Poems of the Past and Present (1901)
  • Let him to whose ears the low-voiced Best seems stilled by the clash of the First,
    Who holds that if way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst,
    Who feels that delight is a delicate growth cramped by crookedness, custom, and fear,
    Get him up and be gone as one shaped awry; he disturbs the order here.
    • "In Tenebris", lines 37-40, from Poems of the Past and Present (1901)
  • Here by the baring bough
    Raking up leaves,
    Often I ponder how
    Springtime deceives,—
    I, an old woman now,
    Raking up leaves.
  • People call me a pessimist; and if it is pessimism to think, with Sophocles, that "not to have been born is best," then I do not reject the designation. I never could understand why the word "pessimism" should be such a red rag to many worthy people; and I believe, indeed, that a good deal of the robustious, swaggering optimism of recent literature is at bottom cowardly and insincere. I do not see that we are likely to improve the world by asseverating, however loudly, that black is white, or at least that black is but a necessary contrast and foil, without which white would be white no longer. That is mere juggling with a metaphor. But my pessimism, if pessimism it be, does not involve the assumption that the world is going to the dogs, and that Ahriman is winning all along the line. On the contrary, my practical philosophy is distinctly meliorist. What are my books but one plea against "man's inhumanity to man" — to woman — and to the lower animals? [...] Whatever may be the inherent good or evil of life, it is certain that men make it much worse than it need be. When we have got rid of a thousand remediable ills, it will be time enough to determine whether the ill that is irremediable outweighs the good.
  • Yes; quaint and curious war is!
    You shoot a fellow down
    You'd treat if met where any bar is,
    Or help to half-a-crown.
  • Few people seem to perceive fully as yet that the most far-reaching consequence of the establishment of the common origin of all species is ethical; that it logically involved a readjustment of altruistic morals, by enlarging, as a necessity of rightness, the application of what has been called the 'Golden Rule' from the area of mere mankind to that of the whole animal kingdom. Possibly Darwin himself did not quite perceive it. While man was deemed to be a creation apart from all other creations, a secondary or tertiary morality was considered good enough to practise towards the 'inferior' races; but no person who reasons nowadays can escape the trying conclusion that this is not maintainable. And though we may not at present see how the principle of equal justice all round is to be carried out in it entirety, I recognize that the League is grappling with the question.
  • We two kept house, the Past and I,
    The Past and I;
    I tended while it hovered nigh,
    Leaving me never alone.
  • And as the smart ship grew
    In stature, grace, and hue,
    In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.

    Alien they seemed to be;
    No mortal eye could see
    The intimate welding of their later history,

    Or sign that they were bent
    By paths coincident
    On being anon twin halves of one august event,

    Till the Spinner of the Years
    Said "Now!" And each one hears,
    And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

    • "The Convergence of the Twain (Lines on the loss of the Titanic)," lines 22-33
  • I seem but a dead man held on end
    To sink down soon.... O you could not know
    That such swift fleeing
    No soul foreseeing —
    Not even I — would undo me so!
    • "The Going" (1912), lines 38-42, from Satires of Circumstance (1914)
  • Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
    Saying that now you are not as you were
    When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
    But as at first, when our day was fair.
    • "The Voice" (1912), lines 1-4, from Satires of Circumstance (1914)
  • What of the faith and fire within us
    Men who march away
    Ere the barn-cocks say
    Night is growing gray,
    To hazards whence no tears can win us;
    What of the faith and fire within us
    Men who march away!
  • That night your great guns, unawares,
    Shook all our coffins as we lay,
    And broke the chancel window-squares,
    We thought it was the Judgement Day.
    • "Channel Firing" (1914), lines 1-4, from Satires of Circumstance (1914)
  • Only a man harrowing clods
    In a slow silent walk
    With an old horse that stumbles and nods
    Half asleep as they stalk.

    Only thin smoke without flame
    From the heaps of couch-grass;
    Yet this will go onward the same
    Though Dynasties pass.

    Yonder a maid and her wight
    Come whispering by:
    War's annals will cloud into night
    Ere their story die.

    • "In Time of 'The Breaking Of Nations'" (1915), lines 1-12, from Moments of Vision (1917); the title is derived from lines of Jeremiah 51:20: "Thou art my battle ax and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations."
  • I am the family face;
    Flesh perishes, I live on,
    Projecting trait and trace
    Through time to times anon,
    And leaping from place to place
    Over oblivion.
    • Heredity, lines 1-6, from Moments of Vision (1917)
  • Ah, no; the years, the years;
    Down their carved names the raindrop plows.
  • When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
    And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
    Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
    "He was a man who used to notice such things"?
    • "Afterwards", lines 1-4, from Moments of Vision (1917)
  • This is the weather the shepherd shuns,
    And so do I.
    • "Weathers," lines 10-11, from Late Lyrics and Earlier (1922)
  • And meadow rivulets overflow,
    And drops on gate bars hang in a row,
    And rooks in families homeward go,
    And so do I.
    • "Weathers", lines 15-18
  • A star looks down at me,
    And says: "Here I and you
    Stand each in our degree:
    What do you mean to do,—
    Mean to do?"
    • "Waiting Both," lines 1-5, from Human Shows, Far Phantasies, Songs and Trifles (1925)
  • If all hearts were open and all desires known — as they would be if people showed their souls — how many gapings, sighings, clenched fists, knotted brows, broad grins, and red eyes should we see in the market-place!
    • Diary entry (18 August 1908), quoted in The Later Years of Thomas Hardy (1930), by Florence Emily Hardy, ch. 10, p. 133
  • The value of old age depends upon the person who reaches it. To some men of early performance it is useless. To others, who are late to develop, it just enables them to finish the job.
    • Quoted in The Later Years of Thomas Hardy (1930), by Florence Emily Hardy, ch. 17, p. 212
  • Or, to state his character as it stood in the scale of public opinion, when his friends and critics were in tantrums, he was considered rather a bad man; when they were pleased, he was rather a good man; when they were neither, he was a man whose moral colour was a kind of pepper-and-salt mixture.
    • Ch. 1
  • The sovereign brilliancy of Sirius pierced the eye with a steely glitter, the star called Capella was yellow, Aldebaran and Betelgueux shone with a fiery red. To persons standing alone on a hill during a clear midnight such as this, the roll of the world eastward is almost a palpable movement.
    • Ch. 2
  • To find themselves utterly alone at night where company is desirable and expected makes some people fearful; but a case more trying by far to the nerves is to discover some mysterious companionship when intuition, sensation, memory, analogy, testimony, probability, induction — every kind of evidence in the logician's list — have united to persuade consciousness that it is quite in isolation.
    • Ch. 2
  • Love is a possible strength, in an actual weakness. Marriage transforms a distraction into a support, the power of which should be, and happily often is, in direct proportion to the degree of imbecility it supplants.
    • Ch. 4
  • And at home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be — and whenever I look up, there will be you.
    • Ch. 4 (Gabriel Oak, proposing to Bathsheba Everdene)
  • A nice unparticular man.
    • Ch. 8
  • It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.
    • Ch. 51
  • Overhead the hollow stretch of whitish cloud shutting out the sky was as a tent which had the whole heath for its floor.
    • Bk. I, ch. 1
  • In fact, precisely at this transitional point of its nightly roll into darkness the great and particular glory of the Egdon waste began, and nobody could be said to understand the heath who had not been there at such a time. It could best be felt when it could not clearly be seen, its complete effect and explanation lying in this and the succeeding hours before the next dawn; then, and only then, did it tell its true tale.
    • Bk. I, ch. 1
  • The place became full of a watchful intentness now; for when other things sank blooding to sleep the heath appeared slowly to awake and listen.
    • Bk. I, ch. 1
  • It was at present a place perfectly accordant with man's nature—neither ghastly, hateful, nor ugly; neither commonplace, unmeaning, nor tame; but, like man, slighted and enduring; and withal singularly colossal and mysterious in its swarthy monotony. As with some persons who have long lived apart, solitude seemed to look out of its countenance. It had a lonely face, suggesting tragical possibilities.
    • Bk. I, ch. 1
  • The great inviolate place had an ancient permanence which the sea cannot claim. Who can say of a particular sea that it is old? Distilled by the sun, kneaded by the moon, it is renewed in a year, in a day, or in an hour. The sea changed, the fields changed, the rivers, the villages, and the people changed, yet Egdon remained.
    • Bk. I, ch. 1
  • Above the plain rose the hill, above the hill rose the barrow, and above the barrow rose the figure. Above the figure was nothing that could be mapped elsewhere than on a celestial globe.
    • Bk. I, ch. 2
  • To dwell on a heath without studying its meanings was like wedding a foreigner without learning his tongue. The subtle beauties of the heath were lost to Eustacia; she only caught its vapours. An environment which would have made a contented woman a poet, a suffering woman a devotee, a pious woman a psalmist, even a giddy woman thoughtful, made a rebellious woman saturnine.
    • Bk. I, ch. 7
  • "Ah," she said to herself, "want of an object to live for—that's all is the matter with me!"
    • Bk. II, ch. 4
  • The rural world was not ripe for him. A man should be only partially before his time—to be completely to the vanward in aspirations is fatal to fame. Had Philip's warlike son been intellectually so far ahead as to have attempted civilization without bloodshed, he would have been twice the godlike hero that he seemed, but nobody would have heard of an Alexander.
    • Bk. III, ch. 2
  • A well proportioned mind is one which shows no particular bias; one of which we may safely say that it will never cause its owner to be confined as a madman, tortured as a heretic, or crucified as a blasphemer. Also, on the other hand, that it will never cause him to be applauded as a prophet, revered as a priest, or exalted as a king. Its usual blessings are happiness and mediocrity.
    • Bk. III, ch. 2
  • The heath and changes of weather were quite blotted out from their eyes for the present. They were enclosed in a sort of luminous mist, which hid from them surroundings of any inharmonious colour, and gave to all things the character of light. When it rained they were charmed, because they could remain indoors together all day with such a show of reason; when it was fine they were charmed, because they could sit together on the hills. They were like those double stars which revolve round and round each other, and from a distance appear to be one.
    • Bk. IV, ch. 1
  • When that half-burnt log and those cinders were alight she was alive! Little has been changed here yet. I can do nothing. My life creeps like a snail.
    • Bk. V, ch. 2
  • There's reason for ghastliness. Eustacia, you have held my happiness in the hollow of your hand, and like a devil you have dashed it down!
    • Bk. V, ch. 3
  • How bewitched I was! How could there be any good in a woman that everybody spoke ill of?
    • Bk. V, ch. 3
  • She had the hard, half-apathetic expression of one who deems anything possible at the hands of Time and Chance except, perhaps, fair play.
    • Ch. 1
  • And all her shining keys will be took from her, and her cupboards opened; and little things a' didn't wish seen, anybody will see; and her wishes and ways will all be as nothing!
    • Ch. 18
  • Who is such a reprobate as I! And yet it seems that even I be in Somebody's hand!
    • Ch. 41
  • But the ingenious machinery contrived by the Gods for reducing human possibilities of amelioration to a minimum — which arranges that wisdom to do shall come pari passu with the departure of zest for doing — stood in the way of all that.
    • Ch. 44
  • That Elizabeth-Jane Farfrae be not told of my death, or made to grieve on account of me. And that I be not bury'd in consecrated ground. And that no sexton be asked to toll the bell. And that nobody is wished to see my dead body. And that no murners walk behind me at my funeral. And that no flours be planted on my grave. And that no man remember me.
    • Ch. 45 (Henchard's will)
  • Her strong sense that neither she nor any human being deserved less than was given, did not blind her to the fact that there were others receiving less who had deserved much more. And in being forced to class herself among the fortunate she did not cease to wonder at the persistence of the unforeseen, when the one to whom such unbroken tranquility had been accorded in the adult stage was she whose youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.
    • Ch. 45 (last lines)
  • All that blooth means heavy autumn work for him and his hands.
    • Ch. XIX
  • 'Twas a little one-eyed, blinking sort o' place.
    • Phase the First: The Maiden, ch. I
  • She had no fear of the shadows; her sole idea seemed to be to shun mankind — or rather that cold accretion called the world, which, so terrible in the mass, is so unformidable, even pitiable, in its units.
    • Phase the Second: Maiden No More, ch. XIII
  • So the baby was carried in a small deal box, under an ancient woman's shawl, to the churchyard that night, and buried by lantern-light, at the cost of a shilling and a pint of beer to the sexton, in that shabby corner of God's allotment where He lets the nettles grow, and where all unbaptized infants, notorious drunkards, suicides, and others of the conjecturally damned are laid.
    • Phase the Second: Maiden No More, ch. XIV
  • Considering his position he became wonderfully free from the chronic melancholy which is taking hold of the civilized races with the decline of belief in a beneficent Power.
    • Phase the Third: The Rally, ch. XVIII
  • Moreover she, and Clare also, stood as yet on the debatable land between predilection and love; where no profundities have been reached; no reflections have set in, awkwardly inquiring, "Whither does this new current tend to carry me? What does it mean to my future? How does it stand towards my past?"
    • Phase the Third: The Rally, ch. XX
  • Patience, that blending of moral courage with physical timidity.
    • Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays, ch. XLIII
  • "How can I pray for you," she said, "when I am forbidden to believe that the great Power who moves the world would alter His plans on my account?"
    • phase the Sixth: The Convert, ch. XLVI
  • "Justice" was done, and the President of the Immortals (in Aeschylean phrase) had ended his sport with Tess. And the d'Urberville knights and dames slept on in their tombs unknowing. The two speechless gazers bent themselves down to the earth, as if in prayer, and remained thus a long time, absolutely motionless: the flag continued to wave silently. As soon as they had strength, they arose, joined hands again, and went on.
    • Phase the Seventh: Fulfilment, ch. LIX (last lines)
  • But nobody did come, because nobody does; and under the crushing recognition of his gigantic error Jude continued to wish himself out of the world.
    • Pt. I, ch. IV
  • [Of a wedding:] And so, standing before the aforesaid officiator, the two swore that at every other time of their lives till death took them, they would assuredly believe, feel, and desire precisely as they had believed, felt, and desired during the few preceding weeks. What was as remarkable as the undertaking itself was the fact that nobody seemed at all surprised at what they swore.
    • Pt. I, ch. IX
  • Their lives were ruined, he thought; ruined by the fundamental error of their matrimonial union: that of having based a permanent contract on a temporary feeling which had no necessary connection with affinities that alone render a lifelong comradeship tolerable.
    • Pt. I, ch. XI
  • Sometimes a woman's love of being loved gets the better of her conscience, and though she is agonized at the thought of treating a man cruelly, she encourages him to love her while she doesn't love him at all. Then, when she sees him suffering, her remorse sets in, and she does what she can to repair the wrong.
    • Pt. IV, ch. V
  • Done because we are too menny.
    • Pt. VI, ch. II
  • Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons!
    • Pt. VI, ch. III

The Dynasts (1904–1908)

Full text onli
  • It works unconsciously, as heretofore,
    Eternal artistries in Circumstance.
    • Pt. I, forescene, Shade of the Earth & Spirit of the Years
  • Why doth IT so and so, and ever so,
    This viewless,
    voiceless Turner of the Wheel?
    • Pt. I, forescene, Spirit of the Pities
  • A local cult, called Christianity.
    • Pt. I, sc. vi, Spirit of the Years
  • Aggressive Fancy working spells
    Upon a mind o’erwrought.
    • Pt. I, sc. vi, Napoleon
  • Ere systemed suns were globed and lit
    The slaughters of the race were writ.
    • Pt. II, sc. v, Semichorus I
  • My argument is that War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading.
    • Pt. II, sc. v, Spirit Sinister


  • The main object of religion is not to get a man into heaven, but to get heaven into him.
    • This quote can be traced to two authors, in books published within the same year:

      1) Rev. Edward John Hardy, known as E.J. Hardy (1849-1920), How to Be Happy Though Civil: A Book on Manners (New York, Scribners, 1909), ch. VI: A Christian Gentleman;
      2) John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury, Peace and Happiness (Macmillan, 1909), ch. XV: Religion

Quotes about Hardy

  • But oh yes, dear Louis, she [Tess] is vile. The pretence of 'sexuality' is only equalled by the absence of it, and the abomination of the language by the author's reputation for style.
  • (If you had to name a favorite novelist, who would it be?) Thomas Hardy. Ever since I first read him, in high school, I’ve felt a kinship with his characters, his sense of place, his pitiless vision of humanity. I continue to reread him as often as I can. The architecture of his novels is magnificent, and the way his characters move through time and space is remarkably controlled. The world he creates is absolutely specific, as is the psychological terrain. In spite of the great scope of his work, its breadth and complexity, the prose is clean, straightforward, economical. No scene, no detail, no sentence is wasted.
  • One of the most dramatic of novelists—except on the rare occasions when he is melodramatic—Mr Hardy has endued with life and colour all that a student of antiquities, history, architecture, and folk-lore could discover relating to his native county; and with wonderful accuracy, lightness, and charm he has revealed the poetry with which the ways of the woodman and the farmer, the neatherd, the shepherd, and other rural figures, are still surrounded.
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