Simon Whalley was a Fellow and Director of Music at the Keble
College of Oxford University for 15 years. A lover of great Victorian
writers, Thomas Hardy is one of Simon Whalley's favorites.
Born in 1840 in the English county of Dorset, Thomas Hardy spend
all but five years of his life there. The Hardys were once a well-to-do
family in the area, but their fortune was quite modest by the time
Thomas was born. His father was a self-employed master mason,
and his mother was a former maid, though she was well-read and
Hardy’s earliest learning came from his mother, and he eventually
entered public school at age eight. At 10 years old, his mother sent
him to a school administered by the British and Foreign School
Society, where he was introduced to Latin and French.
As a boy, Hardy was a voracious reader, and he
indulged in the Latin and Greek classics as well as the
Bible. A lover of romances, he enjoyed the works of
Shakespeare as well as Walter Scott, William Harrison
Ainsworth, and Alexander Dumas.
Though a good student, he was still a loner, and he
witnessed the industrial revolution consume his once
rural village in the English countryside. This experience
would influence his later work; his masterpiece, Tess of
the d'Urbervilles, carries an underlying theme of the
separation between man and nature.