Thomas Hardy the short story writer, poet and novelist spent five years as an assistant architect, his first career, in London in the 1860s. It was during this period that he widened his reading and explored London life, walking each day from Paddington to his office in Covent Garden. He then returned to Dorset to write and in 1870 married his first wife, Emma, who inspired many of his poems.  He became established as a writer he started coming to London for several months each year.  As his fame and prosperity grew he became well established in the London literary and social worlds, and was elected to the Savile in 1878, the year in which he published THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.  He remained a member for 31 years.  Mark Ford traces the record of Hardy’s periods in London each year, although the inspiration for his writing was the region he called ‘Wessex’.

In this talk Mark Ford will tell us about Hardy in London and his relationships with contemporaries, including Edmund Gosse and Andrew Lang, both of whom wrote critical reviews on his books, which almost caused the

thin-skinned Hardy to resign.  That he did not was probably due to the friendships that evolved with these two men among others in a context where he could be confident what was discussed at the long table would not be repeated outside the Club. Hardy acknowledged that it was ‘ at his smaller club’ rather than the Athenaeum that he could be himself, and ‘could fall into line as a London man again’.

Mark Ford teaches at UCL.

Chairman: John Sutherland