Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset in 1840, and despite not starting school until he was eight years old due to frail health, lived a long and highly creative life until his death aged 87 in 1928.
From an early career as an architect’s assistant, his writings, and in particular his poetry, became the chief focus of his working life. Both were mediums through which he explored his obsession with the darker side of life – passion, emotions, family, poverty and social disapproval, combined with an idealisation of rural life.
A prolific writer, he challenged many of the sexual and religious conventions of the Victorian Age through prose and poetry, depicting class, romance, and the magical that can exist within the minutiae of life whilst also exploring the tragic & self-destructive fates of his characters. Denny Bradbury’s poems within her collection Denagerie of Poems, inspired by Hardy, draw upon the discovery of hope within the darker side of life.
Although the first poems Hardy submitted were rejected by several magazines and his first three novels all sold badly, success arrived with the serialisation of Far From The Madding Crowd in 1874 and whilst 2011 celebrates the 120th anniversary of the publication of one of Hardy’s most
renowned novels, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, his next work, Jude The Obscure, thrust him into a whirl of controversy.
Despite selling over 20,000 copies in three months, reviews declaring it to be an attack upon the institution of marriage meant he turned his back on writing fiction and concentrated solely on poetry, producing several collections, many of which related to his relationship with his wife of thirty
eight years, Emma.
Eight years before he died, Thomas Hardy wrote a poem entitled At Lulworth Cove a Century Back. Lulworth Cove is a small village in Dorset and is also the setting for Denny Bradbury’s new novel, The Reunion. Both writers, separated apart by centuries, are drawn to this location as a setting for telling a story – Thomas Hardy’s poem commemorates the centenary of the poet John Keats ‘brief visit to Lulworth Cove’ in 1820, who himself wrote his last ever poem there, whilst Denny Bradbury’s The Reunion tells of five friends who meet at Lulworth Cove and take a boat out to sea and into trouble.
Just as in Far From The Madding Crowd where Hardy refers to it as Lulstead Cove and Sergeant Troy drowns just outside it, Denny Bradbury’s novel tells of how the sea which is usually calm in the cove itself is not so calm beyond it.