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Life's Little Ironies (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 10 Jul 2008

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Thomas Hardy was born in a cottage in Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, on 2 June 1840. He was educated locally and at sixteen was articled to a Dorchester architect, John Hicks. In 1862 he moved to London and found employment with another architect, Arthur Blomfield. He now began to write poetry and published an essay. By 1867 he had returned to Dorset to work as Hicks's assistant and began his first (unpublished) novel, The Poor Man and the Lady.

On an architectural visit to St Juliot in Cornwall in 1870 he met his first wife, Emma Gifford. Before their marriage in 1874 he had published four novels and was earning his living as a writer. More novels followed and in 1878 the Hardys moved from Dorset to the London literary scene. But in 1885, after building his house at Max Gate near Dorchester, Hardy again returned to Dorset. He then produced most of his major novels: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891), The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved (1892) and Jude the Obscure (1895). Amidst the controversy caused by Jude the Obscure, he turned to the poetry he had been writing all his life. In the next thirty years he published over nine hundred poems and his epic drama in verse, The Dynasts.

After a long and bitter estrangement, Emma Hardy died at Max Gate in 1912. Paradoxically, the event triggered some of Hardy's finest love poetry. In 1914, however, he married Florence Dugdale, a close friend for several years. In 1910 he had been awarded the Order of Merit and was recognized, even revered, as the major literary figure of the time. He died on 11 January 1928. His ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey and his heart at Stinsford in Dorset.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A Great Collection of Nearly-Forgotten Stories 6 July 2009
By HardyBoy64 - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Few people read enough of Thomas Hardy's writing to come to the short story collections. Such novels as "Tess of the d'Ubervilles" and "The Return of the Native" deserve such attention as they are masterpieces in their own right. Some readers focus on Hardy's poetry, as this was his prefered form of expression. His stories, however, reveal how quickly he could create characters on paper whose lives become immediately interesting and recognizable in our own lives. While I completely respect Hardy's ability to create novels and write poetry, I see his greatness in his short stories as well.

The stories "To Please his Wife" and "A Tragedy of Two Ambitions" are so tragic yet somehow beautiful. To reject Hardy's writing because "it's so depressing" is missing the point. No one rejects "Hamlet" and MacBeth" because they're tragedies. Hardy is the master of character flaws, often dipped in social issues, that lead his characters to often tragic endings. The irony of life is the star motivation in this collection (thus the title) and these ironic twists found in the stories are often surprising, yet somehow logical.

Perhaps the most interesting story here is called "A Few Crusted Characters", which is actually several tales interwoven into a moment of story telling. This reminded me of Boccaccio's "The Decameron" (14th century) when the youth sit around and tell stories to pass the time while they try to avoid the black plague. In Hardy's tale, an adult man returns to his native town which he left as a child. He finds himself on some kind of stage coach in which ride several inhabitants of said town. He asks the whereabouts of people he vaguely remembers, and thus the stories are born. It's a fascinating approach and it gave Hardy the chance to tell stories that were not all tragic, but rather humorous. The alternating tone of the stories is what impressed me here. I hadn't read anything by Hardy that could be called truly comical until these interwoven tales.

This Oxford World Classic edition has a beautiful cover, a fine introductory essay (which contains spoilers of the stories, so read this last!), notes on the original texts, etc.

If you love 19th-century literature that is compelling and if you enjoy beautiful descriptions of humanity, this is a must read. Highly recommended!
Highly recommend for Hardy 15 Aug. 2014
By Linda A. Ting - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
delightful short stories. Highly recommend for Hardy lovers
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