Thomas Hardy's first love was always poetry. It was not until 1898, when he was fifty-eight years old, having already established his reputation with fourteen novels and over forty short stories, that his first book of poetry, Wessex Poems was published. For the final thirty years of his life he abandoned fiction and devoted himself entirely to poetry. It is a tribute to his remarkable powers of creativity that he is now not only regarded as one of the most important English novelists but is also recognised as a poet of major stature and ever increasing popularity. The Complete Poems, edited by James Gibson, includes all of Hardy's prolific output of more than nine hundred poems, complemented by a detailed notes section. Collected in this single volume are his eight books of verse, all the uncollected poems, 'Domicilium' and the songs from The Dynasts. This new edition contains an additional poem, The Sound of Her.
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 By 1867 he had returned to Dorset to work as Hicks's assistant and began his first (unpublished) novel, The Poor Man and the Lady.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.