Few writers are as strongly associated with a particular place as Thomas Hardy. His role as unofficial historian of Wessex has come to define his reputation, yet only hints at the complexities of a man who cultivated aristocratic friends, spent several months each year in London and wrote some of the most popular, but also most vilified, novels of the Victorian period.
In The Guarded Life, Ralph Pite explores these contradictions in the context of Hardy’s relationships with women, friends and mentors; the social, family and work pressures he experienced; and his attachment to the Dorsetshire landscape. In doing so, he reveals the personal and emotional life of a public figure who has, despite his fame, remained largely obscure – until now.
‘Pite uses new critical techniques and perspectives to make his point . . . He is a subtle reader of Hardy’s work and applies his impressive reasoning to the man as if he, too, were a kind of text’ Daily Telegraph
‘An impressive, and impressively human, book, Pite’s skill is in balancing the larger sweep of Hardy’s life with a sense for what happened at the edges. Like his subject, Pite takes risks with what he reveals, but the detail is always enlarging. Hardy, and his times, seem bigger for this work’ New Statesman
‘In portraits, Hardy habitually looks downwards or aside, avoiding direct contact. In this biography, Pite has caught his subject’s eyes and held his gaze’ The Times
‘Pite is skilful, not to say ingenious, in drawing together emblems and instances of secrecy . . . This new biography encourages us to re-examine Hardy’s life as a complex and often self-contradictory whole; Pite's Hardy is altogether more vulnerable than Hardy's version of himself, but also more likeable’ Guardian