Thomas Hardy was born near Dorchester on

2 June 1840. His birthplace in Higher

Bockhampton was a substantial cottage, at the

end of a lane and on the edge of a piece of

heath-land. His father was a builder and

mason working on his own but, by the time

Hardy was twenty, employing half a dozen

men; his mother was a cook and serving-

maid. The marriage took place less than six

months before the child was born. Thomas

Hardy the elder was said to have got more

than one village girl into trouble, but

Jemima’s mother was more than a match for

him. She was the disowned daughter of a

yeoman farmer, left to a widowhood of great

poverty with seven children. These social

ramifications are of some importance,

because Hardy’s work, like the man himself,

was strongly marked by his origins. He was a

delicate child, after a difficult birth. He went

to the village school and then, for seven

years, to a school in Dorchester which he left

at the age of sixteen with a knowledge of

Latin. He was articled to an architect and

church-restorer, a man for whom his father

had done building work. During this time he

continued his education with the help of

Horace Moule, the son of a local clergyman,

and did some reading in the Greek dramatists.

There was a spell with an architect in

London, from 1862 to 1967; Hardy then

went back to his original employer in