Hardy’s career as a poet is unique. After writing poetry in the 1860s, in the way that any young man with literary ambitions might, he established himself as a major Victorian novelist. When his novel-writing came to an end in 1895, he began a second career as a poet. The bulk of his poetry was thus produced between his fiftyfifth birthday and his death at the age of 87 (the exceptions are a number of poems first drafted in the 1860s: around sixty poems can be dated before 1890, including seven in this selection, though a number of other undated poems undoubtedly use early material). Though the late careers of poets like Victor Hugo and Wallace Stevens provide a comparison, few poets have written so well in late life. One set of questions presented by Hardy’s poetic career is thus: To what extent is he a ‘Victorian’ poet? What was the impact of a career that was undertaken after an established career as a novelist? How did he sustain his writing? What were Hardy’s own explanations of his continued productivity?