Born near Dorchester, Dorset, Hardy was the son of a stonemason and originally trained as an architect. He draws heavily on this background in his work. His first novel was begun in 1867, but he gave up prose fiction writing after Jude the Obscure (1895), having been heavily criticized for the novel's apparent anti-marriage stance. Other novels include:
From 1898, Hardy concentrated on poetry, continuing to publish collections right up until 1928. Following the death of his first wife, Emma Gifford, in 1912, after 38 years of marriage, Hardy married Florence Dugdale, and their home at Max Gate in Dorset (that Hardy had designed) became a mecca for other writers, such as Siegfried Sassoon and T. E. Lawrence.
Hardy was active until a few days before his death, entertaining visitors in his usual lively way. His funeral, on 16 January at Westminster Abbey, was a controversial occasion. His family and friends had wished him to be buried at Stinsford, but his executor, Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, had insisted he should be placed in Poets' Corner. A compromise was reached, whereby his heart was buried at Stinsford and his ashes were interred in the abbey.
In part because of the influence of Philip Larkin, critical response to Hardy's poetry has gradually thawed, becoming increasingly positive.