I recently read Claire Tomalin’s biography of Hardy (first published in 2006), which I picked up at a charity sale. I enjoyed it very much, yet by the end still did not feel I understood Hardy the man. This is no fault of Tomalin’s. Despite a large body of published work, many extant letters and reminiscences of famous people who made the pilgrimage to Max Gate to see the old man, he remains an enigma; a small, quiet, apparently modest man, yet one who was well aware of his own talents and welcomed the honours which came to him in later life. After reading this, I felt I must re-read some Hardy and the first book to come off the shelf was The Return of the Native.
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