Broadcaster: BBC 1
Review by: Hanna Geissler
Griff Rhys Jones presents a detailed hour-long biography of Hardy’s life and explores the deeply personal nature of his writing.
The programme details the main events of Hardy’s life: his childhood in Dorset, his meeting with his future wife, time spent in London at the beginning of his writing career and the events following his success. Many parallels are drawn between Hardy’s experiences and the stories he wrote, suggesting that the characters he wrote about were largely inspired by the people around him and the country tales he heard from his mother.
Jones suggests that Hardy’s honesty in recording his own emotions is ‘his hallmark’ and one of the things that made him such a successful writer. This part of the documentary gives a fascinating account of the events of Hardy’s first marriage, beginning with his romantic encounters with Emma Gifford in Cornwall that are believed to have inspired ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’. Jones sums up the appeal of this story with the words ‘There’s drama, nature, and there’s strong emotion’, which seems a fitting description of much of Hardy’s work. Jones then charts the breakdown of Hardy’s relationship with Emma and their estrangement, followed by her death in 1912. Emma’s death seemed to rekindle Hardy’s love for her, which is reflected in many of the poems he wrote afterwards which expressed the depth of his grief.
At the end of the programme, Jones thoughtfully summarises Hardy’s unique talent, stating that he is ‘someone who is able to touch our hearts by showing us his own’.
This documentary would be of interest to any students studying Hardy’s work, as an insight into Hardy’s life and influences will no doubt enhance their understanding of his writing.