Book Launch | Woman Much Missed: Thomas Hardy, Emma Hardy, and Poetry by Mark Ford
The book launch for 'Woman Much Missed: Thomas Hardy, Emma Hardy, and Poetry' by Mark Ford took place on Thursday, 20th July 2023. The event was held at Waterstones in Dorchester as a joint venture with The Thomas Hardy Society.
Woman Much Missed is the first book-length study of the many poems that Thomas Hardy wrote in the wake of the death of his first wife, Emma, in November 1912. Mark Ford uses these poems to develop a narrative of their four-year courtship on the remote and romantic coast of Cornwall where they met, and then follows Hardy's poetic recreation of the slow degeneration of their marriage and their embittered final decade. He demonstrates how Emma's advice, writings, and experiences were crucial to Hardy's evolution into both a bestselling novelist and one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century.
Although for over a decade, their marriage had been troubled, and indeed Emma spent much time during her final years secluded in her attic rooms above his study, Hardy was deeply shocked by her unexpected death. In the months that followed he composed some of the most poignant and powerful elegies in English. Twenty-one of these, including masterpieces such as 'The Voice' (which opens 'Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me') and 'After a Journey', were collected in 'Poems of 1912–13'. While these have received much attention, his numerous other poems about Emma have only rarely been discussed. Ford corrects this oversight, providing accessible and insightful readings from a poet's perspective.
Mark Ford teaches in the English Department of University College London, where he has been a professor since 2005. He is a poet, critic, and editor, as well as a regular contributor to literary journals such as the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. He has also completed two series of an LRB podcast on twentieth-century poets with Seamus Perry. This is his second book on the work of Thomas Hardy. His collection of essays, This Dialogue of One, was the winner of the Poetry Foundation's 2015 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism.
At the event, Ford recited the 1912-13 love poetry that Hardy created around the loss of his first wife Emma and he provided (for the first time in academia) many of the relevant contexts for understanding some of the most famous elegies in English. Attended by over 70 people, Ford said "Living at Max Gate was intriguing as there were three people in the relationship - Hardy, Emma and his second wife Florence".
'Woman Much Missed: Thomas Hardy, Emma Hardy, and Poetry' by Mark Ford can be ordered via Waterstones. Mark Chutter, Chairman and Academic Director of the Thomas Hardy Society said "thank you to Mark for this engaging evening and to Waterstones for kindly hosting the event"
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