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Painting of Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy (1840 - 1928), Reginald Grenville Eves, 1923

The Literary Gallery

A Writer’s Dorset explores the lives and work of Dorset’s authors, poets and novelists, as well as providing a home to the Ooser - a strange beast (half-man, half-bull) who guards a room full of Dorset music and folk-drama.

Thomas Hardy is Dorset’s most famous writer. Born in a cottage near Dorchester, he received only a modest education but by the time of his death in 1928 had become the most famous writer in England.

A Writer’s Dorset celebrates Thomas Hardy’s achievement and tells the story of his life and work. It uncovers the landscape of his mind, which became the part-real, part imaginary Wessex of his books - their settings inseparable from the places that inspired them.

Dorset has provided motivation for a variety of other authors. Anglo-Saxon churchmen like Aldhelm and Asser wrote in the county at its great abbeys of Sherborne, Cerne and Forde. Twentieth century authors like Sylvia Townsend Warner and the Powys family took inspiration from the Dorset landscape and locality. In the 19th century the Dorsetshire poet, William Barnes, composed his lyrical poems – by turns humorous, tender or melancholy – in local dialect. John Meade Falkner’s novels include Moonfleet, an exciting Dorset smugglers’ tale.

A Writer’s Dorset explores their work and legacy as well as those of Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Henry Fielding and Sir Walter Raleigh – shorter term residents who nevertheless have played an important part in creating Dorset’s rich literary heritage.

Thomas Hardy’s Study

A Writers' Dorset contains a reconstruction of Thomas Hardy’s third study from his home at Max Gate, where he wrote The Dynasts and many poems. All the furniture, books and personal possessions in the room originally belonged to Hardy. On Hardy’s desk under the window can be seen the pens which he used to write Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, and a perpetual calendar set at the date of his first meeting with his first wife, Emma Gifford.