Thomas Hardy – the Stories behind the Poems

Reading poetry in Hardy’s study (c) National Trust-John Hayes

A series of poetry cards have been put on display by the National Trust team at Max Gate, near Dorchester, which explain the background to some of the poems Thomas Hardy wrote there.

Hardy is perhaps better known as a writer of novels, such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Yet Hardy was also a prolific poet and had around 1000 poems published in his lifetime. Many of the poems reflect upon events that were happening in his life, such as the unexpected death of his first wife Emma.

“Eight poems have been selected, each of which is accompanied by a short commentary”, explained John Hayes, the Visitor Experience Officer at Max Gate. “As our visitors explore the house, the poetry cards will reveal some of the stories behind Hardy’s life at Max Gate. These include his difficult relationship with his first wife Emma, who as their marriage soured, moved herself off to live in some attic rooms at the back of the house.”

A desk in the study at Max Gate (c) National Trust Images – Chris Lacey

Further poetry cards are planned and visitors will be invited to let the National Trust know whether they have a favourite Max Gate related poem they would like to see included in the future. Visitors can also put pen-to-paper themselves, and write their own poetry in Hardy’s Poetry Study.

Thomas Hardy, who spent the early part of his career working as an architect, designed Max Gate and lived there for 42 years, until his death in 1928.

Max Gate, Dorchester Dorset (c) National Trust Images – Robert Morris


Max Gate, and Hardy’s Cottage (his birthplace which is nearby at Higher Bockhampton), are open to visitors daily until 31 October, from 11am-5pm, and then on Thursday to Sunday from 2 November, from 10am – 4pm.

More information is available on

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