The master of heartbreak’s heart

August 23, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

One of my all-time favorite novelists* is Thomas Hardy. No one does heartbreak like he does, and if you’re a literature fan but haven’t yet read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, then you have yet to become a complete person, IMHO.

Thomas Hardy in 1893, painted by William Strang. (Source: The National Portrait Gallery, London)

So imagine my delight when I discovered in the course of my research that when Hardy died of a heart attack (how fitting!) in 1928, public and private claims over so venerable a corpse resulted in a remarkable compromise: a surgeon removed his heart, wrapped it in a towel, and put it in a cookie tin (but not before, the story goes, the cat got a nibble). Hardy’s heart was buried in Dorset with his first wife Emma, who had died in 1912, to at least satisfy in some measure his wish that he be buried with her. To satisfy the public, his body, minus his heart, was cremated and his ashes interred in Poets’ Corner, in Westminster Abbey, where it bunks with the remains of Chaucer, Spenser, Dickens, Handel, and Laurence Olivier.

*Yes, I do know he was a poet, too, but poetry is not my thing. More on that in a different post.


Filed in: The Little Book of Heartbreak | Tags: , , , , , ,

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