Max Gate

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Max Gate — Dorset, England

In 1885, Thomas Hardy and his wife Emma moved into Max Gate, the Victorian home which he designed and his brother built.

Max GateHardy was originally an architect, who became immersed in the literary world while working as an architect in London. Previous to this move, his friendship with Horace Moule influenced Hardy's intellectual leanings as well as his literary interests. This early association and influences helped to shape the future Thomas Hardy. There were other influences from the Moule family, in particular Henry Moule, whose philosophical and religious leanings Hardy shared during his younger years.

Although Thomas Hardy is known and revered as a novelist, he considered himself a poet. To his chagrin, his poetry was never considered genius, and in fact received little acclaim until some years after his death, and was still not given the import that his novels achieved. His literary career ran concurrently with his architectural career until his literary work began to excel his architectural career. Hardy married Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1874 and moved to London. The following year they returned to Swanage, Dorset which was closer to Dorchester, in particular to Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, where he was born in 1840. The next few years found them in a succession of homes, with a final stop in London. They returned to Dorset in 1881 and subsequently built a smaller version of the Max Gate than stands today. He chose Dorchester which was close to his family, as Bockhampton is near to this town. They moved into Max Gate in 1885, which was small but adequate, as they never had children; and Hardy was most likely still concerned as to the financial cost. Hardy decided to enlarge Max Gate after he published Jude the Obscure, as he felt that his financial success was assured; at which time he decided to double the space that he had originally designed. Max Gate remained Hardy's home for forty years, until his death in 1928.

During the years that he resided at Max Gate, Hardy wrote some of his most well known works, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Woodlanders, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, The Dynasts as well as numerous poems and short stories. His two-volume "autobiography," The Early Life of Thomas Hardy, 1840-1891 and The Later Years of Thomas Hardy, 1892-1928 were published under his second wife's name, Florence Hardy. This was in accordance with Hardy's instructions prior to his death.

Thomas Hardy left a wealth of work behind him, but his private life is still somewhat of a "mystery". His autobiography includes only those instances in his life that he wished to make public. His personal letters and notes were destroyed as he instructed after his death. Some of the details of his personal life are speculative, as he was an intensely private individual who valued his innermost privacy. What little is known is that he and his wife Emma drifted apart in later years, however, much of Hardy's later poetry revolve around Emma, after her death in 1912. Her death was sudden and it is believed to have caused Hardy intense feelings of remorse. Many biographers have researched his life, but little has been unearthed to support some of the suppositions that have emerged. Perhaps a trip to Max Gate would reveal a light into the individual through his architecture, his garden, and his reading preferences. Max Gate offers a revealing look into his personal library by offering a catalogue of the books that were in Hardy's personal library.

After his death Max Gate was sold, but eventually became a National Trust property with the intention of offering just such a look into the life of Tomas Hardy. In 1994 Andrew and Marilyn Leah became the tenants of Max Gate and opened the hall, dining room, drawing room and the garden to the public. Private visits, tours, and seminars by schools, colleges and literary societies, are permitted by appointment with the tenants. Both of the Leah's are educators whose present aim is directed towards educating the public about Thomas Hardy and his work. It is often said that a man's home is his castle; perhaps it is also a window into his inner self.

Where is Max Gate?

Max Gate is located in Dorchester, England (The county of Dorset).

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