Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in Higher Bockhampton, England. The eldest child of Thomas and Jemima, Hardy studied Latin, French, and architecture in school. He also became an avid reader. Upon graduation, Hardy traveled to London to work as an architect's assistant under the guidance of Arthur Bloomfield. He also began writing poetry. How I Built Myself a House, Hardy's first professional article, was published in 1865. Two years later, while still working in the architecture field, Hardy wrote the unpublished novel The Poor Man and the Lady. During the next five years, Hardy wrote Desperate Remedies, Under the Greenwood Tree, and a Pair of Blue Eyes. In 1873, Hardy decided it was time to relinquish his architecture career and concentrate on writing full-time. In September 1974, his first book as a full-time author, Far From the Madding Crowd, appeared serially. After publishing more than two dozen novels, one of the last being Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Hardy returned to writing poetry--his first love. Some of Hardy's volumes of poetry include Poems of the Past and Present, The Dynasts: Part One, Two, and Three, Time's Laughingstocks, and The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall. From 1833 until his death, Hardy lived in a house in Dorchester, England. The house, Max Gate, was designed by Hardy, who also supervised its' construction. Thomas Hardy died on January 11, 1928. His ashes were buried in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey.
Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles and educated at Vassar College and the University of Iowa. She is currently a professor of English at Iowa State University. Her first critically acclaimed novel, The Greenlanders (1988), was preceded by three other novels and a highly regarded short story collection, The Age of Grief (1987). Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres (1991) received both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Like King Lear, to which it invites comparisons, the novel deals with the division of property, a father, three daughters, and the powerful feelings and secret crimes that bind them. Familial relations preoccupy Smiley throughout her works. "I think the tensions of family life are the interesting things to talk about since I accept the closeness of family as a given," she commented in an interview. She eyes the shifting ground of love relations without illusion, yet with sympathy: her portrait of marriage through the meditations of a 35-year-old dentist and father of three girls in The Age of Grief (1987) conveys beautifully the compromises of closeness and the intensities and confusions of ordinary life."Everything I write, I write in a sort of investigative mode," Smiley has said, "and to me an interesting character is a person who is trying to figure out what's right and trying to reconcile everything that they are told with what their feelings are. I think my characters are usually trying to come up with some right way to act, or even to think or be, in the face of a lot of confusing input."