Dorset Biographies

Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man, by Claire Tomlin

Thomas Hardy is the acclaimed biography by bestselling author Claire Tomalin

‘An extraordinary story, beautifully told. Tomalin is the most empathetic of biographers’ Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

Paradox ruled Thomas Hardy’s life. His birth was almost his death; he became one of the great Victorian novelists and reinvented himself as one of the twentieth-century’s greatest poets; he was an unhappy husband and a desolate widower; he wrote bitter attacks on the English class system yet prized the friendship of aristocrats.

In the hands of Whitbread Award-winning biographer Claire Tomalin, author of the bestselling books Charles Dickens: A Life and The Invisible Woman, Thomas Hardy the novelist, poet, neglectful husband and mourning lover all come vividly alive.

‘Another triumph for a biographer who goes from strength to strength’ Melvyn Bragg, Guardian, Books of the Year

Jurassic Mary: Mary Anning and the Primeval Monsters, by Patricia Pearce

Spinster Mary Anning, uneducated and poor, was of the wrong sex, wrong class and wrong religion, but fate decreed that she was exactly the right person in the right place and time to pioneer the emerging science of palaeontology, the study of fossils.

Born in Lyme Regis in 1799, Mary learned to collect fossils with her cabinet-maker father. The unstable cliffs and stealthy sea made the task dangerous but after her father died the sale of fossils sustained her family. Mary s fame started as an infant when she survived a lightning strike that killed the three adults around her. Then, aged twelve, she caught the public s attention when she unearthed the skeleton of a fish lizard or Ichthyosaurus.

She later found the first Plesiosaurus giganteus, with its extraordinary long neck associated with the Loch Ness monster, and,dramatically, she unearthed the first, still rare, Dimorphodon macronyx, a frightening flying dragon with hand claws and teeth. Yet her many discoveries were announced to the world by male geologists like the irrepressible William Buckland and Sir Henry De La Beche and they often received the credit. In Jurassic Mary Patricia Pierce redresses this imbalance, bringing to life the extraordinary, little-known story of this determined and pioneering woman.

Six for the Tolpuddle Martyrs: The Epic Struggle for Justice and Freedom, by Alan Gallop

In 1834 six farm labourers from the Dorset hamlet of Tolpuddle fell foul of draconian Victorian laws prohibiting assembly.

Today the names of George Loveless and his brother James, Thomas Standfield and his son John, James Brine and James Hammett, who made up the Tolpuddle Martyrs, stand high on the roll of British men who have been victimised for their beliefs but stood steadfast in the face of persecution.

They refused to be persuaded to betray their principles either by the promise of release or by transportation to Australia. The Tolpuddle men fought to win their freedom sustained by their passionate conviction that their sacrifices would not be in vain. Their experience and example have proved to be an inspiration for future generations and they remain icons of pioneering trade unionism.

The Author has thoroughly researched their story and the result is a fascinating and revealing re-examination of this legendary saga. Their triumph over legal persecution and abuses of power over 180 years ago is told afresh in this comprehensive and attractively illustrated book which delves deeper into their story than ever before.

The Real Enid Blyton, by Nadia Cohen

She is the most prolific children s author in history, but Enid Blyton is also the most controversial.

A remarkable woman who wrote hundreds of books in a career spanning forty years, even her razor sharp mind could never have predicted her enormous global audience. Now, fifty years after her death, Enid remains a phenomenon, with sales outstripping every rival.

Parents and teachers lobbied against Enid’s books, complaining they were simplistic, repetitive and littered with sexist and snobbish undertones. Blatant racist slurs were particularly shockingly; foreign and working class characters were treated with a distain that horrifies modern readers.

But regardless of the criticism, Enid worked until she could not physically write another word, famously producing thousands of words a day hunched over her manual typewriter. She imaged a more innocent world, where children roamed unsupervised, and problems were solved with midnight feasts or glorious picnics with lashings of ginger beer.

Smugglers, thieves, spies and kidnappers were thwarted by fearless gangs who easily outwitted the police, while popular schoolgirls scored winning goals in nail-biting lacrosse matches.

Enid carefully crafted her public image to ensure her fans only knew of this sunny persona, but behind the scenes, she weaved elaborate stories to conceal infidelities, betrayals and unconventional friendships, lied about her childhood and never fully recovered from her parent s marriage collapsing. She grew up convinced that her beloved father abandoned her for someone he loved more, and few could ever measure up to her impossible standards. A complex and immature woman, Enid was plagued by insecurities and haunted by a dark past. She was prone to bursts of furious temper, yet was a shrewd businesswoman years ahead of her time.

She may not have been particularly likeable, and her stories infuriatingly unimaginative, but she left a vast literary legacy to generations of children.